Peter Oyston dies, aged 73, at his home in Australia on 9 October 2011.
An obituary for Peter Oyston by RADA Associate Directors, Geoff Bullen and Nona Shepphard
Peter Oyston was many things: certainly a man of multiple talents and someone who seemed permanently plugged- in to the poetic currents of life; yes, there's a lot to say about Peter.
Century Theatre toured in the so-called "Blue Box" - a collection of wagons, generators and assorted lumps of metal that would miraculously morph into a small theatre and which was on the road for an amazing 25 years. Peter spiced up the repertoire, extended the touring circuit and forged strong relationships with the community; and as a result, numerous towns and cities around the country were inspired to build permanent theatres. Peter put down roots himself when he worked tirelessly with Lancaster Council towards building the Duke's Playhouse; and in 1971, he led the Century Theatre company into the inaugural season there.
Those first eight productions included work by playwright and novelist, David Pownall, whom Peter had encouraged and to whom he offered his first commissions. And that's another thing to celebrate about Peter: the trust he placed in his instinct and his care to nurture people at the outset of their careers.
Another Peter protégé, actor and director Hugh Fraser, who now works regularly at RADA adds:
"I look back on the Century tour and the season at the Duke's Playhouse as a time when we all did the work for its own sake, rather than for any personal prestige; and Peter's leadership was a key part of that ethos and the company spirit that prevailed because of it. Peter always remained excited by the creative potential of a company of actors working together and possessed the gift of sharing his passion for the work with the people around him. He was an inspirational figure, who achieved a great deal in his life and will be missed by all who knew him."
Peter first brought his considerable talents as director and teacher to RADA in the summer of 1995 when he directed a string of plays between 1995 and 2001, most memorably a marvellous production of Under Milk Wood at the Mermaid Theatre in 1998; following this with four years as Associate Director on the Acting Shakespeare Course where he said he found 'so much stimulus and creative friendship''. He certainly made a huge contribution to the success and enjoyment of that course, and it was a very happy and enriching partnership for me - he was funny, clever, irreverent, loving, egalitarian and wise by turns - so tremendously stimulating and interesting and I trusted him entirely (NS); he was very highly valued by his colleagues for his penetrating wit and wisdom, but he had an enormous effect on his students, who still speak of how much he delighted and inspired them in their work and in their lives and thoughts.
Nicholas Barter, the Principal of RADA in those years, has known Peter since the Lancaster days of the 70's: "He somehow attracted some of the brightest and best of the young actors and directors from London to join him - all Afghan coats and hippy hairstyles but producing dedicated, innovative work on tiny budgets.
He was not only a brilliant and frequently inspiring director of theatre and film but a painter who captured with such insight and delicacy the landscape of his native Australia. When Noriko and I got married he gave us the most beautiful painting of two trees, reflected in water, inclining gracefully towards each other and when Akari was born he took the painting back to add a little sapling growing beneath the trees".
Peter lived his life like a work of art. He built his own house of natural materials and it sounds like he lived at ease with the Australian outback. He always had a 'wise saw or modern instance' to share and a reflection to offer on living fully and wisely in the hectic metropolis and within the stresses and strains of the theatre.
We shall really miss him. It was always a comfort to know, even if we saw him rarely, that he was there in the world."
Indeed, we will all miss that elfin twinkle in the eye, the low amused, speculative murmur that would erupt in an Outback cackle, and those delicate fingers always twining and seeking to shape or paint. It's not strictly true to say the world's a sadder place with Peter gone, for though we mourn him, how could we fail to be still lit-up and lifted by thinking of him and how he loved us.
In a last letter to us all he wrote "We all knew at the time that we were pursuing not just a job but something passionately special - and that welding is still there in my heart with those I worked with. Fragments of our journey together will always be there even in the space between the words."