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Farewell to doctor, satirist,writer and director Sir Jonathan Miller

By: stagedoorscribbler - December 2, 2019

Sir Jonathan Miller. Photograph by Hattie Miles

We were so sorry to say farewell to the remarkable multi-talented Sir Jonathan Miller - scientist/artist and man of formidable intellect - who died last week at the age of 85.
Jonathan, who spoke on the Clive Conway circuit many times, was a man of many parts. He was a doctor, satirist, writer, sculptor and highly respected director of theatre, opera and film - an intellectual giant with a reputation for burning on a short fuse and blasting opponents with a stellar selection of withering put-downs.
He was also perhaps the only leading neuropathologist in the world who just happened to have changed the course of comedy history with a groundbreaking 60s satirical revue.?That show, Beyond The Fringe, made him a star alongside Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett. It should have involved just a short break from medicine. But in  Miller’s own words it was so “disastrously successful” that it ran for years in Edinburgh, London and New York. He was perhaps only half joking when he said that by the time Beyond The Fringe ended he lacked the moral fibre to turn down the tantalising opportunity to direct plays and operas. For though he clearly loved the theatre he admitted to a tinge of regret that he hadn’t devoted more time to medicine. ?He would speak passionately however  about the parallels he found between being a diagnostic medical practitioner and a theatrical director. Both, he said, were about attention to detail, understanding the way people work and how and why they react to certain things in certain ways.?And so it was that An Audience with Jonathan Miller could find him combining showbiz anecdotes with jokes about the use of language, his belief that there is no authentic way to play Shakespeare, the wonders of brain-function, perceptions of eyesight, the natural linguistic skills of children and the structure of the nervous system.
That might sound rather intense for an evening at the theatre but Jonathan was a compelling speaker with an exceptional ability to communicate the most complex of subjects in an understandable and entertaining way. He will be sorely missed.