Peter Curtis

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Peter Curtis (1919-2006) was an actor, director, and theatre manager.

Also known by his stage name Peter Craig.


Born in England in 1919, he graduated at the University of London and later became involved in theatrical productions in Salisbury. He attended training courses through the British Drama league and joined the Questors Theatre in 1946, where he acted in and directed numerous productions. He also performed for Richmond Stage Society. His notable roles included "Sir Harry Flutter" in Frances Sheridan's The Discovery[1], "Archer" in The Beaux Stratagem, "Jack Worthing" in The Importance of Being Earnest and "Charleston" in Thunder Rock.

In 1951 he came to South Africa with his wife Jennifer Craig and son Craig Curtis, going on to appear in many successful theatrical productions in Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth under the name Peter Craig.

In 1967 he was appointed Artistic Director of the CAPAB English Company (alongside Pieter Fourie as Artistic Director of the Afrikaans company) and staged over 110 productions which built a strong reputation for the company across South Africa.

In 1978 he was appointed as Artistic Director of the CAPAB Youth Drama Company , but in 1979 he opted to return to England and later moved to Canada to join the Citadel Theatre Company in Edmonton. He also directed and performed for other companies in Canada and the USA. In later years, his most successful performances were as "Sir" in Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser (1984) and "Cauchon" in Nicol Williamson’s production of The Lark (1983).

He passed away in Owen Sound, Ontario in 2006.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance


His South African career falls into two broad, but distinctive categories: that of an actor/director (as Peter Craig) and that of a manager/artistic director (as Peter Curtis).

After moving to South Africa in 1951, he acted and directed numerous productions under the stage name of Peter Craig. These included works for different companies in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Durban.

In 1967, he returned to Cape Town and was appointed Artistic Director of the CAPAB English Drama Company, a position which he held until 1978. In this position, he staged over 110 productions, which established the excellent reputation of the company. He was an advocate of balancing a mixture of classical and modern work including 16 South African plays.

A strong opponent of apartheid, Curtis considered the playwright’s boycott to be counterproductive to social change and persuaded a number of European playwrights to allow their works to be performed in South Africa. These included the South African premieres of Hadrian VII by Peter Luke, Biography by Max Frisch and the world premiere of Shrivings by Peter Shaffer. Each of the three productions received an outstanding critical reception.

Perhaps his greatest success in this regard however was persuading Athol Fugard to produce his early plays in South Africa rather than abroad, and in addition to do so (rather controversially) with the state subsidised Performing Arts Councils. This resulted in the South African premiere of People are Living There and the world premiere of Boesman and Lena with CAPAB, productions that were considered landmarks in South African theatre and would substantially help to establish Fugard’s reputation as a leading playwright on the world stage.

Theatre Work 1951 to 1967 (as Peter Craig)

His stage performances during this period include roles in The River Line (1954), As You Like It (1954), The Constant Wife (1954), The Rivals (as "Sir Anthony Absolute", 1955), Medea (as "Jason", 1955), Mirandolina (as "the Knight of Ripafratta", 1956), The Summer House (1956), Journey's End (1956), The Living Room (1956), A Midsummer Night's Dream (as "Bottom", Maynardville 1957), Autumn Crocus (as "Andreis Steiner", PEMADS, 1959), Inherit the Wind (as "Mathew Harrison Brady", Durban 1961), Thunder Rock (as "Charleston", Durban, 1964). Critics particularly praised his performances as "Bottom", the "Knight of Ripafratta" and "Sir Anthony Absolute". He also received notable success as "Andreis Steiner" in Leontine Sagan's 1959 production of Autumn Crocus.

His directing credits as Peter Craig included The Young Elizabeth (1953), The Living Room (Port Elizabeth, 1958), The Second Mrs. Tanqueray (Durban, 1961), Mirandolina (Durban,1962), Thunder Rock (Durban, 1964), and Medea (Lyric Theatre).

Theatre work 1967 to 1989 (as Peter Curtis)


In 1967, Curtis was appointed as Artistic Director of the Cape Performing Arts Board (CAPAB) English Company, a position he held until 1978. Over the course of 12 years, he staged over 120 productions, and the company established an excellent reputation throughout South Africa.

In this position he was responsible for the staging of a wide range of theatrical events, providing unique opportunities for local actors, directors and writers to develop their expertise. The CAPAB productions put on under his management include:

1967: Portuguese Match , The Dock Brief, The Best of Dorothy Parker, Heartbreak House, The Happy Journey, The Garden at the Threshold, All Roads Lead to Rome, The Beaux Stratagem, Winter Journey and The King's Mare.

1968: Peter Pan, The Seven Ages, Candida, The Lion in Winter, The Chalk Garden, Cape Charade, Don't Let Summer Come, Suite in Three Keys, Fury, Dangerous Corner and The Lesson.

1969: Antigone, The School for Scandal, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, People are Living There, Twelfth Night, Wholly Matrimony, The Sniper, The 65th Square and Boesman and Lena.

1970: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, The Way of the World, The Cherry Orchard, The Man of Destiny, O'Flaherty V.C., Tango, The Importance of Being Earnest and Episode on an Autumn Evening.

1971: Talk of the Devil, Orestes, Winners, Enter a Free Man, Dear Antoine (opening play at the Nico Malan Theatre), Hadrian VII, Strindberg Without Tears, Biography, The Daughter-in-Law.

1972: Hedda Gabler, McCullough, or Travels with a Collapsible Woman, The Real Inspector Hound and Police (double bill), Under Milk Wood, Macbeth, The Good and Faithful Servant, The Stronger and Orison (double bill).

1973: The Friday Bench, See How They Run, Miss Julie, The Collector, Annie Get Your Gun, A Sleep of Prisoners, The Mandrake, The School for Wives and Mother Courage and Her Children

1974: London Assurance, A Collier's Friday Night, Lorenzo: A Biography of D.H.Lawrence, The Game of Kings, King Lear, Present Laughter, A Tribute to Noel Coward, King Stag and Three Cheers for President Charlie.

1975: The Alchemist, Story Theatre, Rookery Nook, Dear Janet Rosenberg, Dear Mr Kooning, Antony and Cleopatra, A Doll’s House, The First Night of Pygmalion, Good Grief, a Griffin, Pygmalion, The Story of an African Farm, You Never Can Tell.

1976: Julius Caesar (CAPAB at Maynardville), Shrivings, Mr. Rhodes and the Princess, The Playboy of the Western World, Richard III, Fury, Out at Sea.

1977: Much Ado About Nothing (CAPAB at Maynardville), The Misanthrope, Arms and the Man, Roulette, Hamlet.

1978: Twelfth Night (CAPAB at Maynardville), Private Lives, Time-Sneeze, Tartuffe, Hay Fever.

As actor and director

During and after his tenure as Artistic Director at CAPAB he continued to act and direct for a number of companies in Cape Town, such as CAPAB, The Little Theare, Carousel Productions and the UCT Dramatic Society, as well as working on a number of radio productions.

As Director

His directing credits included Medea (UCT, 1969), Antigone (CAPAB,1969), The Importance of Being Earnest (CAPAB,1970), London Assurance (1974), Pygmalion (1975), Blithe Spirit (1976), Arms and the Man (1977), Hay Fever (1978), Private Lives (1978) and You Never Can Tell (1979). Critics agreed that Curtis had a particular skill in directing period comedy and most of these productions received excellent reviews and record attendance. For example The Importance of Being Earnest toured to Johannesburg and Curtis received a nomination for a Three Leaf Award for Best Direction. The cast included the outstanding actor Michael Atkinson, with whom Curtis formed a strong partnership over more than twenty CAPAB productions.

As actor

He has appeared in The Beaux Stratagem (1967), Henry IV (as "Falstaff" in the Little Theatre, 1968), A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, Richard II, The Merry Wives of Windsor (Maynardville, January 1969), See How They Run, Antony and Cleopatra, Krapp's Last Tape, Richard III, Hamlet, The Good and Faithful Servant and Tartuffe (1978).He received notable reviews in roles such as "Bolingbroke" (Richard II), "Falstaff" (Henry IV, Part 1), "Master Ford" (The Merry Wives of Windsor), "George Buchanan" (The Good and Faithful Servant), "Krapp" (Krapp's Last Tape) and "Enobarbus" (Antony and Cleopatra). Of these, most critics identified "Falstaff" and "George Buchanan" as being his finest performances.


Tartuffe theatre programme, 1978.

Various entries in the NELM catalogue.

Biography of Peter Curtis submitted to ESAT by Craig Curtis in September 2023.

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