Alan Tagg (April 13, 1928 - November 4, 2002) was a prominent British theater set designer whose
best-known work included the shabby bed-sitting room in the original
1956 Royal Court Theatre production of John Osborne's "Look Back in
Born in Sutton-in-Ashfield in central England in 1928, Tagg studied at
Mansfield College of Art and then trained at the Old Vic Theatre School,
directed by George Devine and Michel St.-Denis. Tagg, who joined other former students in founding Devine's Royal Court
Company, began his career as a designer in 1952 in the West End production
of Charles Morgan's "The River Line," directed by Michael MacOwan.
Known as a designer with an eye for detail, Tagg designed sets for
the National Theatre, the Chichester Festival, the Royal Shakespeare
Company and many of Alan Ayckbourn's West End plays -- including
Ayckbourn's 1970 "How the Other Half Loves," in which a single living
room doubled for the upscale and downscale couples (a transformation
made by changing the cushions on the sofa).
Tagg's credo for theatrical decor was that it should never draw
attention to itself: Scenery should serve the play with a minimum of
distraction, "just as long as the actors don't bump into it."
That wasn't quite the case with Tagg's set for Osborne's "Look Back in
Anger," which was so realistically cluttered with household items that the
actors found it difficult to move without running into the bed, the
ironing board and other set decorations.
Tagg also did the sets for Osborne's 1957 play "The Entertainer,"
starring Laurence Olivier, which moved on to the West End.
Among his other Royal Court sets were the slum interiors for John
Arden's 1958 "Live Like Pigs" and the sparsely furnished jungle hut for
Willis Hall's 1959 play about Japanese prisoners of war, "The Long and the
Short and the Tall."
One of the first designers to devise scenery for amphitheaters, Tagg
achieved one of his biggest successes with a 1965 production of Arthur
Wing Pinero's "Trelawney of the Wells" at Chichester. With no drop curtain to hide a major scene change, Tagg had Victorian
footmen in shirt sleeves calmly remove tables and chairs, roll up the
carpet and lower a chandelier, turning the modest lodgings into an upscale
house. The enthralled audience responded to the transformation with applause.
Tagg's decor for Ayckbourn's "Way Upstream" for the National Theatre in
1982 was more problematic: It included a large water tank, whose erection
and dismantling sometimes caused it to leak.
He was nominated for a London Theatre Critics Award for his work on the
Royal Shakespeare Company's acclaimed 1970 revival of Dion Boucicault's
The shy, mild-mannered Tagg was considered the designer of choice for
stars such as Ingrid Bergman, Deborah Kerr and Maggie Smith.
His designs for Broadway included Peter Shaffer's 1966 "Black Comedy,"
for which Tagg received a Tony nomination when it was transferred to
Broadway; and the 1990 "Lettice and Lovage."
Tagg, whose nearly four-decade career spanned London's West End and
Broadway, died of undisclosed causes on November 4, 2002, in a London nursing home.
He had been in frail health. Tagg is survived by his longtime partner,