Kit Hesketh-Harvey, a British composer and screenwriter who was a favorite of the royal family, died at the age of 65.
The performer had a long and varied career, with jobs in theatre, TV, music, and movies. Hesketh-Harvey worked on BBC shows, like the hit comedy The Vicar of Dibley, and he and pianist Richard Sisson were part of the long-running cabaret duo Kit and the Widow until 2012. He wrote the script for the 1987 Merchant Ivory movie Maurice, which starred a young Hugh Grant. He was also good at playing various bad guys in pantomime. It was said that King Charles liked his work a lot.
Christopher John “Kit” Hesketh-Harvey was born in the country that used to be called Nyasaland and is now called Malawi. He went to school in Kent at Canterbury Cathedral and then Tonbridge School. He went to Clare College, Cambridge, to study English literature. There, he was also a member of the Footlights drama club. Later, when Stephen Sondheim was a visiting professor at Oxford University, he learned from him.
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Hesketh-Harvey was a great lyricist and knew a lot about classical music and opera. In 2010, he wrote an article for the Guardian about his difficulties while writing the script for Monteverdi’s Flying Circus, a stage show about the father of modern opera’s last days. Long stretches of recitative are often accompanied by coughing from the stalls.
Both the instruments and the decorations are strange. Operas that last three or four hours are harder to understand for people who are used to Verdi and Puccini, who wrote operas with more action. In the summer of 2022, his version of Donizetti’s comic opera Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali, which he called “Viva la Diva,” was put on at the Buxton international festival.
Hesketh-Harvey was married to the actor Catherine Rabett until they recently split up. Rabett was a founding member of the dance group Hot Gossip and a former girlfriend of Prince Andrew. After 35 years of marriage, they broke up in 2021. Augusta and Rollo were their two kids. Hesketh-Harvey was also the sister of Sarah Sands, who used to be the editor of Today.
Speaking to the Independent, Sands said:
“Kit was dazzling – clever, original, funny, kind. The last time I saw him he was busy mapping out pilgrim routes across Norfolk; there was always the next adventure, the next joke. He gave and gave and gave.”
Jessa Martin is the author of Nogmagazine, A professional in writing by day, and novelist by night, she received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University and her master of arts in media studies from the New School. A Brooklyn native, she is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves, most likely multitasking.