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

18:54
The Old White Bear pub in Hampstead

Developers who own the derelict Old White Bear pub in Hampstead have been ordered to take down scaffolding at the historic building by the end of the week or face enforcement action by Camden Council.

Yesterday, 17:41
Tributes have been paid to actor Burt Kwouk

Tributes have been paid to renowned Hampstead actor Burt Kwouk, famous for his role in the Pink Panther films.

Yesterday, 17:15
Tom Franklin, former chair of the Camden Green Party, pictured with Sian Berry and other supporters outside court

Eight protesters cleared of any wrongdoing for their part in an arms fair protest will not face a retrial after a judge refused an appeal lodged by the Crown.

Yesterday, 16:18
The Ratclliffe family when Gabriella was one week old

The husband of a West Hampstead mum who has been held for 50 days in Iran without charge has hit out at the government for not doing enough to secure her release.

Yesterday, 14:04
Heather Brett, with her mother, Nora

A daughter is urging hospitals to prioritise dementia care after her 90-year-old mother had a “traumatic” experience at the Whittington.

Mon, 17:50
Left to Right: Artist Dom Pattinson, Zebra One gallery owner Gabrielle du Plooy, actor  Phil Daniels and Blur's Dave Rowntree with artwork for auction at the Star Boot Sale

A fan has bid £6,500 on an outfit worn by former Spice girl Melanie Chisholm, which was among celebrity cast-offs being sold off at the Star Boot Sale on Sunday.

Mon, 14:44
Barnet and Camden's re-elected Assembly Member Andrew Dismore said the inquiry currently being undertaken by Barnet Councill into the polling day blunder is looking

Barnet and Camden Assembly Member Andrew Dismore has claimed the inquiry into the mayoral polling day debacle in Barnet is looking “increasingly like a whitewash”.

Saturday, May 21, 2016
Mayor of Haringey Councillor Ali Ozbek. Photo: Polly Hancock

Haringey appointed its first mayor of Kurdish Alevi descent at a ceremony boosted with overseas family and the Turkish press on Monday.

PROMOTED CONTENT

There are no rules when it comes to buying studio pottery beyond choosing what you love

With The Great Pottery Throwdown captivating viewers across the nation, pottery courses at capacity, and hipsters snapping up vintage studio pieces to display their succulents in and post on Instagram, studio pottery and ceramics are definitely having a moment.

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now

Newsletter Sign Up

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

Win a BMW 1 series

There are fewer cars currently on the market more stylish and exciting than the BMW. Known all over the world as one of the best car manufacturers, the BMW is renowned for sleek designs and fantastic high quality workmanship.

Kindle 7 inch tablet

Are you looking for a brand new gadget to help you stay connected on the go and make that long journey home a bit more entertaining? Look no further. MyOffers is giving you the chance to win 1 of 50 Kindle Fire 7” Display Tablets! That’s 50 times more chances to win, so hurry up and enter our competition today and you could be one of our lucky winners!

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe