Wellington Scoop

Downstage celebrates life of Tim Eliott, its first artistic director

News from Downstage
On Saturday from 4pm, Downstage will host a celebration of the life and work of Tim Eliott, actor, director and founding artistic director of Downstage. We extend an open invitation to all.

A tribute will take place in the auditorium from 4pm, followed by an opportunity to enjoy a drink and continue sharing stories in our bar afterwards.

It was with sadness that we learned of the death of Tim Eliott, in Sydney, Australia.

As an actor Tim Eliott was known for his rich voice, intelligent approach and charismatic stage presence. He played the lead role in the first production to be produced under the Downstage banner, Eugene Ionesco’s Exit the King in 1964. Many also remember Downstage’s landmark 1967 Hamlet in which Tim played the title role in a production that delivered Shakespeare’s classic in modern dress and a theatre-café setting.

As a director and programmer, Tim was as adept with provocative modern work as with classical. Directing the anti-Vietnam War play Operation Pigstick by Warren Dibble, Tim risked censure and controversy by deliberately opening the play ahead of President Lyndon Johnson’s visit to Wellington. As John Smythe puts it in his book Downstage Upfront : “With Operation Pigstick Downstage was fulfilling Tim’s desire for the theatre to be a focus for social, political and artistic debate (the actors and audience engaged in open discussion after each performance)”

Alongside Martyn Sanderson, Peter Bland and Harry Seresin, Tim Eliott’s vision of a permanent professional NZ theatre that was unpretentious, egalitarian and in tune with its audiences has lasted nearly half a century. We, the current Downstage team, are proud to continue that legacy, and today remember the artistic and entrepreneurial vigour of one of our founding fathers as he takes his final bow.

Our thoughts are with Tim’s family and friends on this sad occasion.