Born: October 1 1956: Died June, 2012.
Robert Paterson, who has been found dead at home aged 55 after a suspected heart attack, was an actor whose tragically fitting final role was that of Gonzalo in Shakespeare's The Tempest at Dundee Rep. Gonzalo, after all, was an honest and trusted advisor to the king who provided the exiled Prospero with the basics to survive, as well as other things to make life more bearable.
It was Gonzalo too who recognised Caliban as something beyond a mere monster, sees the beauty on the island on which he is shipwrecked, and takes joy when all are reconciled at the end of the play. It isn't a huge role, but it is a crucial one and Paterson shared many of the character's traits.
This could be said of so much of Paterson's career over the last 30 years, be it as an actor, writer or director with every major theatre company in Scotland, or in film and television appearances that included Braveheart and Charlie Gormley's Heavenly Pursuits.
His body of work over the last 10 years as a member of Dundee Rep's ensemble company alone reveals a man with a fierce intelligence and curiosity who possessed a mixture of stateliness and quirkiness which, as with his approach to Gonzalo, was vital to every one of more than 50 productions he took part in.
Paterson's career began at Glasgow University when, during the autumn term of 1976, he turned up one day as an unknown quantity for an audition to play Thomas Beckett in a student production of TS Eliot's verse play, Murder in the Cathedral. The regular members of the company, who included at least two future TV directors, watched in astonishment as he made the part his own. The production was subsequently entered for the National Student Drama Festival in St Andrews, where Paterson won the festival's best actor award as well as a rave review from Bernard Levin. After Glasgow, he was awarded a scholarship to train at the London Drama Studio.
Early work with TAG led him to new writing company Annexe, whose commissioning board he joined. As a writer himself, early works for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe included a play about a couple of hitmen waiting to meet their target, the baroque language of which is reputed to have pre-dated Quentin Tarantino by a couple of decades. More recently, Paterson penned a version of Jack and the Beanstalk for Dundee.
As well as Dundee, Paterson formed long-standing relationships with many theatres, including the Brunton in Musselburgh under director Robin Peoples, and the Tron in Glasgow, with future Royal Shakespeare company head Michael Boyd, for whom he appeared alongside Forbes Masson in David Kane's farce, Dumbstruck, and with Winged Horse, run by Paterson's then wife Eve Jamieson.
He was a major figure too at Mull Theatre, where he first worked in 1985, and was instrumental in introducing current artistic director Alasdair McCrone to the venue after casting McCrone in his first student play in his first week at Glasgow University in 1987 in much the same way he'd found his dramatic feet a decade before.
Paterson spent much of the 1990s working alongside McCrone as actor, director and dramaturg. Paterson adapted Iain Crichton Smith's novel, Consider the Lillies, for the stage, and, with McCrone, co-wrote Para Handy's Treasure and versions of Kidnapped and Jekyll and Hyde. He directed David Hare's play, Skylight, and appeared in Death and the Maiden, as well as one-man play, Old Herbaceous, which he had previously performed in the 1980s, and which closed Mull Theatre's old space in Dervaig.
Paterson had been an admirer of Dundee Rep's unique ensemble before he joined it following stints at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre in Glengarry Glen Ross and Forbes Masson's debut musical, Stiff! Once he joined, he proved himself an essential, constantly inquiring presence under successive directors. His stand-out roles came in plays as diverse as Peer Gynt, Beckett's Happy Days, and most notably as crumpled academic George in a searing performance opposite Irene MacDougall in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? In 2010, a performance of Equus was cancelled after Paterson suffered a heart scare, though he was back onstage at the earliest opportunity.
Beyond the stage, he was known as a maverick eccentric with a singular vision, and a total one-off one member of the ensemble described as a '"holy clown". A love of science fiction and computer games clearly contributed to a magical imagination, while a relish for language and history was carried by a wisdom and an unflinching honesty. A music fan, his arrival at the theatre was frequently heralded by a Todd Rundgren or Steely Dan track blaring through his car windows as he parked. Unknown to many, he was a fine singer, something he shared with his family, with whom he remained close.
He was not without his eccentricities, which included sporting brightly-coloured and garishly mismatched jackets and training shoes, and an obsessive collecting of soft-drink cans.
For all this, it was his warmth, generosity and soft heart that captivated friends and colleagues. As one said: "It feels like the biggest heart in the building has gone."
When Paterson suffered heart problems in 2010 he was admitted to the coronary care unit of Ninewells Hospital just days after opening to critical and popular acclaim in his role as the psychiatrist in the theatre's production in Equus. He was last seen in public on Sunday, and found dead at his home on Tuesday.
He is survived by a sister Lynn, a brother, Steve, two nieces, and his parents, Bert and Sue.
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