Obituary: 'Exceptionally talented' actor Peter dies aged 68

Norwich actor Peter Sweet was "adventurous and exceptionally talented"

Norwich actor Peter Sweet was "adventurous and exceptionally talented" - Credit: Clare Howard

People from across the globe have paid tribute to an "exceptionally talented" actor who graced stages in the city. 

Peter Sweet was born in the UK but moved with his parents to South Africa when he was a toddler. 

His parents worked for the church and were active in the anti-apartheid movement. 

When Peter, one of six siblings, was 11 his family moved back to the UK where they lived and worked in a clergy in Welling. 

When Peter left school he travelled across the globe as a tour guide, working largely in Texas. 

Peter Sweet as King Henry II, Mel Sessions as Eleanor of Aquitaine

Peter Sweet as King Henry II, Mel Sessions as Eleanor of Aquitaine, directed by Clare Howard in The Lion in Winter at the Maddermarket - Credit: Peter King

He then returned to the UK in 1976 where he attended Dartington College of Arts where he studied drama therapy. 

His classes at the progressive theatre and performance school sparked what would become a lifelong career and saw him treading the boards across Norfolk. 

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Peter moved East in the 1980s to work with his brother in Beccles having married his wife Becky. 

The pair had daughter Sara and in 1993 Peter and his child moved to Norwich. 

Pygmalion at Sewell Barn Theatre. Peter Sweet as Henry Higgins, Elena Hewett as Eliza Doolittle.

Pygmalion at Sewell Barn Theatre. Peter Sweet as Henry Higgins, Elena Hewett as Eliza Doolittle. - Credit: Clare Howard

It was a number of years later that Peter met Clare Howard who went on to become his partner of more than 20 years. 

Clare said: "Peter was an exceptionally talented actor. He had this freshness about him which really made him stand out when he was on stage.

"Because of how progressive Dartington was he was very different when he was on stage - he was a hugely physical actor and that meant he had a real presence, you always knew where he was. 

"He also had a fantastic voice. He was very well spoken but had slight intonations to it because of the time he spent in South Africa and Texas."

Dead Funny, Norwich Playhouse Company. Peter as Richard and Kirsten May as Eleanor.

Dead Funny, Norwich Playhouse Company. Peter as Richard and Kirsten May as Eleanor. - Credit: Clare Howard

The pair met through the theatre as they both frequently worked on productions at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich's Saint John's Alley. 

As well as working as an actor and tutor Peter also had a range of jobs including decorating and life modelling. 

"He was such an alive person. He was always on the go, he was so physically active," Clare added.

"He went to Italy and trained in yoga with one of famous teacher Iyengar's students and he was incredibly strong and flexible, which I think really supported the presence he had on stage. 

"He was also always on his bike. He'd go out in the morning and then I'd get a call at lunchtime and he was half way across the county. 

The Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich. Picture: Denise Bradley

The Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

"He also loved swimming and would jump into any tempting open water."

Peter's first home in Norwich was Costessey before moving to the centre of the city. 

Clare said: "We was so interested in people. It didn't matter who you were he always wanted to hear your story. 

"It didn't matter if you were someone sleeping rough or if you were landed gentry, he'd always listen to you and put a hand on your shoulder."

Peter was also a fan of gardening and spent many hours in the allotment with Clare. 

He also loved poetry, Clare said: "His favourites were Dylan Thomas and TS Eliot.

"He enjoyed music too. I think his time in Texas influenced some of his taste, he adored Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen.

"I think theatre was his real love though - that was where most people knew him from. Not everyone always agreed with him but since he died so many people have got in touch to say what an inspiration he was and how much they learned from him over the years. 

"He was so exceptionally talented. He was a brilliant Richard III especially."

Peter died on November 27 aged 68 after a prolonged illness. 

He leaves behind daughter Sara as well as two grandchildren. 

His funeral service, which took place on December 22, was streamed online and saw mourners from three continents tune in. 

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