The untimely death of Graham Laker on 28th November 2001 has robbed the Welsh theatre scene of a gifted director, an incisive and brave critic and a talented and popular lecturer.
After graduating in French and Drama and gaining an M.A. in French Classical Drama from the University of Bristol, Graham worked as a lecturer in drama at the University of North Wales, Bangor, until 1990, where he was appointed Artistic Director of Cwmni Theatr Gwynedd, Wales leading Welsh language company. He directed over twenty plays for Theatr Gwynedd, including new plays by Delyth Jones, Dewi Wyn Williams, Iwan Edgar and William R. Lewis; Welsh classics such as Y Twr, Cwm Glo, O Law i Law, and Enoc Huws, and Welsh translations of The Cherry Orchard, Ghosts, The Glass Menagerie, The Imaginary Invalid, Happy Days, The Caucasian Chalk Circle and most recently an acclaimed production of Peter Schaffers Amadeus (2000/1). His directing work in English included Relatively Speaking, One for the Road, Educating Rita, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Chicago and Oliver!.
Graham joined the Department of Theatre, Film and television studies at the Univeristy of Wales, Aberystwyth in 1997, where he specialised in the theory and practice of directing. Here he directed Fen, The Bundle, Road, Widows, Top Girls and Women Beware Women amongst others and it was during this time that he began to publish regular articles in Planet, Barn and the New Welsh Review. Always keen to expand horizons, he began working in television, with HTVs Nuts and Bolts in 2000.
To work with Graham was to watch a skilled craftsman at work. From his copious pre-rehearsal research, to his knowledge of the technical and administrative needs required to produce theatre, Graham continued in his search to maintain, in his words, "high production values [to stop] audiences diminishing at an ever-increasing rate". In rehearsal, Graham was a meticulous director, yet laid back, creating an ensemble atmosphere in which he was able to tap into an actors needs without making it intrusive, combining an intellectual with a somatic approach. His relaxed, every-day manner masked a great passion for all things theatrical, and as a practitioner, he continually researched his craft with fervour. Graham was committed to the idea of a popular, well supported and ambitious theatre, providing a mix of new, contemporary and classical work. As a reviewer of Welsh theatre, he was lively, perceptive and uncompromising, and wrote engagingly and elegantly.
Survived by his partner, Colin, Graham bore his recent illness with tremendous courage; at a time of great suffering he was optimistic and good humoured and will be greatly missed by all his friends and colleagues.
Dr. Roger Owen & Robert Marsden © February 2002