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Disley Jones

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Disley Jones was one of Britain’s foremost stage designers. He designed for repertory theatres in Manchester, Dundee, Wolverhampton and Worthing as well as the Oxford Playhouse and the Bristol Old Vic. In the West End he designed Peter Hall’s original production of Gigi (1954), the revue Share My Lettuce (1958) with Kenneth Williams and Maggie Smith, and Anthony Newley’s hit musical The Good Old Bad Old Days (1972).

As a production designer his films included The Long Day’s Dying (1968), The Italian Job (1969), starring Michael Caine and Noel Coward, and Murphy’s War (1971), starring Peter O’Toole.

Born Clifford Jones in Burton-on-Trent on January 15, 1926, he was educated at Avondale School, Sutton Coldfield. In his early career he worked as a window dresser, engineering draughtsman, florist and farm hand. He appeared in several amateur productions as an actor and worked for a period as an assistant to Reginald Wooley, the resident designer at the old Players Theatre in London.

Jones designed his first production, Twelfth Night for the Midland Theatre Company at the College Theatre, Coventry. It was here he met his partner Reginald Cornish and the two of them lived together until Cornish’s death in 1985.

As well as being a prolific designer for repertory theatre, Jones also designed The Impresario From Smyrna and Listen To The Wind (Arts Theatre), Rhinoceros (Icelandic National Theatre), The Rivals, Romeo and Juliet (Aarhus Theatre, Denmark), and The Mikado for The D’Oyly Carte Company at the Savoy (1964). He also designed Nights at the Comedy (1964), Dan Farson’s music hall show which featured Jimmy James.

His first television production was All Summer Long (1960) and others included The Rehearsal, Summer’s Pride, and The Teachers.

In the mid-sixties he ran an antique shop in Oxford Street, Them and Theirs, which specialised in books and picture postcards and in the seventies he and Reg Cornish moved to Estepona, Spain where they opened the Wide-Mouthed Frog, a restaurant popular with showbusiness friends.

When Cornish died in 1985, Jones returned to Britain and in the mid nineties was resident designer at the Players Theatre. He received critical acclaim for his designs for the theatre’s annual Victorian pantomimes.

A larger than life figure with an ebullient personality, he was well known in Soho, particularly at the French House pub, where his photograph graces the wall.

He died on June 4, 2005 from an AIDS-related illness. He was 79.

Patrick Newley

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