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GEORGE BENN (d.1991)

George Benn, who died on May 20th after a long illness, was one of that sadly dwindling band of members who joined the Theatre before the war. His membership dated back to 1937 and from then on, excluding his war service, he was an active and leading member of the Theatre for thirty-five years.
Throughout that period he was one of our leading designers and stage managers. Together with Alfred Emmet, Ernest Ives and Graham Heywood he formed the New Theatre Committee which
prepared the architect's brief for the new playhouse, the plans for which were published in 1955. He served on the Committee of Management for no less than 19 years, and as our Chairman from 1954 to 1957 and from 1962 to 1972. As Secretary to the committee throughout that latter period of office I know, perhaps better than most, the extent and value of his service to our theatre. He guided us through the heady years of the launch of the New Theatre Fund and of the building, opening and paying for the new Playhouse, all the time playing his full part in every aspect of the work involved from fund raising to brick laying.
Nearly twenty years ago, on his retirement from the Chairmanship, I wrote that diplomacy was never
George's strongest suit. No-one, least of all George, would dispute that! I once defined my secretarial
duties as "trying to persuade the Committee of Management to take the right decisions at the right
time, trying to persuade Alfred Emmet to stop talking before half past ten, and trying to persuade
George Benn to stick to the agenda".
For nine years at meetings of the Committee and of the Theatre I sat at George's side kicking his
ankles — not entirely metaphorically! His great strength was that he was always prepared to take the
unpopular line if he believed it was right to do so in the interests of the Theatre. In the difficult, and
sometimes turbulent, fifties and sixties he was a tremendous source of strength to Alfred Emmet. He
trusted Alfred's artistic judgement implicitly and in the last resort Alfred could always rely on his
wholehearted support.
One of my earliest and happiest duties, when I succeeded George as Chairman in 1972, was to
announce his election as an Honorary Life Member — only the seventh person up till then to receive
that honour in the history of the Theatre. Thereafter, until his last illness, he was the ideal elder
statesman, always prepared to advise when requested but never doing so until requested. As a (then)
young and inexperienced Chairman I too found his support a great source of strength.
To the older generation of members George stories are legion. Everyone will have their favourites. I
have two: firstly that throughout his army years he carried with him a key to the "old tin hut"; secondly
that he met Diana when she fell through a piece of scenery which he had built. At this sad time our
thoughts will be with Diana and her sons, Christopher and Richard. They can be sure that George will
always remain a vital part of the fabric of our Theatre. He will be missed but not forgotten.
[Questopics 341, July 1991]

George Benn at The Questors
1938 The Bear
1938 A Florentine Tragedy
1938 The Herald
1938 The King of the Great Clock Tower
1938 The Lovely Miracle

1938 Macbeth
1938 A Man Born to be Hanged
1938 Marry-go-round

1939 Days Without End
1939 Noah
1946 Children in Uniform
1946 Diary of a Scoundrel
1946 Much Ado About Nothing
1946 Thunder Rock
1947 The Seagull
1949 Othello
1950 The Bear
1950 The Winter's Tale
1951 By Further Request
1951 Riders to The Sea
1951 The Women Have Their Way
1952 You Can't Take It with You
1953 A Family Comedy (1840)
1953 Monsieur Bon-Bon
1953 Thieves' Carnival
1953 Tinkers' Idyll
1953 The Women from The Voe
1954 Crabbed Age and Youth
1954 Murder in the Cathedral (excerpt)

1954 The Other Son
1954 The Proposal

1957 Cavelleria Rusticana
1957 Holiday in Biarritz
1957 The Wedding

1958 Eurydice
1959 The Birthday Party

1962 The Children of Saturn
1962 Going-Going
1962 Gone
1962 The Joker

1962 Next Time I'll Sing to You
1964 One Leg Over the Wrong Wall
1965 Great Catherine
1965 Major Barbara
1965 Sganerelle
1965 Thor, with Angels

1966 Macbeth
1966 My Poll and My Partner Joe
1966 Ring Round the Moon
1966 What Really Happened to Fidelity Hope?
1968 In Search of Man
1968 The Laughing Willow
1968 No Camels in Israel
1968 The Shaughraun
1969 Man and Superman
1969 Tango
1970 Collier's Friday Night, A
1970 Restoration of Arnold Middleton, The
1972 Candlelight and Babylon
1973 Touch-and-Go
1974 After Magritte
1974 Chamber Music
1976 The Colleen Bawn
1978 Ashes
1978 The Rimers of Eldritch
1979 Crime and Punishment
1980 A View from the Bridge
1981 The Magistrate
1981 The Winter's Tale
1983 Black Comedy
1983 Coda
1983 Electra