OBITUARY: Patrick Garland, two-times artistic director, Chichester Festival Theatre

Patrick Garland
Patrick Garland
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Fond tributes have been paid on the death of one of the most important and popular artistic directors in Chichester Festival Theatre’s 51-year history.

Patrick Garland, who died in Worthing hospital last Friday at the age of 78, was artistic director at the CFT from 1981-1984 before returning for a second stint (1991-1994) after the sudden departure of Michael Rudman in 1990.

Mr Garland, who is survived by his wife the actress Alexandra Bastedo, lived for many years at Almodington, near Chichester, where Alexandra ran an animal sanctuary. The couple moved to West Chiltington where the animal sanctuary continues.

Duncan C Weldon, who succeeded Mr Garland at the Festival Theatre (1995-1997), said he would remember him as a good friend and a very erudite man.

Mr Weldon and Mr Garland first met when Mr Garland was acting at the Bristol Old Vic. A few years later, Mr Weldon produced Brief Lives, based on the life and writing of John Aubrey, a play which Mr Garland wrote and directed, starring Roy Dotrice.

“We went on tour with that all over the world and became good friends. He was a quiet, gracious, unassuming man. He must have been ill in an increasing way for the last ten years. He had diabetes which got worse and worse; then he had heart trouble; and more recently he had a couple of strokes.

“He was a very highly-literate man. He belonged to that set of people like Alan Bennett and David Frost. He was an interviewer for the BBC for a long time. He did famous interviews with people like Noel Coward.

“He was also a very good (theatre) director. He was a very understanding director. He didn’t force actors into what he wanted. He directed what they wanted, but with a firm hand, and he was very popular. He was out of the theatrical public view for the last ten years or so, but he was a great favourite with Maggie (Smith), Judi (Dench) and Joan Plowright. He gave a lot of people a lot of chances. He was probably not recognised for being as important as he was.”

John Gale, who ran the CFT alongside Mr Garland in 1983 and 1984 and then by himself from 1985-1989, said: “I think the absolute quality that Patrick had above all else was that he was a complete gentleman and a very gentle man in every way. He was loving and caring and a brilliant theatre director. I don’t that in all the years I knew him, I ever saw him lose his temper, and there was plenty of provocation when you are running a theatre!

“Patrick was a man who could use the English language superbly. I used to jokingly say that Patrick never used one word when ten would do. He was a great speaker.

“Whenever Patrick discussed a play with a cast at the beginning of rehearsals, it was magisterial. It had been carefully thought out. He would go through the details of the play and through each individual character. He had always done his homework. What he said about the play gave the actors great strength because they knew that they were in reliable hands. All actors by the very nature of their profession are insecure, and Patrick gave them security.”

Mr Gale underlined his great erudition: “When I was at Chichester’s London office, whenever Patrick was under pressure and had gone missing, I would always say that I knew where he was. He would be at the bookshop buying books! And almost on cue, Patrick would come in with a load of books that he had bought at Foyles in Charing Cross!”

Mr Gale paid tribute to the way Mr Garland responded in the theatre’s hour of crisis 1990 with Michael Rudman’s sudden departure: “I think the board felt that Patrick would be a safe pair of hands, which of course he was. But he was also much, much more than that.

“I don’t think there was a malicious bone in his body. He was kind and courteous and had a very fine intellect.”