Gibson, Chloe (1899–1995), theatre and television director, was born 18 May 1899 in Torquay, Devon, England, daughter of Walter Ernest Cawdle and Lotte Cawdle (née Saunders). She was educated at Lauriston Hall, Torquay. After studying painting briefly, she trained in speech and drama after the first world war, and began acting in repertory in Paignton, Devon, where she also ran a stage school. Her directing career began with a number of open-air pageants, which she produced in association with the noted director Cyril Maude. Her first production for the Torquay Pavilion was ‘The blue bird’ at Christmas 1933. During the second world war she was in London as a member of the fire-fighting services, and also appeared on stage at the Scala, Embassy, and Apollo theatres in a number of plays in 1943 and 1944. Her first outing as director in London was ‘Power without glory’ at the New Lindsay, Notting Hill Gate (1947), after which she directed numerous plays and from 1950 to 1953 was director of productions at the Civic theatre, Chesterfield. This was followed by a move to television when she became a staff producer for the BBC in the mid 1950s, and was then among the first women to direct television plays. One of her first BBC productions was ‘Family portrait’, which she had originally directed for the Strand theatre in 1948. It dealt controversially with the life and death of Christ, and when it was aired on Easter Sunday 1955, an enraged Cardinal Griffin of Westminster announced that it was offensive to catholics. Gibson later accepted that his criticism was justified, and about 1959 she converted to catholicism. Her notable work for the BBC included the ‘Maigret’ series, starring Rupert Davies, and ‘Pepys' diary’, which ran for fourteen episodes. She retained the bawdiness of the original but consulted a headmistress of a girls' grammar school on points of propriety.
When Telefís Éireann was established in 1961, Gibson came to Dublin to direct drama under Hilton Edwards (qv), RTÉ's head of drama 1961–4. Her first plays included William Saroyan's ‘Hello out there’, and ‘The shewing up of Blanco Posnet’ by Bernard Shaw (qv), both in 1962. That year she also directed episodes of Niall Toibin's serial ‘Siopa an Bhreathnaigh’. Over the next two years she directed ‘She stoops to conquer’ by Oliver Goldsmith (qv); two plays by Thomas Coffey, and two by Micheál MacLiammóir (qv), including his seminal one-man show ‘The importance of being Oscar’. Her own play ‘Inquiry at Lisieux’ – written with Adrian Vale – about St Teresa, ‘the Little Flower’ was performed for the 1963 Dublin theatre festival; The Times called it saccharine sweet.
In 1965 she was appointed head of drama at RTÉ, a position she held until 1971. Her tenure was highly successful; she believed that television should pay tribute to Ireland's remarkable dramatic tradition and to this end produced works by Seán O'Casey (qv), W. B. Yeats (qv), Lennox Robinson (qv), Denis Johnston (qv), Flann O'Brien (qv), Brian Merriman (qv), and Somerville (qv) and Ross (qv). Alongside these she encouraged new talent, and John B. Keane (qv), Bryan MacMahon (qv), Hugh Leonard, and Eoghan Harris all saw their works produced. She continued to direct herself and was instrumental in bringing Samuel Beckett (qv) to the small screen; in 1966 she directed ‘Happy days’ and also ‘Beginning to end’ a compilation one-man Beckett show, featuring the author's favourite actor, Jack MacGowran (qv). Although respectful, since her conversion, of catholic values, she remained iconoclastic with a strong radicalism directed at social inequality. Among her most important productions for RTÉ were those dealing with poverty and inequality in Ireland. The award-winning ‘Week in the life of Martin Cluxton’ (1972) concerned juvenile delinquents and was a particularly hard-hitting urban drama.
Gibson is possibly best remembered for two long-running soaps on RTÉ television: ‘Tolka Row’ (1964–8), and ‘The Riordans’ (1965–79), the latter of which she inaugurated. ‘Tolka Row’, set in north Dublin and based on the play by Maura Laverty (qv), was Ireland's answer to ‘Coronation Street’. In keeping with Gibson's developed social conscience it dealt with issues such as unemployment, emigration, and bankruptcy, but in a non-controversial fashion. ‘The Riordans’, one of the longest-running RTÉ soaps ever, was a rural drama set in a fictional village in Kilkenny and was highly innovative and aroused international interest as it was shot on video on real locations. With the more naturalistic setting came a more naturalistic style of acting, which broke with both Hollywood and the Abbey style of ‘Tolka Row’. Non-Abbey actors, such as Tony Doyle (qv), got their breaks on the serial, which was mostly written by Wesley Burrowes and which raised social issues that sometimes provoked controversy.
After being succeeded as head of drama by Donal Farmer in 1972, Gibson continued to work as a director for RTÉ for a number of years. Her last work was an episode of the serial ‘Kilmore House’ in 1976. After this she retired and lived in Dublin until her death there on 1 January 1995. She was married to Robert Brenon.