March 30, 2021

Vale Peter Wilson

John Smythe      posted 30 Mar 2021, 01:54 PM / edited 30 Mar 2021, 01:57 PM

After a long battle with cancer, Lyndon Peter Wilson, known to all as Peter, died peacefully at home in Paekakariki on Monday 22 March 2021.

Peter’s death notice in The Dominion Post includes this from his wife, Cathryn:

Breathe and laugh easy now my darling –
artist, dancer, puppet master, storyteller…
Life long champion for the best theatre possible
for children of all ages.

A service to farewell Peter will be held at St Peter’s Village Hall, Beach Road Paekakariki, on Friday 26 March at 11am.  

[Drawn from the Little Dog Barking website – with links to Theatreview reviews]
Peter Wilson was the founding artistic director of the Capital E National Theatre for Children. Whilst with them he created many popular early childhood programs, including: The Farm at the End of the Road, Seasons, On Our Street, Songs of the Sea, Kiwi Moon, Tale of a Dog,  With Footnote Dance he created Into the REM Zone; with About Face Productions he created Boxes.

Peter established Little Dog Barking Theatre in 2010 with the vision for the company to create original theatre productions specifically for our very young audiences. This has been successfully achieved for over 10 years; where the thrill and magic of live theatre has been taken into hundreds of Primary Schools and Early Childhood Centres.

Their productions are aimed at Early Childhood and Lower Primary School aged groups (generally 2-8 years). They make the performances intimate and accessible by bringing them to your location. This means smaller audiences and children are in their familiar environments creating greater opportunity for participation in the performances.

Paper Shaper was created originally by Capital E then revived by Little Dog Barking. Both companies collaborated on his Little Kowhai Tree.

Little Dog Barking productions reviewed on Theatreview include: Duck Death and the Tulip, Guji Guji, Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge, Twinkle, Black Dog, The Pond and Turn On the Light.

The last show Peter co-devised with Kenny King was Circle of Life, performed this year as part of the TAHI Festival 2021.

Seasons is about to be revived at Circa Theatre in the April school holidays.

In 2016 The Dominion Post published this feature on Peter.

Editor    posted 30 Mar 2021, 01:56 PM

Peter Wilson Eulogy

delivered by his nephew Gavin Wales

at St Peter’s Hall, Paekakariki, 26th March 2021

I would firstly like to send thoughts and love on behalf of Cath to those who were not able to be here today. Particularly Fred and Mary and their families in Tasmania, brother-in-law Doug and his wife Sieglinde in Queensland, and all Peter’s wonderful friends and associates in Western Australia and around the world.

‘No man is a prophet in his own land’ is a phrase I think fits well with Peter. In his homeland of Australia and his adopted home of New Zealand he has not received the same level of recognition he would’ve done in the places he has taught and performed overseas.

On leaving high school in 1960 Peter gained a placement in the National Institute of Dramatic Arts. Unfortunately due to the prohibitive costs at the time he had to withdraw from the course.

He spent the next couple of years working in commercial radio and television as a children’s programme presenter until pressure from his family saw him get a “real” job at the Commercial Bank of Australia.

In 1964 he began studying for his General Nursing Certificate which he completed in 1967. He then travelled to London to complete a Post Graduate Diploma in Nursing at the University of London. Upon his return to Hobart he took up a position as Nurse Educator, tutoring anatomy and physiology at the Royal Hobart School of Nursing.

He never lost his interest in the performing arts and continued to study dance and drama including 2 seasons with the Tasmanian Dance Company. At this time he further developed his interest in Puppetry and became determined to make this his full time career.

The pursuit of a career in the performing arts in the late 60s early 70s was virtually impossible but by the end of 1970 Peter had been instrumental in the establishment of the Tasmanian Puppet Theatre where he was Artistic Director until 1981. He quickly developed a reputation for innovation an excellence, melding drama, dance and music into the medium of Puppet Theatre in new and exciting ways.

In 1973 Peter received a Churchill Fellowship and travelled to Asia, Europe and America to study and develop his craft. The relationships he built on his travels would last the rest of his life.

In 1979 Peter was appointed Artist in Residence at the West Australian Institute of Technology. Upon completion he was asked to return and continue his work and in 1981 along with Cath Robinson and Beverly Campbell-Jackson established Spare Parts Puppet Theatre.

He remained artistic director of Spare Parts until 1996 when he left to follow his other passion – Cath.

Cath had decided to move back to New Zealand for family and professional reasons and Peter followed not long after to begin a new adventure. Peter became founding artistic director of the National Theatre for Children at Capital E in 1997 where he remained until he left 2010 to establish Little Dog Barking.

In my mind Little Dog Barking is the pinnacle of Peters artistic career. He may have had greater notoriety in some of his his previous projects but with Little Dog Barking he sought to create original productions and make them accessible to smaller audiences. He created some great productions in this time including:

Duck, Death and the Tulip which he toured to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2014 and won an Outstanding Theatre Award.

Paper Shaper which won Best International Drama at the 2014 1st Asian Pacific Puppet Festival

Guji Guji which won Best Drama at the 2nd Asian Pacific Art Festival in 2017.

His greatest achievement however came in December 2013 when he finally married his inspiration, collaborator and sweetheart Cath at their local church in Pāuatahanui. It was a beautiful ceremony filled with friends, family and fun. I think Peter was truly happy and contented.

I first met Peter some time in the mid 1980 when he and Cath travelled to New Zealand for a family celebration. For the occasion he dressed in a bright shirt with a bow tie and a jacket that resembled a kind of Japanese kimono and no doubt bright coloured socks although I don’t recall those. I remember thinking at the time this fella is a bit different.

In 1988 I moved to Western Australia to find a job and stayed with Peter and Cath in Fremantle. While Peter was renowned for his engagement with children it would be fair to say lazy arrogant teenagers stretched his patience. Fortunately Cath found me a job in North West Australia before Peter killed me.

In my weeks off I would return to Fremantle and often worked at Spare Parts as an usher. I was very lucky to get a unique perspective into some of Peters productions. Sometimes I would be watching from the auditorium and sometimes from back stage. His shows were always changing and evolving. I got to meet actors, designers, writers, dancers and all kinds of interesting characters. This experience broadened my view of the world and has enriched my life more than Peter could ever know.

My wife and I spent last week with Peter and Cath leaving only last Sunday. If only we had known this would be our last time with him. But I am so grateful we got to spend this time with him. He was still the same Peter we knew and loved. Sometimes cantankerous, often witty, always defiant.

The last meal I cooked for him was Oxtail Stew. I took way longer to cook than I expected and I was really annoyed with myself but when it was finally ready, Peter ate it with some gusto.

Peter went peacefully in his sleep on Monday morning snuggling his beloved Cath. While he went way to soon, I take comfort in the fact he passed at home, in his own bed next to the woman he adored more than anything else in the world.

If I have learnt anything from Peter it would be

Never give up

Never give up

Never give up.

You will always be in our hearts and your legacy will outlast all of us.

Thank you Peter

Love you heaps

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