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Actors pay tribute to Edgar Metcalfe
Actors pay tribute to Edgar Metcalfe

WA theatre luminary Edgar Metcalfe, known for years as Mr Playhouse for his pivotal role in the development of the Perth stage industry, died yesterday after a short fight with liver cancer.

He was five days shy of his 79th birthday.

Metcalfe came from England in 1963 to be artistic director at the now defunct Playhouse Theatre, where he directed or acted in more than 100 productions over the next two decades - a period considered the golden age of theatre in Perth.

He also wrote plays and a novel, was WA Citizen of the Year in 1976 and was appointed a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia in 1978 for his services to the performing arts.

Among his directing highlights was the 1971 Australian premiere of Cabaret, which starred Nancye Hayes and John Ewing and filled the 700-seat Playhouse every night for four weeks.

He also directed four national tours, including Night Mother and Corpse.

He also will be remembered for introducing traditional English pantomime to WA.

"He was a driving force who steered WA theatre to a professional standing," former Playhouse actor and theatre historian Ivan King said. "He was a very astute director and a figurehead in the business."

As an actor, Metcalfe will probably be best remembered for his performance as Salieri in Peter Shaffer's Amadeus in 1984 and for playing panto dames.

In 2010 he returned to England to retire but was troubled by asthma and disillusionment with how things had changed. He returned to Perth and made a comeback last year in the world premiere of David Williamson's When Dad Married Fury. His last professional appearance was six months ago, a minor role in Black Swan State Theatre Company's production of Arcadia.

"He told me, 'It is quite fun because I get to read half a book in the wings while I am waiting to go on'," his long-time friend and actor Jenny McNae said. "His loss is going to leave such a hole in our lives."

Metcalfe has donated his body to science. Details of a service have yet to be released.

Max Kay, Edgar Metcalfe, Rosemary Barr and Jenny McNae in Agelink Reminiscence Theatre's production of 'Quartet'.