Sir (William) Tyrone Guthrie



  • (1900 - 71) British actor, director, and producer, knownfor his innovative productions of Shakespeare and other classics atthe Old Vic. His hallmarks included the use of a thruststage and the creation of a swirling crowd movement within ascene. During his career Guthrie worked in several other countries,including Canada, America, Germany, and Israel. He was awarded a knighthoodin 1961.

    Guthrie, known to all as Tony, once said that the director'sduty was "to make each rehearsal so amusing that the actorswill look forward to the next one". Laurence Olivier,however, described him as "shy of great human emotion".Directing Olivier and Jessica Tandy in Henry V, Guthrie toldthem "You two go and do the love scene by yourselves, will you.I can't be bothered with that".

    The great-grandson of the American actor Tyrone Power (seePower family), Guthrie made his debut in 1924 in a studentproduction of Henry IV at Oxford. From 1929 to 1930 he workedas a director at the Festival Theatre, Cambridge, before directinghis first London play, James Bridie's The Anatomist, whichopened the Westminster Theatre in 1931. He became the Old Vic's youngestdirector in 1933 and was the administrator of both the Old Vic andSadler's Wells Theatre during World War II. After the war he passedthe management of the Old Vic to Olivier, Ralph Richardson, and JohnBurrell.

    In 1944 Guthrie gave Olivier what the actor later called "themost priceless advice I've ever had from anybody". Olivier wascomplaining about his role of Sergius, a tediously conventional characterin Shaw's Arms and the Man. Guthrie reproved him with the words"Well, of course, if you can't love Sergius, you'll never beany good in him, will you?"

    Guthrie's celebrated Shakespearean productions at the OldVic included Measure for Measure (1933) with Charles Laughtonand Hamlet (1937) with Laurence Olivier. His production ofIbsen's Peer Gynt with Ralph Richardson and Sybil Thorndikeopened the first season of the revived Old Vic at the New Theatre(subsequently the Albery, now the Noël Coward) in 1944.

    In 1953 Guthrie helped to found the Stratford Festivalin Stratford, Ontario, at which he directed works until 1957. In Stratfordhe indulged his love for the thrust stage by codesigning the ShakespeareFestival Theatre (with Tanya Moiseiwitsch). He also designed the MinneapolisTheatre, which opened in 1963, and worked as a director there untilhis death, when the venue was renamed the Guthrie Theatre in his honour.