JOHN Cargill Thompson, who died, aged 61, of cancer at his home in Edinburgh, made his mark as a dramatist specialising mainly in one-person plays. For the past few years he also wrote regularly for The Stage as a fierce, but fair, commentator on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, like a poacher-turned-gamekeeper.

Born in Rangoon, Burma, on November 1, 1938, he was brought up in Glasgow, the city he had always considered his true home, and that of his parents and mercantile forebears. He was educated at Glasgow High School and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. While theatre was his first love, sport came a very close second. In 1957, he won a Scottish amateur athletics badge for his achievements as a runner in the 880-yard dash. Later, he became an enthusiastic international rugby

fan, always rooting for Scottish teams, and acquiring an extensive collection of rugby shirts. He once even acted the title part of his play, Hamlet II: Prince of Jutland, in full rugby regalia.

For many years he was on the staff of the Drama Department, University College of North Wales, and later became senior lecturer in acting at the School of Theatre, Manchester Polytechnic. As a result of his drama teaching, he directed a large number of student productions, and did some professional acting and directing, one acting stint being with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

His lectures on eighteenth-century actors and playwrights led him to write his own one-person plays about them, eventually

giving up academic posts for full-time writing. Perhaps emulating Bernard Shaw, he also wrote

dramatic jeux d'esprits about Shakespeare, such as Just Another Midsummer Night's Dream and Lear: A Mythconception.

During this period, he also wrote An Introduction to Fifty British Plays: 1660-1990 (1979). His account of English theatre during the Restoration, Georgian, Romantic, and Victorian periods is fearless in its critical approach, deeply learned, and a delight to read. His other critical work, The Boys' Dumas (1975), is a study of GA Henty, whose novels he collected, and later sold through Christie's.

After some years of producing his own plays, often with students from RSAMD, he gained wider recognition when he won a double Fringe First award in 1992. Both plays had professional actors and were stage-managed by his daughter, Nerissa. Shylock Triumphant, about Charles Macklin, was played by Alec Monteath, and Every Inch a King, about David Garrick, by John Shedden.

The following year, Port and Lemon, a tour-de-force about Sherlock Holmes in drag, and again played by John Shedden, won another Fringe First. That same year, John Shedden also played Robert Louis Stevenson in one of Cargill Thompson's finest plays, The Laird of Samoa. His portrayal of Stevenson is realistic and unsentimental, and most likely to last.

Another Fringe First winner (in 1994) was An English Education, his solo drama about James I

in captivity, played by Robin

Thomson. It is one of a series

about royal Scottish historical

characters, including Macbeth Speaks, his rehabilitation of Shakespeare's tyrant.

These plays testify to his strong sense of Scottish identity although he was more inclined to unionism than nationalism.

Despite his great success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, he became disillusioned with what he saw as the downgrading of drama by Fringe administrators, critics, and audiences in favour of stand-up comedy. He therefore moved to a flat in Bloomsbury while still retaining his home in Edinburgh. In London, nevertheless, he experimented with drama which would allow actors to perform like stand-up comedians. One of these, Soul Doubt, achieved considerable success with audiences at the New End Theatre, Hampstead, together with his biblical solo drama, Jazebel.

A direct, and serendipitous result of the Edinburgh triumphs, however, was the playwright's collaboration with Ian King and Sally Evans of diehard publishers, Edinburgh, in the publication of his plays, and always just in time to coincide with productions. To date, 14 books, each containing two or more plays, have been published. Many of these are now out of print because Cargill Thompson sold

off autographed copies when the plays were produced, which he did with considerable charm and a

generous discount.

No-one who knew him is likely to forgot him. He had a strong, magnetic personality, lightened by a quick and mercurial wit, and occasionally whimsical humour which invariably made him great company. He especially enjoyed the company and banter of young actors, high on conversation about every aspect of theatre, strong coffee, vintage wine, Cuban cigars, and cigarettes long into the night.

He was highly observant about people, and shrewd in his judgments, yet often also egocentric. He did harbour resentments against what he took to be stuffy academics, politically-correct moralists, and shallow critics, even when these happened to be well-intentioned friends, but his sense of humour and joie-de-vivre quickly dispelled such moods.

John Cargill Thompson is survived by his sister, Helen, librarian at Strathclyde University; his first wife, Sheila, and their daughters, Perdita and Lilith; his second wife, Dorothea, and their daughters Jessica and Nerissa; and a baby grand-daughter, Esme.