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Howard Davies at the Olivier Awards in 2011 (Photo: Richard Young)
Howard Davies at the Olivier Awards in 2011 (Photo: Richard Young)

National Theatre statement on Howard Davies

Published October 26, 2016

Below is the National Theatre’s statement on the death of Howard Davies.

At the National Theatre we are profoundly saddened to hear of the death of Howard Davies. One of the very greatest theatre directors of his generation, he had a long and brilliant association with the NT spanning 28 years. He directed 36 productions for the National Theatre beginning with Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1988, and his most recent production, O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars, co-directed with Jeremy Herrin, completed its run only last weekend. He was appointed an Associate Director in 1988.
 
Highlights from his multiple award-winning career and his many productions at the National Theatre include The Secret Rapture by David Hare, Bulgakov’s Flight, Arthur Millers’ All My Sons, Mourning Becomes Electra, by Eugene O’Neill, Gorky’s Philistines, as well as Her Naked Skin by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, and 3 Winters, by Tena Štivičić.
 
Howard was held in the highest regard as a director, colleague and friend, and he will be deeply missed. We send our condolences and sympathy to Clare (his wife), his family and friends.
 
Statement from Howard Davies’ family
Howard died on the 25th of October after a short battle with cancer. It is a devastating loss to his family, friends and the people who loved and worked with him. He was a wonderful, loving husband, father and grandfather, and a phenomenally talented director. He will be hugely missed.
 
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. His gaze and focus were unswerving, but his twinkling humour sat on the shoulder of his fierce intellect; either way, he always spoke his truth, and for a junior director that was both inspiring and frightening. His questions and opinion demanded the same rigour of others that he always applied himself, and his understated nod was the greatest compliment. He will be missed beyond measure.”

Nicholas Hytner, Director of the National Theatre (2003-2015) said “Howard Davies was the director all actors wanted most to work with, and his productions were the ones I most wanted to see, always cracking with intellectual and emotional energy. He unlocked wild and contradictory passions in everything he did, and would describe a play not in terms of his concept, but of its humanity. He was the first person I asked to work with me when I became the National’s Director. I could not imagine being there without him, or doing the job without his friendship and support. He was the irreplaceable cornerstone. Among his countless outstanding productions, Bulgakov’s The White Guard in 2010 was as good as the theatre ever gets, an overwhelming experience. The National, the RSC and the theatre at large would be a shadow of themselves without everything he’s done for them; and so would all the actors, writers and directors whose lives were enriched by him.”

Trevor Nunn Director of the National Theatre (1997 -2003) said “Ever since I first met Howard and employed him as an RSC assistant director, I have thought of him as an astonishingly brilliant young man. Through the time of him running the Donmar Warehouse, soon after the RSC opened it as a theatre, to his constant flow of legendary productions at the NT, he never ceased to amaze. For me, his NT production of All My Sons remains the greatest production of a twentieth century classic I have ever seen. The news of his death is incomprehensible.”
 
Richard Eyre Director of the National Theatre (1987 – 1997) said “He was a wonderful director, a wholly admirable man and a good friend.”