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Obituary: John Greenwood – ‘renowned fight director, actor and director’

John Greenwood

John Greenwood was a renowned fight director, actor and director.

Having trained at LAMDA [1], he worked as an actor in regional theatre, including 18 months at the Birmingham Old Rep and three years at the Old Vic [2], with Richard Burton heading the company under the directorship of Michael Benthall. He staged fights at the Stratford Festival, Ontario, and worked as an actor and fight director in the US and on Broadway, directing fight sequences for Laurence Olivier, Alec Guinness, Paul Scofield and Sean Connery among countless others.

He worked on television and was a member of the permanent companies for BBC Television’s cycles of Shakespeare’s history and Roman plays – An Age of Kings and The Spread of the Eagle – in the 1960s.

His directing credits included Birmingham’s Alexandra, Hippodrome and Rep theatres, where he served as administrator from 1968 and was caretaker artistic director for four seasons to 1984, during which he oversaw London transfers and tours to Europe and Hong Kong.

A staff member of the Birmingham School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art (now Royal Birmingham Conservatoire) for 12 years, he was vice-principal from 1992-94. A founder member of the Society of British Fight Directors, in later years he was in great demand as an examiner for stage combat and directed fights for the Festival Players Theatre Company, most recently for Hamlet in 2016.

John Greenwood was born on August 3, 1929. He died from cancer on November 17, aged 89. He is survived by his wife and a daughter from a former marriage.