Bill Alexander (director)

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Bill Alexander
William Alexander Paterson

(1948-02-23) 23 February 1948 (age 72)
Occupation Theatre director
Years active1974–present
Known for
Juliet Harmer (m. 1977)

William Alexander Paterson (born 23 February 1948) known professionally as Bill Alexander is a British theatre director who is best known for his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company and as artistic director of Birmingham Repertory Theatre. He currently works as a freelance, internationally as a theatre director and most recently as a director of BBC Radio 4 drama.


Early years

William Alexander Paterson was born in Hunstanton, Norfolk, England, on 23 February 1948 [1] to William and Rosemary Paterson (née McCormack). He was a boarder at St. Lawrence College, Ramsgate, Kent before going on to Keele University (1969–1973) where he studied English and founded an experimental theatre group called Guerilla Theatre based on the principles of the Polish theatre director Jerzy Grotowski. [2]

Early career

In 1974, Alexander began his career as a Trainee Director at the Bristol Old Vic. His productions included Butley by Simon Gray, How the Other Half Loves by Alan Ayckbourn, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night , Blythe Spirit by Noël Coward. [3] [ citation needed ] [4] [5] [6] In 1975 he joined the Royal Court Theatre as an assistant director. His production of Class Enemy by Nigel Williams [7] won the Binkie Beaumont Award for Best New Director.[ citation needed ]

At the Royal Shakespeare Company

Alexander joined the RSC in 1977 as assistant to Trevor Nunn and John Barton. Initially, he worked in the RSC's two studio theatres: The Warehouse in London (primarily devoted to new plays) and The Other Place in Stratford (dedicated to a mixture of new plays and the re-discovery of classics by performing them on a small scale). [8] He also worked at The Pit studio space which replaced The Warehouse when the RSC moved to the Barbican. [9]

In 14 years at the RSC, Alexander's studio productions included Factory Birds by James Robson (Warehouse), Captain Swing by Peter Whelan (TOP), [8] Tartuffe by Molière (PIT), [10] Volpone by Ben Jonson (TOP and PIT), [10] The Accrington Pals by Peter Whelan (Warehouse), [11] Cymbeline by William Shakespeare (TOP and PIT) with Harriet Walter as Imogen. [12]

Alexander's first production on the RSC main stage was Richard III (with Antony Sher as Richard) in 1984. This production, for which Anthony Sher won the Olivier Award for Best Actor later transferred to the Barbican. [13]

In 1980 he directed Harold Pinter's Betrayal at the Cameri Theatre, Tel Aviv.

In 1986, Alexander's production of The Merry Wives of Windsor won him the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director. [14] In 2014, Michael Billington, the Guardian's theatre critic chose this production as one of his 'Best'. [15]

Alexander's other productions for the RSC included A Midsummer Nights Dream (1986) with Sean Bean as Robin Starveling, Twelfth Night with Harriet Walter as Viola, and Deborah Findlay as Olivia 1987/88, [16] The Merchant of Venice with Antony Sher as Shylock in 1987, Cymbeline with David Bradley and Harriet Walter in 1998, [17] Much Ado About Nothing in 1991, [18] The Taming of the Shrew in 1992, [19] and Titus Andronicus in 2003. [20] About the latter Alexander said,"I've also discovered what I like about Titus: it's the best play about revenge that I can think of. Revenge is such a difficult idea to deal with. Everyone knows it's "a bad thing", yet everyone understands the phrase "revenge is sweet". Titus shows revenge's seductiveness, the impulse in us all that the law is there to control. It is a work of lurid genius because it reminds us of the fundamental truths about the role of law in a just society." [21]

Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Alexander left the RSC to become Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1992. [22] His productions there included:

Later work

Alexander's work since 2000 has included:


In 1978, Alexander received the Binkie Beaumont Award for Best New Director[ citation needed ] and in 1986, the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director for The Merry Wives of Windsor at the RSC.

Personal life

In 1977, Alexander married actor and painter Juliet Harmer. [55] They have two daughters [55] and four grandchildren.[ citation needed ]

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