Nigel Triffitt 1949 – 2012

“Secrets” devised, designed and directed by Nigel Triffitt. World premiere, Handspan Theatre, Adelaide, 1983. Gift of Nigel Triffitt, 1998. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection.

Early last week the Melbourne performing arts community came together to celebrate the life and arts of Nigel Triffitt who died in Melbourne on 20 July, aged 62.

Triffitt was a hard man to pin down.  Always on the move, Triffitt travelled extensively and enjoyed ‘living on the run’. As a writer, designer, director he was similarly peripatetic finding inspiration in the fields of dance, music, opera, puppetry and visual theatre. So it was fitting that the tributes on the day covered various aspects of his personal and professional life. Speakers included Sarah Triffitt who spoke about growing up in awe of her exciting and adventurous cousin Nigel and Lola Pinder (Nigel’s god-daughter) who read words penned by her father producer John Pinder who took a gamble presenting Triffitt’s first major work Momma’s Little Horror Show at the Last Laugh in the early 1980s. Puppeteer and close friend Andrew Hansen spoke movingly about Triffitt’s relationship with his ‘family of choice’ especially during his illness.

“Fall of Singapore” devised, designed and directed by Nigel Triffitt. World premiere Spoleteo Melbourne Festival, 1987. Gift of Nigel Triffitt. Arts Centre Melbourne Performing Arts Collection.

During the last ten years or so of his life Triffitt embarked upon a very different journey researching the Triffitt family history and travelling the world exploring notions of spirituality. His friend and agent Hilary Linstead accompanied him on many journeys including to the Bungles Bungles where they first discussed a concept for Tap Dogs. Triffitt was drawn to the Australian outback again visiting central Australia with sharman Greg Snowden who also spoke on the day.

Never one to be upstaged, Triffitt had the last word as the audience sat entranced watching him in full flight as keynote speaker at the National Puppetry and Animatronics Summit held at Arts Centre Melbourne in 2002 (you can see it here.)

“Tap Dogs”, designed and directed by Nigel Triffitt, choreographed by Dein Perry
World premiere, Sydney Theatre Company, 1995. Gift of Nigel Triffitt, 1998. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection
“Metamorphosis”, designed by Nigel Triffitt, music by Brian Howardm libretto by Steven Berkoff (after Kafka). World premiere, Victoria State Opera, Melbourne, 1983. Gift of Nigel Triffitt, 1998. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection

In 1998 Triffit donated 30 set models to Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection reflecting his work on over 17 productions from 1974 to 1995. Productions represented include Momma’s Little Horror Show (1978), Secrets (1983), High Flyers (1985), the Men At Work World Tour (1983) and Tap Dogs (1995). A selection of Triffitt’s perfectly executed balsa wood models is currently on display at Arts Centre Melbourne in the Smorgon Family Plaza as a tribute to one of Australia’s most influential theatremakers.

Published by

Performing Arts Collection

Arts Centre Melbourne's Performing Arts Collection is the national leader among specialist performing arts collections in Australia. Established in 1975, it is formally recognised as a State collection and encompasses the history of circus, dance, music, opera and theatre. The Collection features over 640,000 items including costumes, designs, photographs, set models, puppets, props, posters, programs and archives.

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