Williams was born in Cardiff in 1926 and attended Highbury County Grammar School. He trained as an economist before spending his early years in mining, the army, the theatre and ballet. He started his career as an actor, appearing in the 1948 Stratford Season, before turning to producing and directing.
In 1950, Williams founded and directed the Mime Theatre Company and directed and acted for the National Theatre of South Africa. He became the director of the Arts Theatre Club, earning £18 per week. He directed productions at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, before becoming a staff producer at the RSC in 1961. He was later made an associate director of the company.
Among Williams’ numerous productions with the RSC was the 1963 staging of The Comedy of Errors, which starred Ian Richardson and Diana Rigg is said to have defined what became known as the classic RSC style.
He also worked on The Jew of Malta, The Merchant of Venice, Major Barbara, The Duchess of Malfi, Man and Superman, The Happiest Days of Your Life, Il Candelaio, The Beaux Stratagem and The Representative. As well as his classic productions of Ibsen, Chekhov, Shaw, Pirandello, JM Barrie and Restoration comedy, Williams took on many new plays and West End musicals, including Our Man Crichton, Mardi Gras and Carte Blanche.
Beyond the RSC, Williams worked as a freelance director on an all-male production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It at the Old Vic for the National Theatre in 1967, and in 1970, he directed Kenneth Tynan's Oh! Calcutta!, which heralded the abolition of stage censorship.
He also directed for the national theatres of Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Mexico and Spain, as well as in Japan, France, Denmark, the US, Sweden, Canada, Australia and West Germany. Williams’ more recent London productions included Richard II and Richard III starring Derek Jacobi in 1988 and 1989.
Williams died on 20 August 2005. He is survived by his second wife, Josiane Peset, and their two daughters.
- by Caroline Ansdell