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Obituary: Geraldine Stephenson

Geraldine Stephenson. Photo: Simon Richardson Geraldine Stephenson. Photo: Simon Richardson

Geraldine Stephenson was one of the busiest choreographers and movement directors of her generation, accruing nearly 400 credits in theatre and on television over six decades.

Born in Hull, she studied physiotherapy and physical education before financing her way through Rudolf Laban’s Manchester-based Art of Movement Studio by leading morning warm-ups and playing piano during classes.

She gave her first solo recital in 1950 and the following year was appointed movement director of the York Mystery Plays. Later in the decade, she began a long association with the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre lasting into the 1970s. Pageants at Ludlow Castle and Sadler’s Wells brought her wider attention and throughout the 1960s she worked with the British Dance Drama Theatre company.

She made her West End debut choreographing Toad of Toad Hall at the Comedy Theatre in 1963, returning to the show at the Queen’s (1965), Fortune (1968) and Strand (1969) theatres. In 1984, she was movement director for William Gaskill’s star-laden revival of William Congreve’s The Way of the World at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

For the National Theatre, she choreographed Ken Hill’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1978) and John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi (with Eleanor Bron in the title role, 1985) and The White Devil (1991). Her Royal Shakespeare Company credits included John Barton’s 1988 revival of Chekhov’s Three Sisters at the Barbican Theatre.

She contributed to fellow Hullensian Maureen Lipman’s one-woman shows Re: Joyce! (Fortune Theatre, 1988) and Live and Kidding (Duchess Theatre, 1997) and her work was also seen at the Young Vic (The Ancient Mariner, 1979), Scottish Opera (The Beggar’s Opera, 1981), the Arts Theatre, Cambridge (Now We Are Sixty, 1986), the Royal Exchange, Manchester and Sheffield Crucible.

She made her television debut in a 1956 adaptation of The Tempest, her notable small-screen credits including landmark broadcasts of War and Peace (1972), Edward the Seventh (1975), I, Claudius (1976), A Dance to the Music of Time (1997) and two versions of Anna Karenina (1977 and 2000).

Her film credits included Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975) and Richard Curtis’ Notting Hill (1999).

Geraldine Mavis Stephenson was born on December 4, 1925 and died on December 24, 2017, aged 92.

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