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Posted: Tuesday 24 November, 2015
It was with great sadness that we learnt, last week of the death of Next Stage’s first patron: Keith Michell.
I first saw Keith in the 1960’s in London in the musical Robert and Elizabeth then I met and got to know him in the 1970’s when he became Artistic Director at Chichester Festival Theatre. I was thrilled at the imaginative and exciting use he and the company made of the Chichester stage and my love of staging plays either in the intimacy of thrust, or in-the-round, dates from those days.
Keith toured a wonderful one-man show throughout this time and I loved the arrangements that he and the talented Jim Parker devised for many of the poems and readings in that show. Of course we mustn’t forget one of their most successful collaborations: Captain Beaky and His Band!
I stayed friends with Keith over the years and when I set up my own theatre company in 1994 it seemed an obvious choice to ask Keith to be a patron. He agreed and then in 1996 when, as part of the Bath International Music Festival, I directed Next Stage in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s: Our Country’s Good, Keith created some beautiful art work to be used as our poster and publicity material. I still have his original drawings, colour swatches and notes from that time. Set as it was in Australia the play touched a chord in Keith, originating as he did from Adelaide.
Such a generous patron and friend, I last saw Keith when he visited Bath in 2012 to see an exhibition at the Bath Museum of Costume. It was a final chance to remember the “old days” and to thank this kind, multi-talented actor, singer and painter for all his friendship and encouragement over the years.
At this sad time, our thoughts and condolences go to Jeanette Sterke, Keith’s wife, and to his family.
Images below: Two examples of Keith Michell's artwork, made for Next Stage's 1996 production of Our Country's Good, Ann Ellison and Keith Michell in 1974 at the Chichester Festival Theatre, a link up in the 1990's, and at the Bath Assembly Rooms in 2012.