Bill Alexander (director)

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For other people with the same name, see William Paterson.
For other people named Bill Alexander, see William Alexander.
Bill Alexander
Born William Alexander Paterson
(1948-02-23) 23 February 1948 (age 69)
Hunstanton, Norfolk, England
Occupation Theatre director
Years active 1974–present
Known for
Spouse(s) Juliet Harmer (m. 1977)
Children 2

William Alexander Paterson (born 23 February 1948) known professionally as Bill Alexander is an award-winning 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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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 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[edit]

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

  • 1993 Othello[23]
  • 1993 The Snowman adapted from the book by Raymond Briggs[24]
  • 1993 The Merchant of Venice[25]
  • 1993 Old Times by Harold Pinter[26]
  • 1994 The Tempest[27]
  • 1995 Macbeth with James Purefoy [28]
  • 1995 The Servant by Robin Maugham[22]
  • 1995 The Way of the World by William Congreve[22]
  • 1996 The Alchemist (later transferred to the National Theatre)[29]
  • 1996Divine Right by Peter Whelan[30]
  • 1998 Hamlet[31]
  • 1998 Frozen by Bryony Lavery[32] (later transferred to the National Theatre)
  • 1999 Nativity by Peter Whelan[33]
  • 2000 Twelfth Night[34]
  • 2000 Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn[35]

Later work[edit]

Alexander's work since 2000 has included:

  • 2001 - Theatre Clwyd - An Enemy of the People [35]
  • 2001 - Northampton Rep - The Importance of Being Earnest[36]
  • 2002 - National Theatre - Frozen (Bryony Lavery), revival of Alexander’s award winning production starring Josie Lawrence, Anita Dobson and Tom Georgeson[32]
  • 2003 - National Theatre - Mappa Mundi (Shelagh Stephenson), world premiere starring Lia Williams and Alun Armstrong[37]
  • 2004 - RSC - Titus Andronicus starring David Bradley[38]
  • 2005 - RSC - King Lear starring Corin Redgrave[39]
  • 2007 - Zurich Ballet -A Midsummer Night's Dream[40]
  • 2008 - Mark Taper Forum Los Angeles - The School of the Night (Peter Whelan), revival of Alexander's award winning production for the RSC[41]
  • 2009 - Nottingham Playhouse - Glamour (Stephen Lowe)[42]
  • 2011 - The Arts Theatre London - Bette and Joan (Anton Burge)[43]
  • 2011 – 2015 Productions at LAMDA: Twelfth Night, Summerfolk, Measure for Measure, The Merchant of Venice.[44]
  • 2012 - NWCTC Portland USA - Othello[45]
  • 2012 - UK tour - Bette and Joan (Anton Burge)[46][47]
  • 2014 – 2015 Summer school for Shakespeare in Italy at University of Urbino.[48]
  • 2015 BBC Radio4 Classic Serial - The Sea, The Sea[49] (starring Jeremy Irons)
  • 2015 Production at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School of The Merchant of Venice.[50]


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[edit]

In 1977, Alexander married actor and painter Juliet Harmer.[51] They have two daughters[51] and four grandchildren.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Ian Herbert, ed. (1981). "ALEXANDER, Bill". Who's Who in the Theatre. 1. Gale Research Company. p. 10. ISSN 0083-9833. 
  2. ^ "Early Drama - Keele University". Retrieved 2015-10-01. 
  3. ^ "Production of Butley | Theatricalia". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  4. ^ "Production of Twelfth Night | Theatricalia". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  5. ^ "Production of How the Other Half Loves | Theatricalia". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  6. ^ "Production of Blithe Spirit | Theatricalia". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  7. ^ "Poster | V&A Search the Collections". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  8. ^ a b "Production of Captain Swing | Theatricalia". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  9. ^ "Production of Money | Theatricalia". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  10. ^ a b Chambers, Colin (2004-02-24). Inside the Royal Shakespeare Company: Creativity and the Institution. Routledge. ISBN 9781134616312. 
  11. ^ "Production of The Accrington Pals | Theatricalia". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  12. ^ "Production of Cymbeline | Theatricalia". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ [2]
  15. ^ Billington, Michael. "Best Shakespeare productions: The Merry Wives of Windsor". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  16. ^ 1987/88
  17. ^ [3]
  18. ^ "Much Ado About Nothing, Alexander/Surrey, Royal Shakespeare Company, April 1991". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  19. ^ [4]
  20. ^ 2003
  21. ^ The Guardian 2003
  22. ^ a b c "Birmingham Rep cast notes". 
  23. ^ Ltd, Made Media. "REP100: Spotted in the archive - A String Of Shakespeare at Birmingham Repertory Theatre". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  24. ^ [5]
  25. ^ "THEATRE / The glitter of acid-etched gilt: Paul Taylor on Bill". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  26. ^ " - Plays". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  27. ^ "THEATRE / The best little whorehouse in Dublin". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  28. ^ "Production of Macbeth | Theatricalia". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  29. ^ "review The Alchemist Birmingham Rep". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  30. ^ "Theatre; Divine Right Birmingham Rep". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  31. ^ Ltd, Made Media. "'Hamlet' by William Shakespeare 1998. Programme pages, 15 of 40. at Birmingham Repertory Theatre". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  32. ^ a b Ltd, Made Media. "'Frozen' by Bryony Lavery 1998. Programme pages, 35 of 40. at Birmingham Box". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  33. ^ "Arts: Theatre - Plain, unvarnished gospel truth". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  34. ^ Hopkin, James. "Theatre review: Twelfth Night". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  35. ^ a b "A life less ordered". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  36. ^ "TV stars come out in Earnest". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  37. ^ "London Theatre Guide News / Ian Holm withdraws from Mappa Mundi 02". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  38. ^ Alex, Bill. "Off with their hands". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  39. ^ "Theatre review: King Lear at Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  40. ^ "Bill Alexander -". Retrieved 2015-10-04.  External link in |title= (help)
  41. ^ "The School Of Night". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  42. ^ "Lowe brings Glamour to Nottingham Playhouse at Nottingham Playhouse". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  43. ^ "Bette and Joan, Arts Theatre, review". Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  44. ^ "LAMDA Faculty and Staff | LAMDA". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  45. ^ "Northwest Classical Theatre Company uses something small to lure illustrious director". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  46. ^ "Ann Pinnington Productions presents the World Premiere of Bette & Joan by Anton Burge". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  47. ^ Trowbridge, Simon (2010). The Company : a biographical dictionary of the Royal Shakespeare Company (2nd ed.,rev., updated, and expanded. ed.). Oxford: Editions Albert Creed. ISBN 978-0955983023. 
  48. ^ "Urbino – Summer School 2015 -". Retrieved 2015-09-29.  External link in |title= (help)
  49. ^ "Iris Murdoch: The Sea, the Sea, Drama - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  50. ^ "Review: The Merchant of Venice, Redgrave". Bristol 24/7. Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  51. ^ a b "Bill Alexander". Birmingham Rep Co UK. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 

External links[edit]