RSC founder and ‘Shakespeare genius’ John Barton dies

John Barton.

Theatre director John Barton, a co-founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), has died aged 89.

Working with the company since its beginnings in 1960, Barton directed more than 50 works – some adapted by him from the texts of Greek drama.

He was “a Shakespeare genius”, RSC artistic director Gregory Doran said.

Actor Sir Patrick Stewart said “the names William Shakespeare and John Barton will be for me forever united”.

Sir Patrick, who worked with Barton on The Merchant of Venice, said that no one in his career “had the impact John had”.

Paying tribute to a “mentor and friend”, Doran said Barton was “one of the greatest influences in the acting of Shakespeare of the last century”.

Generations of actors had been and still were influenced by Barton’s series of Shakespeare workshops, Doran said.

Doran recalled directing Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, when Barton joined him for sessions “in which he delivered whole sections of the book from memory, including, most wonderfully, the list of a hundred knights”.

‘Inestimable legacy’

Barton’s acclaimed productions include the War of the Roses, Twelfth Night, The Hollow Crown and The Greeks.

Judi Dench, Jeremy Irons, Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen are among the actors to have worked with him.

Josie Rourke, artistic director at the Donmar Warehouse, paid tribute the “fierce, funny” director.

The associate director of London’s Almeida Theatre, Robert Icke, called his legacy “inestimable”.

“We don’t make them like him any more,” he added.

Meanwhile actor, John Bowe, wrote that he was “honoured” to have been directed by him.

This autumn’s RSC production of Troilus and Cressida – Barton’s favourite play – will be dedicated to him.