ALAN CLARKE (d.1990)
Alan Clarke's outstanding contribution to television drama has been widely acclaimed in the National Press. W. Stephen Gilbert, for example, writing in The Independent, singled out his production of David Rudkin's Penda's Fen for the BBC in the 1970s as "one of the most remarkable achievements in all television drama . . . His body of work is as bold and as rich as any that the medium has played host to". And David Hare, whose first television play was directed by Alan Clarke, wrote in The Guardian: "In Al Hunter's The Firm, he made what I think is one of the few authentic television masterpieces . . . Alan, one among very few, kept his eyes open . . . Alive or dead, he reminds the rest of us to keep looking".
The Questors remember him best for his contributions to the life of our theatre during the four years, 1962-1966, when he was closely associated with us. These were crucial years for The Questors, bridging the opening of the new playhouse in 1964, and it was not only through his own productions that Alan's influence was felt. I remember long and stimulating discussions with him about where the theatre in general, and The Questors Theatre in particular, was going or should go. He seemed so theatre-oriented then that it was something of a surprise when he took off (suddenly, as it seemed to us) into television.
Alan's first production for us was Anouilh's Traveller Without Luggage (September 1962), directed in the round during the period while the new playhouse was building and all productions were presented in the Stanislaysky Room, and the use of space was being explored. Alan's next production was nearly two years later, exploring possibilitiesin the recently opened new playhouse, with Albert Bermel's One Leg Over the Wrong Wall (New Plays Festival, June 1964). Then in October of that year came the striking double bill of new plays, Barry Bermange's No Quarter and James Saunders' Neighbours, then taken to West Berlin and to Paris the following February. In Berlin they were televised `live' on German Television and created quite a furore: not the last time that Alan's television work created controversy!
His next venture was Genet's The Maids (April 1965), adventurously and excitingly directed with an all male cast, as the author is believed to have intended. In the New Plays Festival of that same year Alan was exploring new dimensions in the playhouse with his production of Derek Marlowe's How I Assumed the Role of the Popular Dandy: for Purposes of Seduction and other Base Matters. His last production for us was his exciting and highly original production of Macbeth (November 1966), remembered by some for the fantastic eerie sound effect which accompanied the entrances of the 'Weird Women' (a recording he made of the breathing of adders). His acute and imaginative understanding of the play, the result of long and deep consideration, was expressed with brilliant clarity in a note in the programme, Macbeth an Interpretation, which seems as strikingly valid today as it was nearly a quarter of a century ago. To re-read it now is to realise again how much The Questors lost when Alan moved on to fulfil himself in wider fields. To work with Alan was always stimulating and because it was stimulating was always fun.
[Questopics 328, September 1990]