Back in the Seventies when Pryce, fresh from Rada, was starting his career at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre, his father, Isaac, was attacked in his grocery shop in Holywell, North Wales. A 16-year-old wanting to steal cigarettes struck him in the head with a hammer. While he survived the attack, it led to a series of debilitating strokes that left him, Pryce says, with many of the symptoms of someone with dementia.
His father, a popular local town councillor who had started off working down the coal mines at the age of 13, was left with severe mental damage and could only make noises rather than speak.
“It was very hard to get through to him,” Pryce says. “I remember trying to teach him to write again, but he found it impossible. We would go out for walks, me holding his hand, and he would constantly pull away wanting to go up to people. The most upsetting thing about that was seeing how other people reacted to him – as if he was some kind of strange monster roaming the streets and not in control.”
He died a few years later, aged 72. “It was a terrible way to end his life,” Pryce says. “It was cut short in a very unhappy way.”
His aunt, Mair, by contrast, lived to the age of 95, but in her final years was stricken by dementia. Until her death a few years ago, Pryce would regularly visit her care home in Rhyl. Not recognising who he was, she would tell him about her nephew, Jonathan, who was an actor. “I found that upsetting, but we had a very good and long life together,” Pryce says.
In order to pay for her care, his aunt was required to sell her two-up two-down in North Wales – something which critics of the Government’s new social care reforms say will force many in the poorest parts of the country still to do. Under the reforms, voted through last week despite a Tory rebellion, a cap on the amount somebody pays for their care is set at £86,000. It is feared this will lead to those in more deprived areas with less money saved up still being forced to sell their homes – contravening a Conservative manifesto promise.
“It’s a huge scandal,” Pryce says. “People have paid a lifetime’s tax and then will get taxed again in old age for the care that is their right to have under the NHS. It should be a priority of the Government.”