Dead Men Left

Thursday, June 23, 2005


One of our Lambeth Respect comrades has died, quite suddenly:

To call Disley Jones, who has died at the age of 79, a stage designer is to understate his talents. He was a theatrical polymath, bursting with informed and idiosyncratic ideas on text, performance and direction; moreover, at any moment he would unhesitatingly take up a hammer or paintbrush and work through the night to put the show on...

He remained a Bohemian in the old style. He was a fixture in Soho's French House pub, where his photograph graces the walls and where he would hold forth unstoppably on theatre, films, arts, sex and politics, in which he stayed faithful to a non-specific, liberal, far left line. He missed no new play or film, and despite no visible means of support apart from his state pension, somehow managed to live with an air of grand extravagance. Only three days before his sudden death, he had returned from a holiday in the south of France, short of cash but full of new ideas.

As he grew frailer, he played old age as a rewarding character role. He and Cornish had lived in a sequence of carefully chosen and spectacularly furnished homes, though Disley spent his last years in sheltered housing in Kennington. He took it in his stride, planted a garden, and threw occasional parties for his startled fellow-residents.

Not just "occasional parties": Disley was a master of outraged invective against the swingeing penny-pinching in sheltered accommodation that a miserable local administration was imposing, and campaigned with startling energy against them. Read the Guardian piece, anyway.