Person - John Tasker

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JOHN HOWARD TASKER (1933 - 1988)

Director John Tasker developed a new style for NT and brought in new audiences. He did not do "safe" stuff, and he clashed with the committee over his insistence that rehearsals be private without theatre members dropping in whenever they had an hour to kill.

His first show was A Penny for a Song in 1965, reviewed as “a triumph for director John Tasker and a brilliant cast”. Set in 1804, its staging challenges included a two-storey mansion, a tree, the gondola of a balloon, a well, a gazebo, a fire engine, and cannon balls rolling across the stage.

Tasker then went to Adelaide to direct The Royal Hunt of the Sun at the 1966 Adelaide Festival, its cast including John Gray.

After urging Miriam Hampson to apply for the rights to America Hurrah! (as "no Australian production company has the courage to do it") he directed it in 1968, a production that caused a furore. He helped with publicity on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 1975. His later NT productions were The Changing Room (the only show to make a profit in 1976), Rusty Bugles 1979 , The Workroom 1981 (“John Tasker can pick theatre winners with as sharp an eye as a race track expert”) and Flying Blind 1982 (“sublime heights of lunatic terror and comic climax”). Tasker, who officially joined NT in 1980, worked successfully with amateurs but had trouble disciplining some professional actors.

Born at Newcastle NSW where his father was a coalminer, John Tasker became involved with theatre through the WEA and at age 18 went to London where he studied drama and taught English. He returned to live in Sydney where in 1960 he directed Lucifer and the Lord for SUDS and Oedipus Rex in the Cell Block Theatre, its cast including Jack Fegan as Tiresias. In 1961 he was guest director at NIDA where he staged Love’s Labours Lost. A favourite of Patrick White, he directed The Ham Funeral and The Season at Sarsaparilla. In 1980 he directed Bent in Adelaide with John Hargreaves, Tom Considine and Anthony Martin who had all worked with him at NT. In 1981 he directed As You Like It for the Queensland Theatre Company in Brisbane’s Albert Park. His last production was Another Country, for NIDA in 1987. He also directed opera.

John Tasker died from cancer on 19 June 1988 at his Darlinghurst home. He has Wikipedia and Australian Dictionary of Biography entries.

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