Roger Chapman obituary | Arrange

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My friend Roger Chapman, who died at the age of 77 of heart failure, was a director and producer who had a huge impact on international theater touring. In the 1980s, while based in Australia, Roger was one of the first to bring work in and out of China. From 1988 to 2004 he was National Theater Touring Director, working under Richard Eyre and Trevor Nunn, bringing the best of British theater to the regions and around the world.

Roger was born in Hull, East Yorkshire, the only son of Elsie (née Thompson) and Arthur Chapman, a paramedic. From Mallet Lambert School, Hull, he went on to study drama at Rose Bruford College in Sidcup, London.

After graduating, he embarked on a career in the education theater movement of the 1960s, founding teams at the Coventry Belgrade Theatre, then Bolton Octagon, Leeds Playhouse – where he met producer Isobel Hawson, whom he married in 1975 – and Newcastle Playhouse. At the Nottingham Playhouse he staged Christmas and children’s shows for Eyre, then its artistic director.

In 1976 Roger was invited to direct a show for the Adelaide International Arts Festival. He was later appointed to an Australian Government Task Force on Arts in Education and established the Magpie Theater company for young people. As Director of Youth Performing Arts, South Australia, from 1980, he established the Carclew Youth Performing Arts Center and was the driving force behind the Australian International Puppet Festival held in Adelaide in 1983.

He traveled to China in early 1982 to negotiate the inclusion of the Hunan Puppet Troupe in the festival program. Then, on a visit to Hanoi, he saw a performance of the then unknown Vietnamese water puppets and arranged for them to take part in the Adelaide Festival in 1988. They were later taken to London in 1993 by Lift – the London International Theater Festival.

In 1988, Eyre asked Roger to join the National, where he remained tour manager for 16 years. Roger was also a freelance producer – with Playful Productions, Sir Peter Hall Productions and his own company, On Tour Ltd. He has been a European consultant for the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York and the Isango ensemble in Cape Town, a member of the Council of Regional Theaters and a regular on the Arts Council’s drama panel, as well as a member founder of the Permanent Youth Theater Conference.

An avid Hull City football fan, Roger was a lover of good food and wine, and a great storyteller, with friends and family at the heart of his life.

Roger is survived by Isobel, their children, Joe, Sam and Amy, and six grandchildren.

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