Advocates: Clifford Williams

Royal Shakespeare Company director Clifford Williams, who died in 2005, was named by the Daily Telegraph as ‘the RSC's best delineator of the company's house style’. While obituarists have highlighted Williams’s pre-RSC work with Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop, and with his own Mime Theatre Company, his substantial time with Studio Theatre between 1956 and 1962 has gone pretty well unnoticed. In an echo of Stephen Joseph, Williams is partly remembered as ‘[the RSC’s] most resourceful and reliable investigator of forgotten classics’ (Ibid.). Williams also directed for the National Theatre, on Broadway, and in London’s West End. It’s said that while rehearsing the nude sequences in the hit review Oh! Calcutta, he insisted that everyone should be naked - including himself!

While at Studio Theatre, Williams directed two of Alan Ayckbourn’s earliest plays,
Love After All (1959) and Dad’s Tale (1960). Terry Lane has quoted Williams reflecting that "We all rather courted Stephen’s favour… he represented a flag, a rallying point, for those who wanted to do plays by writers like Strindberg, and new writers. He was a big chap. You could always stand behind him, as it were. You felt he had muscle, clout".

Williams is another Studio Theatre recruit who was persuaded to write. In 1956 he directed his own play
The Disguises of Arlecchino - staged as a defiantly non-naturalistic commedia dell’arte piece, and performed (unusually for the genre) in-the-round. Perhaps it was here that Williams first explored the design minimalism that he used so well in his later work.

Copyright: Dr Paul Elsam.