An actor, illustrator and caricaturist, Clive Francis produced his first official poster illustration for Ton's of Money at the National Theatre in 1986. Followed by The Importance of Being Ernest at the Royalty Theatre, London. From then on he concentrated on book illustrations beginning with his first for Clement Freud on Hangovers!
In addition to Oscar Berger, Nicolas Bentley, Einar Nerman, Gerald Scarfe, and especially the American caricaturist, Al Hirschfeld, Francis counts among his influences Ronald Searle, “whose simple yet painfully accurate caricatures used to illustrate the theatre page of Punch back in the 1950’s,” stating: “There was always a whole stack of these magazines at the back of my classroom in Eastbourne, and whenever I was kept in for misbehaving, which I fear was fairly often, I used to tear out the page with his drawings and once home copy like mad. Eventually I developed my own style…” Having met Hirschfeld briefly in the 1980’s at an exhibition of his work at the National Theatre, Francis was presented with a signed lithograph of Carol Channing by the caricaturist to auction on behalf of the Actor’s Charitable Trust.
It is notable that most of his subjects have either been colleagues that he has worked with at one time or who he knows well— “observ[ing] at close hand actors grow[ing] into the characters through rehearsals; the backs of my scripts becoming my artistic notebooks, squiggles and blobs representing nostrils and eyes and any number of mouths twisted into gaping potholes.”
Francis’s work has been displayed in three successful exhibitions at the National Theatre and a number of his theatrical illustrations of John Gielgud now hang in the Gielgud Theatre, as do those of Noël Coward in the Coward Theatre. He has also illustrated a number of biographies and produced four books of his own.
Francis’ first West End engagement was in 1966 in There’s a Girl in My Soup at the Globe Theatre - his many other London appearances since include: The Servant of Two Masters, The Return of A. J. Raffles, The Circle, Look After Lulu, The Rear Column, The School of Scandal, The Importance of Being Earnest , Benefactors, What the Butler Saw, Single Spies, An Absolute Turkey, Entertaining Mr Sloane, Enron and The Madness of George III, and more recently in his own reworking of Ben Travers’ farce, Thark.
In 1987 Francis joined the Royal National company, appearing in Tis Pity She’s a Whore and A Small Family Business (for which he won the Clarence Derwent award) He has also had two seasons for the R.S.C: Three Hours after Marriage, Troilus and Cressida, and A Christmas Carol. In the past four years he has toured in Travels with My Aunt; The Dresser, The Hypochondriac, The Reluctant Debutante and in his own adaptations of Three Men in a Boat and Our Man in Havana. Recent theatre includes, The Woman Hater, The Skin Game, 84 Charing Cross Road, The Gathered Leaves, and Howard Brenton’s, Never So Good for the National Theatre.