British theatre director and former artistic director of Theatr Clwyd Terry Hands has died at the age of 79.
Hands was a hugely influential figure in Welsh theatre, arriving at Theatr Clwyd in 1997 after 25 years at the RSC where he was a director, co-artistic director with Trevor Nunn, and sole artistic director from 1986 to 1991, overseeing some of the RSC’s most iconic productions. Hands arrived at Theatr Clwyd as it was threatened with closure, and transformed it into one of the most respected regional theatres in the UK, and the most successful in Wales. He was there until his retirement in 2015.
In the Guardian, former lead critic Michael Billington wrote of Hands: “Terry was a director with a very distinctive style, visible in his work for the RSC, in his many international productions and in his period as artistic director of Theatr Clwyd from 1997 to 2015. You could always recognise a Hands production – especially if it was of Shakespeare – by certain trademark features. There was a bold and frontal style of acting, a stage devoid of clutter, and an extensive use of follow-spots: many lights, I once suggested, made Hands’ work.”
As well as the turnaround he orchestrated at Theatr Clwyd, perhaps one of his most famous achievements there was coaxing Nicol Williamson out of retirement to play King Lear in 2001, a production in which Hands “created the framework for a great performance”.
As well as running the RSC during one of its most successful periods, and his success with Theatr Clwyd, Hands also founded Everyman Theatre in Liverpool in 1964.
Hands was born at Aldershot, Hampshire, England. He studied at Woking Grammar School, University of Birmingham before attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art leaving with the gold medal for acting in 1964. He then established the Liverpool Everyman where he directed numerous productions, including a prominent production of Murder in the Cathedral.