The first time we staged Timon of Athens at the RSC, the play was dominated by the towering performance of Paul Scofield in the title role.


Directing his first Shakespeare production, John Schlesinger was better known for his work on films. Undaunted, he reshaped the play, changing the order of the visitors to Timon to make the second half of the play less static.


Schlesinger's interpretation was based on the idea that Timon's generosity was the result of "a fantasy life which Timon uses to suppress his real nature, his isolation and inability to make any genuine human contact. In the second half Shakespeare shows us not so much a man changed by misfortune as revealed by it. I find the tone of the play ironic and critical rather than tragic." RSC Timon of Athens Programme, 1965.


The director Peter Brook described Paul Scofield's 1965 Timon as a revelation. Janet Suzman, who played Timandra, recalled how during rehearsals Scofield silenced everyone by performing one of Timon's speeches five different ways: Janet Suzman: how Paul Scofield's genius silenced a rehearsal studio (Guardian website, 24 February 2014).

A man in ragged dirty long robe stands disconsolately
Paul Scofield as Timon, 1965, Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
Photo by Gordon Goode © Folger Shakespeare Library Browse and license our images


Ralph Koltai's innovative designs for the 1965 production of Timon of Athens included a first half set consisting of "sliding blocks of coloured, textured masonry" BA Young, Financial Times, 2 July 1965, typical of his preference for industrial materials. Koltai also made bold use of contrast, so the stark second half set comprised a sandy pit, a dead tree and black cyclorama, against which John Bradley's lighting picked out the performers.

A theatrical set featuring square concrete hollow blocks arranged asymmetrically and a central door at the back
Ralph Koltai's set for Timon of Athens, 1965, Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
Photo by Gordon Goode © Gordon Goode Browse and license our images


"For the man-made richness of the first half I wanted to evolve a style that would be acceptable as classical Greek but not obvious. I found what I needed for the costumes in the form of African dress. There’s something Indian in them too, as well as classical. The set for the first half is influenced by the interiors of Pompeii. After the interval everything is as barren as we can get.” Ralph Koltai, RSC Timon of Athens Programme, 1965.

Cover of programme for Timon of Athens, 1965, showing the text of the play superimposed on a sketch of a male head



Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Laurie Asprey - Unnamed parts

John Bell - Unnamed parts

Donald Burton – Old Athenian, Senator 2

Tony Church - Flavius

Jessica Claridge - Unnamed part,

John Corvin - Senator 1

Robin Culver - Unnamed parts

Ann Curthoys - Courtesan 2

Frances De La Tour - Unnamed parts

Jeffery Dench - Banker, Head of Senate, Soldier

William Dysart - Bandit 2, Servant,

John Forgeham - Unnamed parts

Peter Geddis - Caphis

Robert Grange - Unnamed parts

Terence Greenidge - Unnamed parts

Jonathan Hales - Merchant

David Jaxon - Unnamed parts

Roger Jones - Bandit 1

David Kane - Lieutenant

Charles Kay - Poet

James Laurenson - Lucilius

Stanley Lebor - Ventidius

Robert Lloyd - Flaminius

Brewster Mason - Alcibiades

Philip Meredith - Cupid

Sylvester Morand - Senator 3

Cliff Norgate - Unnamed parts

Tina Packer - Courtesan 1

Michael Pennington - Titus

David Quilter - Hortensius

Karl Rigg - Unnamed parts

Paul Rogers - Apemantus

Paul Scofield - Timon

Elizabeth Spriggs - Phyrnia

Katherine Stark - Unnamed parts

Paul Starr - Messenger, Servant

Janet Suzman - Timandra

Alan Tucker - Philotus, Servant

Ted Valentine – Jeweller, Senate Councillor

David Waller - Lucullus

John Watts - Servant

Helen Weir - Courtesan 3

Timothy West - Lucius

Michael Williams - Painter

Tim Wylton - Servilius




Director - John Schlesinger

Designer - Ralph Koltai

Lighting Designer - John Bradley

Choreographer - John Broome

Music – Richard Rodney Bennett


The RSC's archive is held at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. You can visit the Library and Archives there to look at production related information, including photos, videos of shows and stage management documents:

Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive homepage

You can search the RSC catalogue here: 

RSC performance database

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