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Theatre director Howard Davies dies aged 71

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Howard Davies won three Olivier Awards for best director

Theatre director Howard Davies has died at the age of 71, his family has announced.

He was known for his work at several venues, including the Old Vic and the National Theatre, across his long career.

Davies also helped set up the Warehouse Theatre in Covent Garden, which later became the Donmar Warehouse.

He won three Olivier Awards for best director and was made a CBE in 2011 for services to drama.

A family statement said he died on 25 October after a short battle with cancer.

The National Theatre described Davies as “one of the very greatest theatre directors of his generation”.

Over 28 years, he directed 36 productions for the National Theatre beginning with Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1988.

‘Almost legendary status’

His most recent production, Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars, co-directed with Jeremy Herrin, completed its run only last weekend.

Rufus Norris, director of the National Theatre, said: “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.”

Jamie Lloyd, who has directed The Maids, Doctor Faustus and Richard III, tweeted: “Howard Davies. One of the greatest ever. An exceptional career built on attention to detail, respect for others and support for fellow artists.”

Blackadder star Tony Robinson wrote: “RIP my dear and wonderful friend the brilliant director Howard Davies.”

‘A great loss’

Davies was born in Durham and went on to study at Durham and Bristol Universities.

His recent productions included Enemy of the People, which ran at the Chichester Festival Theatre in April.

He had been due to direct a production of Michael Frayn’s play Wild Honey at Hampstead Theatre in December.

Edward Hall, Hampstead’s artistic director, said the play would be presented “in respectful memory” of Davies.

He described Davies as “a man of huge skill, fierce determination and quiet modesty who changed the face of British Theatre”.

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Mark Gatiss said Davies’s death was a “huge loss” to the theatre

Actor and Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss said that Davies’s death was a “huge loss to the theatre”.

He added: “Honoured to have worked with the great Howard Davies. Simply one of the very best. Funny, forensic, passionate.”

Actor and director Samuel West praised Davies for building casts “like making a cake – never afraid to change the recipe slightly as long as the thing rose. And it always did”.

Davies won his three best director Olivier Awards for The Iceman Cometh, All My Sons and The White Guard.

His career included a stint as associate director at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1970s, as well as working extensively at the Almeida Theatre and on Broadway.

He is survived by his wife, actress Clare Holman.


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