Donald Albery, 74; Notable of London Theater
Sir Donald Albery, a top London theater manager for 20 years who encouraged playwrights Samuel Beckett, John Osborne and Brendan Behan, died Wednesday at his home at Monte Carlo, his family reported. He was 74.
Albery staged some of the most successful and controversial plays of that era, and a number of hit musicals, including “Oliver.” He gave Graham Greene his first theatrical chance, staging Greene’s “The Living Room” in 1953.
Albery was chairman and managing director of The Wyndham Theaters Ltd. until he sold his five theaters--the Albery, Criterion, Piccadilly, Wyndham’s and the Warehouse--on his retirement in 1978. He was known for his enterprise in finding and promoting new plays, his wide-ranging taste, his shrewd eye for commercial success and his willingness to take risks.
Although Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” was largely ignored at its London debut in 1955 at the Arts Theater, Albery spotted its potential. When he staged it at the Criterion later the same year critics hailed it, establishing Beckett’s name in Britain.
Albery maintained close links with New York theaters. He gave American playwright Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” its first run in London’s West End in 1966.
He was knighted in 1977. Three times married, he leaves a widow.