David Halliwell

The Stage

The playwright and director David Halliwell is best remembered for his play Little Malcolm and His Struggle against the Eunuchs.

The play was first presented in London at the Unity Theatre in 1965 and directed by Mike Leigh.

It was subsequently produced all over the world and staged in the West End with John Hurt in the lead.

The ground-breaking political satire focuses on art student Malcolm Scrawdyke, who forms a revolutionary group, the Party of Dynamic Erection, and plans to launch a coup against the government. The group is a mask for Scrawdyke’s sexual incompetence and a metaphor for the fascism of the state. A cult hit, the play was noted for its splendid display of verbal fireworks. Beatle George Harrison began his career as a movie producer with the film version of the play in 1974, which again starred John Hurt, together with John McEnery and David Warner.

In 1998 the play was revived at the Hampstead Theatre in a hugely successful production starring Ewan McGregor.

A prolific writer, Halliwell also wrote numerous plays for radio (Was It Her? Spongehenge, Crossed Lines, Shares of the Pudding) and television (Cock, Hen and Courting Pit, Triple Exposure and Steps Back) and he also scripted several episodes of Doctor Who and The Bill.

Born in Brighouse, Yorkshire on July 31, 1936, Halliwell studied at Huddersfield College of Art before attending RADA. He worked as an ASM at Nottingham Playhouse and in 1964 wrote Little Malcolm.

“It occurred to me that if I could write a successful play I might rocket to the top of the profession,” he said.

Little Malcolm won Halliwell the Evening Standard’s Most Promising Playwright Award for 1967. In 1968 he set up a theatre company called Quipu which operated at the Arts Theatre, Lamda, the Mercury Theatre in Notting Hill and the Little Theatre, St Martin’s Lane.

Halliwell was a noted director of plays by Pinter, Strindberg and Shaw and he also spent a year as the literary manager of the Royal Court Theatre.

He died on March 16, aged 69. Paying tribute to Halliwell, Mike Leigh described the playwright as “a perceptive, invariably confrontational and always funny genius”.

Patrick Newley

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