Braham Murray OBE, one of the founding artistic directors of Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre, has died aged 75.
He stepped down from the position in 2012 and was given a Manchester Theatre Awards Special Achievement trophy honouring his huge contribution to the city’s cultural development.
His final work, a critically-acclaimed production of the Leonard Bernstein musical Wonderful Town—a major collaboration between the Exchange, The Hallé Orchestra and The Lowry—also went on to win two MTAs for production and design.
Hugely respected within British theatre, Braham devoted the whole of his career to the foundation and subsequently to the direction of the Exchange. Since its inception in 1976 until he stepped down, he was at the forefront of the company for 36 years during which time he directed 65 productions. He also helped steer the venue, and its change of location, through the difficult years following the 1996 IRA bombing.
He first made his name writing and directing the revue Hang Down Your Head, first in Oxford and then in the West End and on Broadway. This led to him becoming the youngest artistic director in the country when he took over Century Theatre aged 22.
In 1968, he went on to become a key figure in the creation of the influential 69 Theatre Company—which ultimately became the Royal Exchange Theatre Company. Over four decades, his work at the Exchange included everything from classics to musicals and full scale operas working with many of the country’s leading actors—including Sir Tom Courtenay, Vanessa Redgrave, John Mills, Judi Dench, Maureen Lipman, Amanda Donohoe, Robert Lindsay, David Threlfall and Brenda Blethyn.
His credits included She Stoops To Conquer and Charley's Aunt (with Tom Courtenay), Mary Rose (with Mia Farrow), Uncle Vanya (Tom Courtenay and Amanda Donohoe, Circle in the Square Theatre, New York), The Good Companions (John Mills and Judi Dench), The Black Mikado (Michael Denison), Andy Capp (Tom Courtenay and Alan Price), The Cabinet Minister (Maureen Lipman) and Lady Windermere's Fan (all West End). Other credits include Waiting For Godot (Max Wall and Trevor Peacock), Hamlet (Robert Lindsay), Maybe (Vanessa Redgrave), The Count Of Monte Cristo, Peer Gynt and Riddley Walker (David Threlfall), Miss Julie and Hedda Gabler (with Amanda Donohoe), Othello with Paterson Joseph and Andy Serkis, Hobson’s Choice with John Thomson, Trevor Peacock and Joanna Riding.
He directed The Glass Menagerie (with Brenda Blethyn), which also toured nationally; the world première of Edna O’Brien’s Haunted (also with Blethyn), which also completed a national tour and had transfers to both New York as part of the Brits on Broadway season and Sydney.
Braham wrote two books—his autobiography The Worst It Can Be Is A Disaster (Methuen Drama) and How To Direct (Oberon Books). He received an OBE in January 2010 for services to drama.
Sarah Frankcom, the Exchange’s current artistic director, said: "we are incredibly saddened to hear that Braham has passed away, and our love and thoughts are with his family. He was an artistic director of inestimable talent and ideas, and the Royal Exchange Theatre is built on the foundations of his tenacity, creativity and vision.
"We simply wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him and the other founding artistic directors and Manchester’s cultural and social landscape would have been the poorer for it. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude, and will forever carry him in our hearts and minds as we continue to make theatre with, and for, Greater Manchester, for generations to come."