John Clark and NIDA are inseparable phenomena. It’s not an exaggeration to say the one would not have existed or prospered without the other. More than that, Australia would have been without a pre-eminent theatre school for the latter half of the 20th century. One of those few establishments that could be genuinely, if unpleasingly described as “world-class”. 

John Clark

Given that Australian theatre had been forever the domain of visiting Brits and some Americans, how did it come to pass? John Clark was born in Tasmania and like so many islanders, was always going to leave and achieve. Now in his 90s and still as sharp as a tack, he left behind an early ambition to become an archaeologist and instead, went to the Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol where two momentous things happened: he met his wife Henrietta and designed the set for The Room, a new play by a young writer named Harold Pinter.

By the time the Clarks arrived back in Hobart in 1959, archaeology had lost out, permanently. He directed Death of a Salesman for the Hobart Repertory Theatre and that generated three job offers: from Melbourne...