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Theatre world in mourning for local star turn Peter Quigley

By Ivan Little

Published 18/06/2015

Peter Quigley
Peter Quigley

The theatre community in Northern Ireland has been plunged into mourning by the death after a brief illness of Peter Quigley, one of its most colourful, exuberant and talented actor/directors.

The 65-year-old Belfast man was diagnosed with cancer just over four weeks ago, but friends said he fought the disease with the same humour and determination that he lived his life.

One online tribute from actress Ellen Anne Burns described him as a "rainbow in Belfast".

Eight years ago when Meryl Streep visited Belfast, Peter presented the Oscar-winner with a painting he had done of her.

Peter trained as a teacher at Stranmillis College, where his love of wearing make-up and glam rock clothes made him stand out from other students and he later worked as a hairdresser before finding his real niche in the theatre.

He was a stalwart of a host of plays and musicals at the old Arts Theatre and at the Lyric where he was a contemporary of Liam Neeson.

Peter was also a pioneer in youth theatre where he brought Protestant and Catholic youngsters together at the height of the Troubles. He selflessly shared his myriad of skills with young actors, many of whom were galvanised into making a career on the stage and television by their mentor's unquenchable enthusiasm.

That was also reflected in his decision to revive a fringe festival during the Belfast Festival at Queen's in 2010 and his establishment of a number of theatre companies notably Fringe Benefits and C21.

Peter had a penchant for comedy and pantomime. Belfast actor Paddy Jenkins, who has appeared in more than 1,100 pantos at the Grand Opera House alongside May McFettridge, said: "Peter took a chance on me in an Arts Theatre panto in 1994. It was my professional debut. He was an inspiration."

Former Coronation Street star Suranne Jones was given one of her first acting breaks by Peter at the Arts.

But he also showed his own flair for acting in recent productions as the decadent master of ceremonies in Cabaret at the Courtyard Theatre, Ballyearl, and he earned rave reviews at the Mac for his transgender portrayal of a housewife in Tuesdays At Tesco's.

Dozens of Peter's friends rallied round him in hospital and only 11 days ago threw a surprise birthday party for him in the City Hospital.

Actors also drew up a rota to maintain a round-the-clock vigil for Peter at his bedside.

Dozens of tributes to Peter have appeared on social media from the likes of actors Dan Gordon, Gerard McCarthy and Zoe Rainey.

Peter's funeral will be held on Monday at 3pm at Roselawn Crematorium.

Belfast Telegraph

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