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Royal Shakespeare Company co-founder John Barton dies aged 89

John Barton in a workshop for The Comedies in 2005. Photo: Pascal Molliere/ RSC
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John Barton, who co-founded the Royal Shakespeare Company with Peter Hall, has died aged 89.

Together, Barton and Hall, who died last year, created the RSC in 1960, three years later staging the The Wars of the Roses, a production that would go on to define the company’s future direction.

The RSC confirmed that Barton, who recently moved from his central London flat to a care home in west London, died on January 18.

Barton’s landmark productions as a director included Twelfth Night in 1969, starring Judi Dench and Donald Sinden, which was followed in 1976 with a production of Much Ado About Nothing starring the same pair of actors.

He directed both Patrick Stewart and David Suchet as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice – in 1978 and 1981 respectively.

Announcing his death, RSC artistic director Gregory Doran credited Barton with influencing “generations of actors” with his series of nine Playing Shakespeare workshops, which were recorded in 1982.

Doran added that he understood Barton’s favourite play to be Troilus and Cressida, a work he directed three times, and which will be performed again in Stratford later this year.

Doran added: “John’s eyes lit up when I told him that I would be directing his favourite play this year, and he shared some of his passion for the play with me. I regret that he won’t be around to tell me what I got wrong. So I have chosen to dedicate our production of Troilus and Cressida this autumn to John Barton, a Shakespeare genius, a mentor, and I am proud to say, a friend.”

A private family funeral will be held, and details of a memorial service will be announced at a later date.