Picture: Ken Maley/The West Australian

Bob Faggetter, a character actor best known for playing Wal in Footrot Flats and as the co-founder of the WA branch of Actors' Equity in the 1970s, has died at the age of 67.

Faggetter was the first secretary of Actor's Equity in WA in 1978, with Harry Bluck as president, and wrote the first rules aimed at improving the working lives of performers in this State.

Equally at ease in new Australian work and in classical drama, the genial, burly actor worked extensively in theatre, television and film. One of his last appearances was in the 2011 mini-series Cloudstreet.

He was a leading light at the Playhouse and the Hole in the Wall when Aarne Neeme was artistic director at both theatres in the 1970s and early 1990s.

He played Wal in the 1980s national tour of Footrot Flats but he had many other roles including in Last of the Knucklemen, Bran Nue Dae, Sistergirl, Hello Dolly, 42nd Street and Brandie and Nan - his own account of the life of singer Peter Dawson.

Born in London, Faggetter migrated to WA as a child with his family and was in the first intake at Applecross High School. He remembered his first year as great because he had a teacher who liked the arts but blamed a vindictive teacher in his second year for not making it to his third year.

He studied at Sydney's Independent Drama School, whose alumni include Reg Livermore, Ruth Cracknell and Jill Perryman, but also took up a trade as a bookbinder as something to fall back on.

His career was put on hold for several years in the mid-1990s after an accident in Sydney left him with short-term memory loss - a considerable hindrance for an actor.

In 1999, he returned to Perth but found work in the theatre even harder to come by.

Friend and fellow thespian Michael Loney described Faggetter as a great character actor and a great character. "If ever the phrase 'heart of gold' applied to anyone, it applied to Bob," he said.

WA Equity president Monica Main said Faggetter's influence was profound during his eight years as secretary and then president.

"He fought for pay and conditions for professional performers which was new and unique in this State," she said. "We are privileged to be in a position we are today because of his legacy."

In 2011, Faggetter received the peer-nominated Guild Award for his contribution to WA theatre.

He was working on a new musical when he died on Wednesday of heart failure associated with complications from diabetes. He leaves his wife Judy, four children and four grandchildren.

The West Australian

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