Peter Wight may not be a household name, but if you’re a long-time viewer of British programs I’m sure you’d recognize his face. Some of the series he’s appeared in include Lark Rise to Candleford (where he played Old Amos), Midsomer Murders, Pride and Prejudice, The Paradise, Silk and New Tricks. He was also in a series that didn’t make it over here, but which I mentioned last week, Our Zoo, which starred The Café’s Ralf Little.
Currently, Wight is receiving glowing reviews in a three person play at the National Theatre in London called The Red Lion. Set in the changing room of a non-league football club, Wight plays John Yates the "kit-man", who according to a reviewer for The Guardian newspaper, “looks as if he has been ironing football shirts for years yet also conveys the morose depressiveness of a disillusioned romantic”.
Theatre has always been a big part of 65-year-old Wight’s life. Thanks to his theatre-loving parents, he was exposed to live theatre at an early age and as a teenager performed with the Derby Shakespeare Company–an amateur group that has been around since 1908. As the Derbyshire born Wight got older and was able to travel by himself, he’d take himself off to the Nottingham Playhouse, where he’d enjoy watching the actors on-stage and off, as they gathered around the theatre bar being “loud and theatrical”.
“They were like gods to me at the time”, said Wight in an interview with The Stage. “That’s what I wanted to be. I wanted to be on the stage, part of a company.”
Despite his love of all things theatrical, Wight didn’t enroll in theatre school and in fact to this day has had no formal actor training. Instead he got into Oxford where he studied English.
“I became quite disillusioned with the scholarly life”, recalls the actor of his time at Oxford, “but it did enable me to do a lot of theatre”.
On graduating, Wight came to the U.S. with a student production. Instead of returning, he stayed here for a year, acting and directing. When he eventually went back to England, he had an opportunity to enroll in a three year course of study at Bristol Old Vic, but turned it down and instead forged his own way as an actor, performing in children’s theatre productions and regional repertory theatres. That was in the 1970’s and it would be almost a decade before Wight made it to the West End in an acclaimed production of The Seagull alongside Vanessa Redgrave, Jonathan Pryce and Redgrave’s daughter, Natasha Richardson.
Since then Wight’s career has continued to thrive, with performances on Broadway and in the West End, the previously mentioned television shows too numerous to mention and a film career, that includes three Best Picture Oscar nominated films, Secrets & Lies (1996), Babel (2006) and Atonement (2007). Wight appeared with Redgrave again in 2013, in a production of Much Ado About Nothing, with James Earl Jones and directed by one of Wight’s "heroes", the incomparable Mark Rylance.
If you've got a favorite actor you'd like to know more about let me know, drop me a line.
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