David Jones, Respected English Director, Dies at 74

Obituaries   David Jones, Respected English Director, Dies at 74
David Jones, the respected if undersung English director who forged career relationships with major stage figures such as playwright Harold Pinter and actors Patrick Stewart and Ben Kingsley, and helped rehabilitate the reputation of Gorky as a playwright, died on Sept. 18 in Rockport, ME, where he lived. He was 74.

Mr. Jones was hired by Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Peter Hall in the early 1960s. He directed dozens of plays there, registered a significant success with his productions of several of Russian writer Maxim Gorky's then-forgotten stage works. In the 1970s he directed Gorky's Enemies, The Lower Depths, Summerfolk and The Zykovs, all at the Aldwych Theater in London, where he served as artistic director. The productions were hailed as rediscoveries of important works of literature. Following their exposure in England, the plays were staged at various theatres in the U.S.

His first important work in America was as artistic director of the Brooklyn Academy of Music Theatre Company in New York. He held the position for three years beginning in 1979. His initial Broadway assignment came relatively late in life, with a 1994 Roundabout Theatre Company revival of Pinter's No Man's Land starring Jason Robards and Christopher Plummer. The production was largely praised, particularly Plummer's performance.

His final Broadway credit was also a Pinter play, The Caretaker, also at the Roundabout. Patrick Stewart starred the 2003 production, along with Aidan Gillen and Kyle MacLaughlan. Mr. Jones' relationship with Pinter lasted decades, beginning at the RSC and including the 1983 film adaptation of his play Betrayal, starring Kingsley and Jeremy Irons, "Langrishe Go Down," Pinter's 1978 television adaptation of a Aidan Higgins novel; and Pinter's screenplay of Kafka's novel "The Trial," starring Anthony Hopkins.

Top-level actors worked with him again and again. Kingsley, who was one of the players in Gorky's Enemies, went on to appear in "Betrayal" and "The Confession." Stewart, another of the stars of Enemies, worked with Mr. Jones on The Caretaker, and a television adaptation of "A Christmas Carol." Robards took roles not only in No Man's Land, but the television films "The Christmas Wife" and "The Trial."

His last production in the U.K. was The Last Confession in 2007. He was born in Poole, Dorset, in 1934, and was educated at Taunton School. After National Service in the Royal Artillery, Mr. Jones worked at the BBC, which he joined in 1958. He remained there until 1964. His first London stage production was a triple-bill of T. S. Eliot's Sweeney Agonistes, W. B. Yeats' Purgatory and Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape at the Mermaid Theatre in 1961.

Tall, with a deep voice and a quiet, civilized manner, he was known for creating productions that were precise and faithful to the text.

His marriage to Sheila Allen, an English actress, ended in divorce. He is survived by Joyce Tenneson, his longtime companion, and two sons, Jesse, of Brooklyn and Joseph of Tucson.

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