One of the British theatre’s most brilliant designers, Abdel Farrah was resident associate designer with the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1961-1991. Among his most famous productions were Dr Faustus (1968), Murder in the Cathedral (1972), the cycle of all eight of Shakespeare’s history plays (1975-80) and the mammoth staging of Nicholas Nickleby (1980).
He also worked closely with director Terry Hands on more than 25 productions, including two Peter Barnes premieres – The Bewitched and Red Noses – Alan Howard’s Coriolanus and Poppy by Peter Nichols.
Born Abd’Elkader Farrah in Ksar El Bokhari, Algeria on March 28, 1916, he originally wanted to become a painter. He ran a touring theatre company, which was closed by the French colonial authorities, before moving to Paris.
He designed his first production, the opera Samson and Delilah for the Stadschouwberg, Amsterdam, in 1953 and later joined the celebrated French director and actor Michel St Denis in Strasbourg, as head of the theatrical design course at the National Theatre School in 1955.
He was invited by Peter Hall to join the RSC in 1960 and he went on to design more than 300 productions for the company. Among the most notable were The Cherry Orchard (1961), Peter Brook’s The Tempest (Stratford 1963), Tiny Alice, Richard III (1970), Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew (1973). He also designed the West End productions of Ken Tynan’s Oh! Calcutta! (1970) and Carte Blanche (1976).
As well as productions at Stratford, Farrah’s work was seen at The Donmar and The Barbican in London.
RSC Director Terry Hands said: “For me Abdel was more than just a friend and collaborator. He was a mentor, guide and the strongest artistic influence of my life. He was, in personality, as rich and mysterious as his work.”
He died on December 18, aged 89.