Located on the banks of the river Lambourn, about an hour’s drive west of London, the venue’s chocolate box beauty – consisting of a converted Georgian paper mill, complete with waterwheel - often contrasted with the uncompromising productions staged in the 220-seat auditorium.
The place was originally turned into a theatre during the 1960s. But since Fraser and her husband James Sargant bought the venue in 1981, the theatre has gained an international reputation, touring to 21 countries and boasting a string of transfers to London’s West End.
Last year Fraser attended the consecutive New York openings of Edward Hall’s The Winter’s Tale and John Doyle’s hugely successful chamber production of Sweeney Todd, both of which started life at The Watermill.
Fraser was the daughter of actors Alec and Guinevere Fraser. But the skill with which she guided The Watermill over the last quarter century was honed as an administrator for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Welsh Opera, Actors Company and Cambridge Theatre Company.
The success of The Watermill looks likely to continue with the West End opening of Mack and Mabel, also directed by John Doyle, starring Janie Dee and David Soul. That production starts previews at The Criterion Theatre on April 5 and opens April 10 for a 16-week season.