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Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Peter Millin was one of my dearest friends. (Tribute by Garth Anderson)

Following the death of Peter Millin in Pietermaritzburg last week, actor and director Garth Anderson pays tribute to a close friend.

We met in Pietermaritzburg in the Eighties, when I was running the Theatre Shop in Harwin’s Arcade. He arrived unannounced in my shop one morning and sparkled like the most precious diamond. He told me he wanted to present his children’s play The Selfish Giant, based on Oscar Wilde’s short story, in “Sleepy Hollow” (as Pietermaritzburg was often affectionately known) and he asked for my assistance.

To entice me, he performed the play there and then, in my shop - without an audience, without costume, without props, and I was enthralled. He was one of South Africa’s superstars and I had never heard of him. He performed with presence. He had a voice that could be heard. He spoke English with love. And from that moment, we became good friends.

Peter performed his play in Mrs Kettley’s beautiful rose garden. Mrs Kettley was set designer Sarah Roberts’ mother. I say his “play”, because he put the play together. He adapted it, he directed himself, he played all the characters.

From then on, Peter and I spoke nothing but theatre. We had wonderful fun compiling The Importance of Being Oscar, filched from pieces out of Oscar Wilde, ranging from the great man’s poems, de Profundis and his plays. We had the time of our lives playing everyone: Lady Bracknell, Gwendolyn, Cecily, the footmen and the stars.

That wasn’t enough for dear Peter. He was also an accomplished pianist. So he added the most beautiful music into the presentation. It was so entrancing. I was never so lucky. When I spoke Wilde’s most beautiful words, Peter accompanied me on the piano. We presented the play with enormous success in the Pietermaritzburg Art Gallery a couple of times. That wasn’t enough for us, so we trundled unannounced to unknown, out-of-the-way venues in the Natal Midlands and performed the play in the evenings. We presented it at Hilton College. Peter had the most companionable rapport with his audience, and he was a star. Whenever Peter performed, audiences were filled with delight by Peter. They loved him.

Peter and Vera Clare also had a wonderful theatrical working relationship. They had the greatest fun performing The Christmas Affair at Pietermaritzburg’s beautiful Cygnet Theatre in the 80s. Vera remembered that Peter cleverly enticed audiences by naughtily announcing in the sedate Natal Witness personal column that he and Vera were having an affair. That was very typically Peter. He had an incorrigibly naughty sense of humour and he loved to cause the normal world to tremble with indignation.

Before I met him, from 1964 to about 1970, Peter had worked for old NAPAC, the Natal Performing Arts Council (now the Playhouse Company) at the Alhambra Theatre.

Peter will be always lovingly remembered by his wife Theresa, his two sons, Mark and Matthew, and their families. – Garth Anderson