Eleanor Fazan obituary


In early 1961, 4 younger males – a physician, a historical past lecturer, a jazz pianist and a author of comedy sketches – gathered on the flat of the director Eleanor Fazan, often called Fiz. She had been employed by the producers Donald Albery and William Donaldson to organize their pupil revue, which had been a success on the Edinburgh pageant, for a potential West Finish run. It might be a routine, umpire-cum-production supervisor job, she was informed. She can be paid £10 every week.

However when Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore and Peter Cook dinner placed on a run-through of Past the Fringe, Fiz was alarmed. “The present was badly put collectively and their perspective was sometimes undergraduate,” she mentioned in 2005, once I was researching a biography of Donaldson. Including materials for a full-length revue and giving it visible selection would take work, and “the boys” as she referred to as them – they had been about three years youthful than her – disliked rehearsing.

Nonetheless, the opening of Past the Fringe on the Fortune theatre was hailed by Kenneth Tynan within the Observer as “the second when English comedy took its first decisive step into the second half of the twentieth century”, and in 1962 two American producers competed to take it to Broadway. The winner was supplied Fiz’s credit score as director and her proportion as a sweetener. The boys and Albery “agreed that it was solely correct that my £10 every week ought to proceed with an extra £10 from New York”, she wrote later in her attribute tone of excellent humour, laced with gentle irony.

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Eleanor Fazan, left, with Lionel Bart and the actor Amelia Bayntun throughout rehearsals for Bart’s musical Blitz! in London, 1962. {Photograph}: John Pratt/Getty Pictures

Fiz, who has died aged 94, by no means went for straightforward jobs in her profession as a dancer, actor, choreographer and director. Traversing excessive and low tradition, she labored on productions starting from seaside specials to opera.

Her breakthrough had are available in 1956, whereas working as choreographer on the musical Seize Me a Gondola. The producer appointed her as director, the present turned a success, transferring from the Theatre Royal, Windsor to the Lyric, Hammersmith and the West Finish, and he or she caught the attention of the notoriously fierce Albery. She turned the primary feminine director to have three performs operating concurrently within the West Finish, and did it twice.

In 1962 she was co-director with Lionel Bart on his musical Blitz!, and in 1969 directed Only a Present, the primary one-man revue that Barry Humphries dropped at London. Her 1970 manufacturing of Oskar Panizza’s 1895 anti-Catholic satire The Council of Love landed her in court docket on a cost of blasphemy, introduced by the scourge of the permissive society, Girl Birdwood. Fiz was acquitted, largely because of a superb defence by John Mortimer.

Whereas auditioning for a component within the movie Secret Folks (1952) – she misplaced out to Audrey Hepburn – Fiz had met the director Lindsay Anderson. 9 years later, he took her to the Royal Court docket theatre to stage the musical numbers in Henry Cookson’s The Lily White Boys. It was the primary of many collaborations with Anderson, together with on his movie O Fortunate Man! (1973), by which she appeared on display screen with him, and the beginning of a lifelong friendship. He was, she wrote after his loss of life: “my staunchest pal and my bulwark towards the slings and arrows”.

In 1955 she married the movie and TV composer Stanley Myers. Although they divorced within the early Sixties, they remained on good phrases. Because of his writing the theme music for The Deer Hunter (1978), she met the director Michael Cimino and have become choreographer on his wildly bold and financially catastrophic Heaven’s Gate (1980).

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Eleanor Fazan engaged on choreography with Laurence Olivier for Oh! What a Beautiful Struggle, 1969. {Photograph}: Everett Assortment Inc/Alamy

All through the Sixties and 70s, she was not often out of labor. As an actor, she appeared reverse Nicol Williamson in Anthony Web page’s manufacturing of John Osborne’s Inadmissible Proof at Wyndham’s theatre (1965) and the next movie (1968). As a choreographer, she labored with Laurence Olivier in Richard Attenborough’s movie Oh! What a Beautiful Struggle (1969), and Alec Guinness in Richard Eyre’s manufacturing of Bennett’s Habeas Corpus (Lyric, 1973).

“You’re employed with Fiz,” mentioned Peter O’Toole, on whose movie The Ruling Class (1972) she was choreographer, “and also you suppose nothing is occurring. Then you definately immediately realise you’re taking half in one thing actually superb.” In 1974 she choreographed Götz Friedrich’s manufacturing of Wagner’s Ring cycle for the Royal Opera, London. She continued to work on this subject, with stagings together with Verdi’s Macbeth for Elijah Moshinsky (1981) and a number of other productions for John Schlesinger, the final of which was Peter Grimes in 2000. Commissioned by Plácido Domingo whereas creative director at Los Angeles Opera, it opened at La Scala, Milan, earlier than transferring to Los Angeles.

By way of Schlesinger, Fiz labored with Herbert von Karajan, when in 1989 he was to conduct Schesinger’s Salzburg manufacturing of Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera.”I’ve been watching you. You aren’t – how shall I put it? – you aren’t maladroite,” the conductor informed her – however sadly he died whereas the manufacturing was in rehearsal.

Born in Nairobi, capital of the then British colony of Kenya, Eleanor was the daughter of Sylvia (nee Hook) and Sidney Fazan, an unfashionably pro-African provincial commissioner within the Kenyan administration. Based on her cousin the film-maker Harry Hook, she inherited her self-discipline and stoicism from her mom, skills that later geared up her for “wrangling big egos” within the worlds of theatre, movie and opera.

She wanted all that self-reliance when in 1945, quickly after her dad and mom separated, she was despatched to take up a spot on the faculty connected to the Sadler’s Wells Ballet – precursor of the Royal Ballet – in north London. Quickly after her arrival, her godparents, with whom she was staying, despatched her to the Cone-Ripman dance faculty in Tring, Hertfordshire.

Fiz landed her first job as a dancer in 1948, in a regional tour of The Windmill Man, that includes the music-hall star George Robey, “the prime minister of mirth”.

In 1956, the 12 months following her marriage to Myers, they’d a son, Nicholas, and he or she was quickly again working, on Seize Me a Gondola.

Her acute memoir Fiz and Some Theatre Giants appeared in 2013, and that 12 months, too, she was appointed OBE for companies to bop. Fame and its trappings had been by no means of curiosity to her; the work was what mattered. “It’s all tap-dancing,” she mentioned.

Nicholas died in 2017. She is survived by her granddaughters, Ellie and Anna.


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