Don Taylor

Additional notice: exponent of live television and theatre
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The Independent Online

Thank you for the comprehensive and sympathetic obituary of my husband Don Taylor [by Anthony Hayward, 22 November], writes Ellen Dryden.

For the sake of Don's "perturbed spirit", I must correct the statement that he "favoured the proscenium arch approach" to television drama that was being challenged by a new breed. He did not. He was one of the leaders of the new breed.

The description "proscenium arch" refers to the TV drama of the 1950s, when all plays were done live. No more than four or five of Don's programmes were transmitted live. He began in 1960 and by late 1961 all his work was pre-recorded. The plays he directed were written for television - they were neither stage plays nor films. Don loved television - he believed it was a "beautiful, beautiful medium", capable of anything, and that studio drama was an exciting and rewarding form in its own right. For him the TV studio was that "empty space" which could be filled with thrilling ideas, action, dramatic excitement, all in the appropriate abstract or realistic setting. He hated mere naturalism with its poverty of ideas and language.

The connection with the theatre came in the way he gave the plays to the actors. He always performed plays in their entirety - or, with classic plays, act by act. This meant that the production had a natural growth and development. Remarkable things happened in the studio when the actors were performing and interacting with each other - and the camera - in the play's "real time", rather than rehearse/recording snippets.

Don worked this way from 1960 to 1990. He was well aware that he had lost the battle over TV studio drama. On his deathbed he was wryly amused to learn that ER had experimented with live transmission in the interests of immediacy and dramatic intensity.