Rex Doyle was a “pied piper”, says the writer and director David Leland: “Where Rex led, all willingly followed. In schools, youth groups or in theatres, he always found willing participants. Actors wanted to work with him, the ultimate compliment for a director.” Few have introduced so many thousands to theatre while demanding so little attention for themselves.
Rex, who has died at the age of 80, was an actor, writer, director and teacher – and seriously playful at all disciplines. He pioneered youth theatre with improvisational classes at the Castle theatre, Farnham, Surrey, in the 1960s, pioneered “verbatim” theatre in 1977 directing One Day in Sheffield – all the words for which had been gathered on a single day by the acting cast and the writer Rony Robinson – and he pioneered a form of theatre that combined a soap opera storyline with documentary material and song in the Jokers trilogy (1979, 1980, 1984), with scripts by Rony and me.
When Rony and I turned up on the first day of rehearsal with about five hours of material and no ending – for a show that would play challenging non-theatre venues in South Yorkshire – it was Rex who danced a nervous cast through the minefield to a glorious review in the Guardian, always good-humoured, always inventive.
A doctor’s son, he was educated at Epsom college, trained at Webber Douglas drama school in London and, after a series of acting jobs in rep, settled in Farnham. In 1963 he married the actor Sandra Voe.
Rex arrived in Sheffield in 1974 to run the Crucible Studio and the education and outreach company Theatre Vanguard. He wrote and directed Nijinsky, about the great Russian dancer, played by the young Alan Rickman. Rickman remembers the Crucible, then under the leadership of Peter James, as a time of the “richest and happiest memories, and being directed by Rex Doyle was a huge part of that pleasure”.
He founded the thriving Sheffield Youth theatre, and as an actor played a memorable Lucky in Waiting for Godot and a somewhat manic entertainer in Joe Orton’s The Erpingham Camp, directed by Leland.
Returning south, he became senior acting tutor at Guildford School of Acting and for many years also taught in Bulgaria. Of his formally becoming a teacher, Leland said: “Serendipity. He’d been doing it for years.”
Sandra survives him, along with their children, Magnus, Candida (who became the keyboard player in Pulp) and Daniel.