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Canberra Today 3°/7° | Monday, May 20, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Canberra actor John Cuffe dies aged 91

John Cuffe and Liz St Clair Long as Alceste and Célimène on The Misanthrope. Photo: Andrew Sikorski

One of the last remaining luminaries from the explosion of professional theatre in Canberra during the 1970s has died after complications from lung cancer. He was 91.

A  memorial service will be held on Friday, May 3, at the William Cole Chapel in Belconnen at 10am.

John Cuffe, who died in the University of Canberra Hospital on April 23, was an Englishman who had served with the British Armed Forces in Cyprus and performed professionally on stage in London.

Migrating to Australia, he came to light in Canberra during the early ’70s and co-starred with Lynette Curran in Algis Butavicius’ 1973 production in Canberra of the play Joe’s Encyclopedia by Roger Pulvers.

Cuffe became known for his fine character acting and as an actor of remarkable versatility and emotional depth.

Determined at all costs to take only professional roles, he was a loyal member of Actors’ Equiry (now the MEAA).

But he nonetheless broke his own rule to act in the late Ralph Wilson’s productions of classics – everything from Shakespeare to Moliere.

John Cuffe as The Christian Brother. Photo: Andrew Sikorski

He appeared on screen in Dad and Dave: On Our Selection and left town periodically to work in Sydney on the TV series The Explorers, The Last Bastion and Murder Call and played a bit part in a Chinese film while visiting another Canberra actor, the late John Paisley.

His most admired performance was without doubt for Fortune Theatre Company in Ron Blair’s play The Christian Brothers at Canberra Theatre Clubroom in September 1977. The late Pamela Rosenberg and Wilson were co-directors and Cuffe played the brother.

His last professional appearance on stage was in After Agincourt by Peter Mottley, directed by Bradley at The Street Theatre Studio in 2007. Here he played Shakespeare’s character Pistol – one of his all-time favourites.

In a Ralph Wilson celebration in May 2019 at Gorman Arts Centre he reprised his role as the brother and also, along with Liz St Clair Long, treated audiences to a reading from Moliere’s The Misanthrope, giving us a taste of the sizzle that always accompanied his performances.

Cuffe and his stage colleague, the late Phil Mackenzie, later in the same week revisited two of Wilson’s favourite Chekhov sketches, Smoking is Bad For You and Swansong, on stage at Smith’s Alternative, directed by Liz Bradley.

A  memorial service will be held on Friday at the William Cole Chapel in Belconnen at 10am.

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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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