Theatre legend takes final ovation on deathbed
Veteran director John Milson. Picture: Lee Griffith/The West Australian

WA's theatre community is in mourning after the death of veteran director John Milson at the weekend.

Milson, whose career in theatre spanned five decades, died on Saturday after a long battle with cancer. He was 75.

He was surrounded by friends who farewelled him with a standing ovation and applause, friends of the leading WA director revealed on social media.

Tributes flowed yesterday for the man remembered as an "incredible inspiration and mentor" and a "tyrant on stage" who once said his only function in life was directing.

During his career, Milson ran the Hole in the Wall theatre company, directed shows for Opera Australia and Effie Crump Theatre and instigated the world- renowned musical theatre course at the WA Academy of Performing Arts, which he ran for 12 years.

Artists he worked with as students included Golden Globe winner Hugh Jackman, Lisa McCune, Lucy Durack, Emma Matthews and Rachelle Durkin.

His achievements as a director and mentor earned him an Order of Australia honour.

He continued to be recognised for his contribution to theatre throughout his career, earning his last accolade a week before his death when he was named best director of a musical at the Finley Awards for community theatre for his play Falsettos.

Comedian, actor and composer Eddie Perfect, who was taught and directed by Milson, tweeted about the "huge impact" Milson had on his theatrical life.

Theatre historian David Hough said he was an "extraordinary teaching director".

Mr Hough said Milson, who began his career as a child actor working on radio dramas, developed a great affection for WA after moving from Sydney in 1971 to direct a Gilbert and Sullivan Society show.

"Musical theatre was, I think, his greatest strength, he was a man of the theatre and he understood how the theatre worked and his bottom line was to entertain," he said. "You always left a Milson production with a watermelon smile."

The West Australian

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