Jonathan Miller death: Theatre director and writer dies, aged 85

Miller rose to fame alongside Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett in the comedy revue ‘Beyond the Fringe’

Roisin O'Connor
Wednesday 27 November 2019 13:01
Writer and director Jonathan Miller, pictured here in 2004, has died aged 85
Writer and director Jonathan Miller, pictured here in 2004, has died aged 85

Jonathan Miller, the acclaimed theatre director, writer, broadcaster and actor, has died aged 85, his family have said.

Miller achieved fame as part of the Sixties comedy revue Beyond the Fringe, which also starred Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett.

Born in London to Lithuanian immigrant parents in 1934, he travelled the country during the Second World War while his father, a military psychiatrist, worked at various hospitals.

Miller once told The Guardian that while his father drifted away from religious Judaism, his cultural Judaism was “somewhat revived” by the Holocaust. Miller himself, however, did not feel more Jewish but felt the Holocaust “did make me realise more the great inhumanity of antisemitism”.

“I feel now I am a Jew only for antisemites and as I get older I get more and more bleached out in my ethnic identification,” he said. “I don’t even feel particularly English. I probably identity more as someone who lives in Gloucester Crescent.”

Miller attended St Paul’s school in London, where he met his wife, GP Rachel Collet, at a joint play-reading between the schools for boys and girls. They married in 1956 and had three children (two sons and a daughter), including TV presenter and entrepreneur William.

The success of Beyond the Fringe changed his life, and he began a directing career in 1962 when he was invited to direct John Osborne’s Under Plain Cover at the Royal Court.

While he enjoyed success as a writer, doctor, photographer, sculptor and producer, he disliked the term ”polymath” or “renaissance man”. Asked what his passport said, he hesitated before responding: "I think it says theatre director."

Miller's plays were staged regularly by the English National Opera, and he also worked at the Old Vic and the National Theatre. Last year, he published a memoir about his life growing up in an artistic family in a bohemian north London house.

His son, William Miller, confirmed the news of his death and said the family would make a public statement later.

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