Theatre director Michael Bogdanov dies aged 78

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Michael Bogdanov

The British theatre, film and opera director Michael Bogdanov has died at the age of 78 while on holiday with friends, his publicist has confirmed.

Bogdanov, born in Neath, south Wales, died of a heart attack on Sunday.

He was known for his work with new plays, modern reinterpretations of Shakespeare, musicals and works for young people.

A family funeral in Wales will be followed by a memorial service in London at a later date.

Bogdanov directed in many of the world's leading theatres and companies including the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Royal Opera House, Sydney Opera House, Vienna's Burgtheater, on Broadway and the West End.

He was an associate director of the Royal National Theatre for eight years, directed eight productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company and co-founded the English Shakespeare Company in 1986 with actor Michael Pennington.

The father-of-five was chief executive of the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, Germany's largest national theatre, from 1989 to 1992.

In 1982, he went on trial at the Old Bailey for staging an act of simulated male sex in the play The Romans in Britain.

Media caption,

Michael Bogdanov: 'I suddenly realised I could go to prison'

He had been accused of procuring an act of "gross indecency" likely to cause offence for his production at London's National Theatre, and spoke 30 years later of his "enormous relief" when the case collapsed and the prosecution withdrew its evidence on the third day of the hearing.

He also said he felt "very angry" that the private prosecution brought by the morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse had been allowed to happen at all.

His publicist said on Tuesday: "Michael's iconoclastic approach to Shakespeare influenced a generation of audiences and practitioners, he had a life-long commitment to education and creating shows for young people and his approach to theatre was to make it political, accessible, joyous and transformative."

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Michael Bogdanov (third from left) with the National Theatre Team in 1984

Michael Kelligan, founder of the Welsh Fargo Stage Company, said: "He was a great theatre director and we were very fortunate he decided to return to Wales where he put on some wonderful shows and gave work to lots of actors.

"I think his coming here was the start of the strengthening of the Welsh theatre scene as it's become today.

"He was ready to explore everything and anything and he brought his great talent to everything that he touched. I'm just overwhelmed with the fact that he's gone."

Musician and composer Mal Pope told the programme Bogdanov had changed his life and that of a number of now Hollywood actors.

'Amazing character'

"You meet people in life who have an amazing effect on you and I can quite honestly say that Michael Bogdanov changed my life," he said.

"He took a risk on a musical which was only four or five pages long and we had our first musical together, about the Welsh Revival, back in 2005.

"He wasn't easy to work with all the time. Everybody's got a Bogdanov story about how he would maybe shout you out or he would have a go at you about something, but he was an amazing character and he had a wealth of stories about just about everybody in the world of theatre."

Mr Pope added: "He had an amazing love of Welsh theatre and wanted to see indigenous Welsh theatre thrive.

"He was already planning for our new musical to launch in Swansea. We had meetings two weeks ago. He was going to be 81 when he took to the stage with our final musical."

He said that during their last meeting Bogdanov talked about actress Whoopi Goldberg attending one of his master classes in Los Angeles.

"He changed so many people's lives," Mr Pope said.

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Kully Thiarai, artistic director of National Theatre Wales, said Bogdanov was an "extraordinary man".

Kully Thiarai, artistic director of National Theatre Wales, said Bogdanov was passionate about the arts in Wales and was always challenging audiences.

The National Theatre paid tribute to a "bold, ambitious and brilliant director (and co-founder of the National Theatre Cricket Team)"

The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama said it was a " huge loss for Welsh and international theatre".

Actor and director Samuel West, who revived The Romans In Britain in 2006, said: "His shows made Shakespeare feel like our contemporary".

Fellow actor and director Hugh Quarshie tweeted: "Heard Michael Bogdanov died eating, drinking & laughing. Great memories of a great global director, once a colleague, ally & friend. RIP".

Geoff Haden, chairman of the Dylan Thomas Society, of which Bogdanov was a member, said the director had been a collector of Dylan memorabilia and produced the play Under Milk Wood all over the world, including a version in Japanese.

He said: "On the centenary of Dylan Thomas's birth in 2014 he produced a 36-hour marathon reading of all of Dylan's work at the Grand Theatre in the poet's home city of Swansea.

"This was an ambitious project that Michael had planned for years and it was a credit to his standing in the theatrical profession that he persuaded stars like Sir Ian McKellen, Sian Phillips and Nicholas Parsons to take part."

Mr Haden added: "Michael was a true friend who was always ready to help promote the work at the birthplace and loved staying at the home of Dylan.

"He was also a patron of the International Dylan Thomas Prize in partnership with Swansea University and was due to attend the 2017 awards ceremony next month."

The artistic director of Flintshire's Theatr Clwyd Tamara Harvey said he had helped steer the Mold-based theatre through difficult times, while Pat Nelder remembers Bogdanov as being "ebullient" when he worked for him as technical manager.

Media caption,

Tamara Harvey artistic director of Theatr Clwyd and technical manager Pat Nelder remember Michael Bogdanov