Michael Boyd, Former Royal Shakespeare Company Artistic Director, Dies at 68
4th August 2023

Michael Boyd, theater director and former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has died of cancer. He was 68.

His family said in a statement issued via the RSC: “Theater director Michael Boyd has died from cancer. His career took him from training in Moscow to artistic directorships at the Tron Theatre Glasgow (1985-96) and the Royal Shakespeare Company, after joining as an associate director in 1996.

As an RSC associate, he firmly established himself as an outstanding director. A stunning debut in 1994 of John Ford’s ‘The Broken Heart’ was followed by an unforgettable ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ as well as the first iteration of the ‘Histories’ in 2000–2001, all in partnership with his long-term artistic collaborator, Tom Piper.”

Boyd previously had stints at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry and the Sheffield Crucible. He served as RSC artistic director from 2002-2012. He took over from Adrian Noble. He assumed charge at a time when the RSC was about to be demolished and rebuilt. “He knew the company needed radical change and more secure financial fortunes. It was a turning point in the company’s history,” the family statement said.

“He set about realising a long-standing artistic ambition to create an ensemble of actors working together over two to three years, with long rehearsal periods that allowed for a deeper understanding of the text, and a rigorous programme of daily voice and movement classes to strengthen the ensembles’ individual and collective artistry. The work was placed front and centre and was openly recognized as art. This approach was fundamental to Michael’s artistic beliefs, inspired by his time in Russia,” the statement said, adding that Boyd was integral in bringing audience seats closer to the stage.

Boyd also recognized that the huge victory of Les “Miserables,” a key component of the RSC’s income, was waning and championed the development of “Matilda The Musical,” the success of which continues to provide financial stability for the company to this day.

In 2012, Boyd was knighted for services to drama.

Tamara Harvey and Daniel Evans, RSC co-artistic directors, said: “Michael’s tenure and work were hugely inspiring and influential. His vision and leadership are still deeply felt in the company and in the wider world of British and international theater. We are humbled to walk in his footsteps.”

Gregory Doran, RSC artistic director emeritus, added: “He promoted the work of the education department, about which he was passionate, applied his rigor to restoring the financial health of the company with an almost puritanical zeal and brilliantly transformed our stages. Among the many exceptional productions he directed the crowning glory was without doubt his ‘History’ cycle, fostered over many years, and climaxing at the Roundhouse in 2008. I will always be grateful for the support he showed me personally. He was himself, a quiet unassuming genius.”

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