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Stage Designer Peter Docherty Dies at Age 75

BroadwayWorld is saddened to report that stage designer Peter Docherty has died at age 75.

Peter Docherty was born in Blackpool, where he started enjoying the magic of the theatre, watching summer and variety shows from an early age. His Parents moved to London, and even more theatre and circus experiences followed as home was adjacent to The Victoria Palace. He studied at the Central School of Art and Design, then at the Slade School of Fine Art.

At 16, he had his first job in the theatre as a dresser at the Aldwych, before going to work at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and seeing a ballet for the first time, which was La Fille mal Gardée. His second ballet was The Sleeping Beauty, and in 'his' dressing room he had charge of Ronald Hynd as the Prince, Leslie Edwards as Catalabutte, Ray Powell as Carabosse, and Brian Shaw as the Bluebird.

Peter worked at Covent Garden for the next six years, with particularly happy memories of Maria Callas' performances as Tosca, and the premiere of Macmillan's Romeo and Juliet. The first Beauty he saw was designed by Oliver Messel, and later he worked on two other Beauties with Nicholas Georgiadis.

In 1993 he designed a major production choreographed by Ronald Hynd for English National Ballet.

In 1996 the Victoria and Albert Theatre Museum acquired 37 designs for his ENB production. Peter's knowledge of The Sleeping Beauty detail was encyclopaedic, and in 2018 he designed a opulent new production in Shanghai, choreographed by Derek Deane, Artistic Director of Shanghai Ballet.

Peter was very much a designer for the theatre in every aspect - plays in London; musicals in the West End and Broadway; opera in England, Europe and North America, and ballets throughout the world. Opera design started for Peter in 1972 with the Danish Royal Opera's, The Magic Flute; and had a big personal success with Janáček's The Adventures of Mr Broucek for English National Opera at the London Coliseum, directed by Colin Graham, in 1988. Plays and musicals, in London, and throughout the country included In Celebration at The Royal Court Theatre, directed by Lindsay Anderson; Cole at The Mermaid Theatre, directed by Alan Strachan and David Toguri; Side by Side by Sondheim, directed by Ned Sherrin, which opened in 1976 at the Mermaid, before transferring into the West End at Wyndhams Theatre, and then onto the Music Box on Broadway.

In 1982 he designed The Sound of Music staring Petula Clark at the Apollo Victoria. Ballet and dance were Peter's first love, and he designed over 50 major productions from 1967 to his death. Choreographers he worked with included Peter Darrell, William Louther, Tom Jobe, Robert North, William Dollar, Michael Corder and Ronald Hynd. Peter enjoyed designing for the 'next generation' of choreographers, - in 2013 with Thomas Edur on La Bayadere for Estonian National Ballet, and, Mathew Hart's 2012 production of John Ringling's Circus Nutcracker for Sarasota Ballet.

Peter designed closely with the choreographer, Ronald Hynd, firstly with Dvorak Variations for London Festival Ballet in 1970. Their 1976 production of The Nutcracker, was specially designed for the technical limitations at The Royal Festival Hall, and proved very popular with Christmas audiences in London, for over a decade. In 1979 Hynd and Docherty created Rosalinda, for PACT Ballet in Johannesburg and subsequently for London Festival Ballet and nine international companies. Their Merry Widow was designed for the Vienna State Ballet, Hungarian State Ballet and Santiago Ballet, who have also presented Rosalinda and Le Diable à Quatre. Other partnerships with Ronald Hynd, included Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet productions of, In a Summer Garden, Charlotte Brontë, The Fairy's Kiss, and Le Papillon. In Houston, Hynd and Docherty created The Seasons, and Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Besides his drawings being seen in many private collections and one man shows, in 1996, along with Tim White he edited the book, Design for Performance - from Diaghilev to the Pet Shop Boys, - still a major definitive work on Theatre Design.

Formerly a guest lecturer at the Wimbledon School of Art, he became Senior Lecturer in Theatre Design at Central Saint Martin's College of Art and Design until his retirement. In 1997, Peter was awarded a full Professorship by the University of the Arts London for his outstanding achievement as a designer and educator in the field of dance. Peter had many interests, and was particularly proud that he was Founding Organiser for Action Against Aids, staging in 1986 a Gala at the Adelphi Theatre, one of the first major fund raising events for the cause.

Peter so loved theatre, its lifestyle, and friendships. Only weeks before he was hospitalised he enjoyed the spectacle of the Palladium pantomime, and in his last few days talked about redesigning a revival of Candide!

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