April 25, 2011


Theatreview is sad to learn that Tim Eliott – a co-founder of Downstage Theatre – died on Good Friday, in Sydney.

Here is his agency page

This is an excerpt from Downstage Upfront by John Smythe (VUP 2004)

Tim [Eliott] was born in Taranaki and his mother died when he was one. He has an early memory, aged four or five, of being taken down the road by his father (who managed the Egmont Box Company) to receive instruction in the pronunciation of English. ‘I remember the door opening to a dark interior and two equally dark people. At first I could see only their white hair, eyes and teeth. These were my teachers: an elderly Maori couple whose resonant voices and profound vowel sounds were music to me. A lasting influence, I believe.’ Tim went to primary school as a boarder at Hereworth, was raised by aunts and grandparents during the war, then was summoned to join his de-mobbed father in post-war England. He attended public schools in Bath and Bristol until rheumatic fever cut his education short. It was New Zealand’s beneficial climate that brought Tim and his father back home. When his father went on to Australia, Tim, then aged seventeen, came to Wellington and joined the advertising company Carlton Carruthers du Chateau and King as an office boy. Fancying himself as an artist, he considered illustration but was disillusioned by the habit of copying drawings from the USA, so he had a go at copywriting. And while he was there, inevitably, his rich-toned voice was used for the odd radio commercial. In 1955 a work mate asked Tim to accompany him, for moral support, to an audition. Nola Millar was casting a Thespians production of Richard II with marooned English actor Peter Varley in the title role. Tim was persuaded to get up and read and, despite having had no formal tuition in acting, let alone Shakespeare, he was cast as Bolingbroke. His stage début, at the Concert Chamber, excited great interest. Later that same year, aged 20, he got his first role with the New Zealand Players, as Worthy in Virtue in Danger (described by designer Raymond Boyce as a watered-down version of The Relapse by Sir Thomas Vanbrugh). Radio drama and commercials became Tim’s main source of employment. In 1959 he returned to the stage to play Jimmy Porter in Nola Millar’s production of Look Back in Anger for Unity. Two years later Tim played the male lead in Romeo and Juliet with the New Zealand Theatre Company. It was during this tour that he began to think seriously about an alternative theatre: small, flexible, modest, content to stay in one place and be absorbed into the community. By 1963 Tim was married with three children and sustained once more by radio and voice work. . . . . . . . 
             … on the last day of 1963, Martyn [Sanderson] made the trek up Mount Victoria to Tim and Carole Eliott’s Vogel Street home, ‘with one sheet of paper on which I’d passionately written out this incoherent rave. This is what we’ve got to do!’ He had already run his ideas by Peter Bland, who was impressed and excited. Now it was Tim who suggested they bring in Harry Seresin … 

     The start of 1964, then, found all four – Tim, Peter, Martyn and Harry – out to balance their responsibilities as fathers of young children with their desires for more creative fulfilment. 

Online entries in Downstage Upfront may be found here.  

See / contribute to a Forum on Tim here


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