Obituary: Lindsay Anderson

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The Independent Online
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Lindsay Gordon Anderson, film, television and stage director, critic and actor: born Bangalore, India 17 April 1923; editor, Sequence 1947-52; Associate Artistic Director, Royal Court Theatre 1969-75; governor, British Film Institute 1969-70; author of Making a Film 1952, About John Ford 1981; died near Angouleme, France 30 August 1994.

AS WITH many of the best film directors - Elia Kazan, Garson Kanin, Mike Nichols are others - Lindsay Anderson's first love was stage directing, writes Peter Cotes. His knowledge of acting helped him considerably when he was on a film set where stage actors, who had made the sometimes precarious jump between live theatre and film set, needed to be made to feel secure.

Anderson had in fact started his directorial career as a documentary film-maker and one of the documentarists' 'masters', Paul Rotha, a man greatly attracted by the theatre, once told me that he always considered Anderson 'better at stage directing than he was at being a film director'.

Anderson had to his credit a long list of stage productions from the time when he directed at the Royal Court Theatre in 1957, a piece without decor, The Waiting of Lester Abbs, for the English Stage Company. After that he was associated with the same company and the highly successful playwright David Storey, with whom he collaborated on not only the 'hit film of Storey's novel This Sporting Life, but also on other controversial pieces - not all of them commercial hits but none without merit - including The Changing Room (at the Royal Court in 1971). It was highly praised but had a mixed reception from the critics as a play, none of whom minimised the contribution of Anderson, who had by now become Storey's regular director. Storey's play Stages, put on in 1992, was their ninth collaboration.

Anderson went on to direct a number of other stage plays with mixed results commercially, but without doubt all artistically good. Under Anderson's guidance, 'ensemble' took on a new intense meaning. His best production was, in my view, Willis Hall's The Long and the Short and the Tall, in 1959. This was followed by a clutch of pieces of all types including Progress to the Park (without decor - a method of production frequently favoured by the director, also with such other productions as Jazzetry) and the highly controversial Serjeant Musgrave's Dance, both also in 1959, The Lily White Boys (1960) and The Fire-Raisers (1961). Anderson also directed and co-adapted The Diary of a Madman (1963) before moving across to direct at the National, the following year, Andorra and Julius Caesar. The Cherry Orchard at the Chichester Festival followed in 1966.

After a spell directing in Warsaw at the Contemporary Theatre, Anderson became associate artistic director in 1969 at the Royal Court, where he further distinguished his stage career with such productions as Storey's In Celebration (1969) and Home (1970). Anderson crowned his achievements at his favourite house by playing, again without decor, the very characterful role of Parsons in the novel play Miniatures.

It was a full life on stage and film; my belief is that Anderson was at heart an actor manque, but wisely wrote and directed rather than acted for most of his life.