Veteran British Theater Director Howard Davies Dies, Age 71

News   Veteran British Theater Director Howard Davies Dies, Age 71 The three-time Tony nominee directed the original RSC production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses that transferred to Broadway.
Howard Davies
Howard Davies Manuel Harlan/Chichester Festival Theatre

Veteran theatre director Howard Davies, whose work has spanned the RSC, National, West End and Broadway, has died, age 71.

He was a three-times Tony nominee for Best Direction of a Play for transfers of his London productions of Les Liaisons Dangereuses (from the RSC), The Iceman Cometh (from the Almeida) and Private Lives (from the West End). Other Broadway credits include productions of Good, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, My Fair Lady, Translations and A Moon for the Misbegotten.

A statement from his family stated, “Howard died on October 25 after a short battle with cancer. It is a devastating loss to his family, friends and the people who loved and worked with him. He was a wonderful, loving husband, father and grandfather, and a phenomenally talented director. He will be hugely missed”

London’s National Theatre, where he has been an associate since 1988, added, “At the National Theatre we are profoundly saddened to hear of the death of Howard Davies. One of the very greatest theatre directors of his generation, he had a long and brilliant association with the NT spanning 28 years. He directed 36 productions for the National Theatre beginning with Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1988, and his most recent production, O'Casey's The Plough and the Stars, co-directed with Jeremy Herrin, completed its run only last weekend.”

Eve Best and Kevin Spacey in <i>A Moon for the Misbegotten</i>.
Eve Best and Kevin Spacey in A Moon for the Misbegotten.

Other productions at the National Theatre include The Secret Rapture by David Hare, Bulgakov’s Flight, Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, Mourning Becomes Electra by Eugene O’Neill, Gorky's Philistines, as well as Her Naked Skin by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, and 3 Winters by Tena Štivičić.

Rufus Norris, current director of the National Theatre, commented, “Howard achieved an almost legendary status within the industry. His work—particularly on the American, Russian and Irish canons—was unparalleled. His reputation amongst actors, writers, directors and designers alike was beyond question, and has been for so long that his name has become a byword for quality and depth. His gaze and focus were unswerving, but his twinkling humor sat on the shoulder of his fierce intellect; either way, he always spoke his truth, and for a junior director that was both inspiring and frightening. His questions and opinion demanded the same rigour of others that he always applied himself, and his understated nod was the greatest compliment. He will be missed beyond measure.”

Norris’s predecessor Nicholas Hytner has also said, “Howard Davies was the director all actors wanted most to work with, and his productions were the ones I most wanted to see, always cracking with intellectual and emotional energy. He unlocked wild and contradictory passions in everything he did, and would describe a play not in terms of his concept, but of its humanity. He was the first person I asked to work with me when I became the National's Director. I could not imagine being there without him, or doing the job without his friendship and support. He was the irreplaceable cornerstone. Among his countless outstanding productions, Bulgakov’s The White Guard in 2010 was as good as the theatre ever gets, an overwhelming experience. The National, the RSC and the theatre at large would be a shadow of themselves without everything he's done for them; and so would all the actors, writers and directors whose lives were enriched by him.”

Trevor Nunn, who employed Davies as both artistic director of the RSC and then the National, commented, “Ever since I first met Howard and employed him as an RSC assistant director, I have thought of him as an astonishingly brilliant young man. Through the time of him running the Donmar Warehouse, soon after the RSC opened it as a theatre, to his constant flow of legendary productions at the NT, he never ceased to amaze. For me, his NT production of All My Sons remains the greatest production of a twentieth century classic I have ever seen. The news of his death is incomprehensible.”

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