Theatre News

RSC co-founder John Barton dies aged 89

The director was instrumental in the company’s success for over half a century

© ally hook _ flickr

RSC co-founder John Barton has died aged 89, it was announced today.

Barton who, alongside Peter Hall, founded the RSC in 1960, worked continuously with the company throughout his life, including on productions including The War of the Roses in 1963 and directing a young Helen Mirren in Troilus and Cressida and Judi Dench in Twelfth Night, both in 1969.

Remembering Barton, current RSC artistic director Gregory Doran said: "…perhaps John’s greatest influence on the company, and hence to the profession, was his passion for the verse, and his ability to uncover the clues that Shakespeare wrote into the text to enable actors to deliver it with freshness and vivid clarity."

Barton attended King's College, Cambridge, where he directed and acted in productions before working in London from 1954.

He was also responsible for the "Playing Shakespeare" workshops, which were recorded for television and subsequently turned into a best-selling book by the same name. He also devised his own anthology programme about the British monarchy, entitled The Hollow Crown.

Aside from Shakespeare, Barton also directed landmark productions including Ibsen’s The Pillars of The Community with Dench and Ian McKellen in the West End in 1977. He continued working with the RSC until a few years ago, even aiding Doran in his production of Le Morte D'Arthur. By the end of his career he had directed over 50 productions, either on his own or collaborating with others.