‘We feel his loss deeply’ RSC pays tribute to former artistic director Terry Hands

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Terry Hands in rehearsals for Pericles at the RSC, 1969
Terry Hands pictured in 1983. Photos RSC

Tributes have been widely paid to inspirational theatre director Terry Hands who has died aged 79.

Terry oversaw the RSC as artistic director from 1978 to 1991 – jointly with Trevor Nunn for the first eight years – during a period of growth which saw The Swan Theatre established in 1986.

Terry Hands’ 1987 production of Julius Caesar

Current artistic director Gregory Doran said: “I first worked with Terry in his 1987 production of Julius Caesar with Roger Allam as Brutus, and was his assistant on Romeo and Juliet with Mark Rylance as Romeo the following year. He taught me to honour the driving impulse under Shakespeare’s text, and how to share that with an audience, and keep them gripped by that momentum. I owe a great deal to him as a mentor and as a friend, and like so many, feel his loss deeply.”

Antony Sher, right, in Terry Hands’ production of Singer, 1989

RSC Honorary Associate Artist Antony Sher, also shared a tribute, and said: “I owe an enormous amount to Terry Hands. First of all, he co-founded the Liverpool Everyman, where I started my career. And then, when I joined the RSC, he became my mentor, and taught me how to be a classical actor. I’m very proud of the shows we did together: two outstanding new plays, Peter Barnes’ Red Noses and Peter Flannery’s Singer, and a great revival of Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great. He was a brilliant and witty man, and a remarkable director, able to create real stage magic, epic images of beauty and power. I will miss him hugely.”

In 1964 Hands graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art with the gold medal for acting. In the same year he became one of the founders of the Liverpool Everyman. Terry originally joined the RSC in 1966 to run the company’s touring group, Theatregoround. During his 25 years with the company he directed more productions at the RSC than anyone else.

He went on to join Theatr Clwyd in 1997, which was then facing closure, and during his 17 years as artistic director turned it into the most successful theatre in Wales.

Paying homage in a tribute feature published on The Guardian’s website on Tuesday afternoon, the newspaper’s longstanding theatre critic, Michael Billington, said Terry was a “great director who left our theatre infinitely richer than he found it”. He said he had seen Terry a few weeks ago, just prior to him being admitted to hospital.

The cause of his death has not yet been confirmed.

Many others have reacted swiftly to news of Terry’s death, sharing their thoughts on social media.

Tamara Harvey, current artistic director of Theatr Clwyd, said: “Terry Hands was a giant of the theatre. And a colossus of Theatr Clwyd.”