Born: February 24, 1932;

Died: April 8, 2021.

PETER Terson, who has died aged 89 after suffering from Parkinson’s disease, was a playwright who brought to the stage and screen authentic representations of working-class culture inspired by his childhood in the industrial north-east of England.

His first major success, Zigger Zagger, staged at the Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre, London, by the National Youth Theatre in 1967, opened a window on the world of football hooliganism.

The 90-strong cast stood in a specially constructed stand, singing their irreverent comments and chants such as “Zigger zagger! Oi! Oi! Oi!”, with some stepping out on to the stage, Greek chorus-style, to play their featured roles.

Beyond football and its story of teenage hooligans and tribalism, Terson’s underlying message was about the futility facing many young people on leaving school as they go through a series of dead-end jobs.

The ground-breaking play was the first original work to be performed by the National Youth Theatre since it was founded 11 years earlier. Artistic director Michael Croft saw Terson as someone who could write for young people without patronising them, while critics called the production the first “football opera”.

When the BBC filmed a performance of Zigger Zagger for broadcast, there were complaints about the foul language, but it became Terson’s best-known and most enduring work. It was staged by a professional cast at London’s Strand Theatre the next year, tours and revivals followed and, in 2017, Wilton’s Music Hall, London, presented a 50th-anniversary production.

The original was staged three years after the playwright had begun ploughing his distinctive furrow at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke, a theatre-in-the-round (with the performers surrounded by the audience).

While teaching at a Worcestershire school, Terson started sending plays set in the Vale of Evesham to its artistic director, Peter Cheeseman. The first to be produced, in 1964, was A Night to Make the Angels Weep.

Two years later, Terson gave up teaching and, funded by an Arts Council grant, became the company’s resident dramatist. His plays often weaved menace into otherwise “ordinary” situations and he helped to pioneer the documentary theatre movement that regional venues were developing, reflecting their communities and using naturalistic dialogue.

When, in 1966, Terson adapted Arnold Bennett’s short story Jock-at-a-Venture as the musical Jock on the Go, Croft saw the show and commissioned Zigger Zagger – which had to accommodate a large cast, in contrast to the small numbers in Stoke, demonstrating the playwright’s versatility.

His next work for Croft’s company, The Apprentices (1968), set in Yorkshire, was a natural successor in showing the bleak outlook for young people learning trades. As a boy, Terson lived within view of a factory where most of his classmates ended up. Again, this play was filmed by the BBC.

On his retirement from the National Youth Theatre in 1986, Croft said his happiest time had been during “the Terson years”. The playwright enjoyed long creative partnerships with both Croft and Cheeseman, but he also wrote significant socio-political plays for others.

In 1984, he was back on his home ground tackling the dismantling of industry by the Thatcher government. Strippers, based on a real-life revelation about wives turning to shedding their clothes in the north-east of England’s pubs and clubs to pay mortgages and put food on the table after their miner and shipyard worker husbands were made redundant, was first performed by the TyneWear Theatre Company in 1984 at the Newcastle Playhouse.

After a tour, it was staged in London’s West End, at the Phoenix Theatre, the following year, with Bill Maynard and Lynda Bellingham starring. The Stage wrote: “His gritty writing deftly captures both the grim humour and the depression of a region which has been stripped of virtually every asset.”

Terson was also prolific on television. His first Wednesday Play was Mooney and His Caravans (1966), about a couple victimised by a site owner. He followed it with The Last Train Through the Harecastle Tunnel (1969), featuring a trainspotter uncovering repressed homosexuality, paedophilia and other dark secrets among characters he encounters.

A Play for Today trilogy about three Derbyshire miner friends enjoying their times together away from the pit demonstrated most successfully the humour in Terson’s writing.

It began with The Fishing Party (1972), set in Whitby and originally made as a radio play the previous year, and was followed by Shakespeare – or Bust (1973), following the trio on a canal barge trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, and Three for the Fancy (1974), with a visit to a country show.

Terson was born Peter Patterson in Wallsend, Northumberland, in 1932 to Jane (née Best) and Peter Patterson Sr, a joiner.

On leaving Newcastle upon Tyne Technical College, he worked in a drawing office before doing national service as a radio operator in the RAF and attending Redland Training College, Bristol (1953-55). After a short spell as a teacher around Newcastle, he taught history and PE at Blackminster County Secondary School, Worcestershire.

He changed his name to Terson when he started writing because he thought Patterson was “a bit of a mouthful”.

His plays were performed around the world and, alongside those in Stoke (1964-84) and a dozen staged by the National Youth Theatre (1967-97), he wrote new works for other community-minded companies.

In 1955, Terson married Sheila Bailey, who survives him, along with their children Neil and Janie. He was predeceased by their son Bruce.