Search

Obituary: Acclaimed director, playwright and Ham&High book reviewer William Tanner

15:05 04 June 2014

William Tanner in April of this year (2014). Picture: Alex Mavrocordatos

William Tanner in April of this year (2014). Picture: Alex Mavrocordatos

Archant

Bill Tanner, a long-time local resident, born in Krugersdorp, South Africa, has died, aged 72.

He was a former book reviewer for the Ham&High, a playwright (the original Tsafendas, Patty Hearst, Who is Eddie Linden?) and a stage director acclaimed for Long Day’s Journey into Night, The Glass Menagerie and others with Yvonne Bryceland at Brian Astbury’s The Space, Cape Town – where he was a luminary.

Schooled at St John’s College, Johannesburg, his pocket money came from devising an insurance scheme against various punishments.

He studied at Rhodes and Cape Town University, where the precocious film reviews and articles were published in Varsity and collected in 1966.

Threatened by the state security service with spying on activist student friends, he escaped to London, continuing to work as director for Hampstead theatres such as the New End, which closed in 2011, and Pentameters, in Heath Street. He lived across NW3 after moving to Prince Arthur Road, Hampstead, in 1973, latterly in Lithos Road.

His father died early of coronary disease (as his sister would, and now he), and so he entered an all female household, with an absent father.

Mother and children moved in with the paternal mother who denigrated her daughter-in-law but indulged the progeny – with film matinees.

Both these factors, he thought, were influential and lasting: one, malign, impacted his psychology and identity; the other, creative, made him an expert cutting room film editor.

Out of this grew the astute movie and drama critiques, intellectual, liberal humanist, at times even matching his idols Durgnat, Kael, and Empson.

Here he is on the actor’s gaze: “Olivier once said that he could lose anything but his eyes. Garbo, Monroe, Taylor all had a very distinctive, probably instinctive, eye time with the camera. The absolute secret of their allure. Lesser, but exceptional Barbras Stanwick or Streisand, had a measure of the glancing power. The azure factor – blue-eyed Semites – are always drop-dead good: Streisand, Paul Newman. Camp men, Dirk Bogarde, are almost all audience eye-massage. The dull straights, Richard Harris, rely on eye-liner.”

For one co-worker he came in two flavours: bitter and mild. True, in that his younger contrarian self bristled with edgy attitude; but older, a car crash and runover survivor with tunnel vision, he was a gregarious and convivial raconteur, though stagey, even eccentric, on occasion – presenting for one teaching interview incongruously in the guise of Prospero with voluminous robes and an outsize staff.

He was also treasurer of the Branch Hill allotments, having been a prime mover when the area was threatened with development.

The lodestar of his life, however, was friend and stage partner Tessa Marwick. His recreations were literature (passim); music: Britten, Janacek, Poulenc; and the cherished cinematic videos he was watching to the end.

n Daniel Hutchinson is an academic, formerly Head of the English Department, Dean of the School of Humanities and International Director at Hertfordshire University. He and Mr Tanner met as students at the University of Cape Town more than 50 years ago.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampstead Highgate Express visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampstead Highgate Express staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampstead Highgate Express account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

Yesterday, 17:03
Hungry: Liam Gallagher (Picture: Adam Butler/PA)

Former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher has revealed he once pelted former Hampstead neighbour Jamie Oliver’s windows with stones and demanded a bacon roll.

Yesterday, 12:06
Kemi Adeyoola

A “cold-blooded killer” who murdered an elderly Golders Green woman should not be freed anytime soon, a top judge has ruled.

Yesterday, 11:14
The dog was photographed attacking a swan    picture: Ron Vester

Photographer Ron Vester captures the dramatic moment when a female swan fights off a dog on Hampstead No 2 pond and amazingly escapes with no physical injuries

Yesterday, 11:13
Councillor Hayward with members of the LaSWAP sixth form consortium

Camden council leader Sarah Hayward was full of praise for A-level students across the borough following the publication of their results last week.

Mon, 18:35
Homes for Haringey has come under fire after the letting agency it set up and funded rented out just two homes in ten months

Haringey Council has come under fire after it was revealed a letting agency it set up and funded at a cost of over £400,000 has rented out just two homes in the last ten months.

Mon, 17:49
Almost half of Camden households are set to receive fortnightly waste collections from next April

Camden Council is set to press ahead with introducing fortnightly waste collections for around half the borough after a rebellion against a new £200 million contract with existing provider Veolia was derailed.

Mon, 17:25
Gabriella playing dressing up games

The husband of jailed West Hampstead mum Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, who is on trial in Iran, has revealed how his two-year-old daughter was forced to wear a sack over her head when she visited her mother in prison.

Mon, 12:24
The JW3 in Finchley Road, where the woman took refuge. Picture: Ezra Photography Ltd

Police investigating an attempted rape in West Hampstead have appealed to trace a woman who was followed by a man on the same evening.

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

You could win £15,000 to spend on either their mortgage or a deposit towards the home of their dreams

Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a period of time when you simply don’t have to worry about finding the money each month to pay your mortgage? When you don’t have to put money aside from your monthly income, or worry about having to afford other essential outgoings?

Which book character do you share cleaning habits with?

Whether you have more in common with put-upon Cinderella, emotionally turbulent Jane Eyre, or easily distracted Mole, you’re sure to appreciate that one lucky winner will receive four sessions of free cleaning. Enter our quiz for your chance to win. All runners up will get £10 off their first clean when making a repeat booking.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now