Tributes paid to Amadeus playwright Peter Shaffer

Acclaimed British playwright and screenwriter Peter Shaffer has died at the age of 90. His agent, Rupert Lord, confirmed the news in an announcement on the website of his agency, MacNaughton Lord, which read: “It is with great sorrow that we must announce the death of our friend and client, Peter Shaffer while on a […]

Acclaimed British playwright and screenwriter Peter Shaffer has died at the age of 90.

His agent, Rupert Lord, confirmed the news in an announcement on the website of his agency, MacNaughton Lord, which read: “It is with great sorrow that we must announce the death of our friend and client, Peter Shaffer while on a visit to Ireland with friends and family.

“He was simply at the end of his life but delighted to have been able to celebrate his 90th birthday with friends and then, I think, decided it was time.”

Shaffer died after a short illness in a hospital close to Cork, Lord said.

Shaffer was perhaps best known as the screenwriter of Amadeus, Milos Formans’s multi-Oscar winning 1984 biographical film about Austrian child prodigy composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Among the eight Oscars the film won was one for Shaffer’s screenplay, which he adapted from his own 1979 stage play. He also won that year’s Golden Globe for the screenplay.

Another of his best-known works is the 1973 play Equus, about the relationship between a psychiatrist and a young man who deals with mental-health issues through his love of horses.

Shaffer was nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay of Sidney Lumet’s 1977 movie adaptation of the play, which starred Richard Burton, Peter Firth, Joan Plowright and Jenny Agutter.

His other plays include Black Comedy, Lettice and Lovage, The Royal Hunt of the Sun and Five Finger Exercise.

Shaffer was born in 1926 in Liverpool, Northwest England, a twin to fellow writer Anthony Shaffer, who died in 2001 and whose best-known work includes the cult classic 1973 horror movie The Wicker Man.

Peter Shaffer’s first play, The Salt Land, was screened on UK television in 1954, as part of broadcaster ITV’s Play of the Week series starring Jason King actor Peter Wyngarde.

The writer’s reputation quickly grew, and in 1958, Five Finger Exercise opened in London under the direction of John Gielgud, winning the Evening Standard Drama Award.

When Five Finger Exercise moved to New York City in 1959, it was equally well received and landed Shaffer the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Foreign Play.

When the National Theatre was established in England in 1963, Shaffer became an unofficial writer-in-residence, with much of his work of the 1960s and 1970s debuting there. The theatre is in the process of producing a stage revival of Amadeus, the first since 1979, and described Shaffer as “an extraordinary writer”.

“Peter Shaffer was one of the great writers of his generation and the National Theatre was enormously lucky to have had such a fruitful and creative relationship with him,” said NT director, Rufus Norris.

“The plays he leaves behind are an enduring legacy.”

Shaffer was awarded the CBE in 1987 and knighted in 2001. He is survived by his brother Brian, nephews Milo and Mark and nieces Cressida and Claudia.

His agent said his family and friends wanted to thank the staff who “cared for him so well” at Bon Secours hospital and Marymount hospice in Ireland since the start of his illness, which only developed around a week ago.

cnewbould@thenational.ae

Source: art & life

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