While 87-year-old Peter Terson was busy working on his latest creative projects in a garden cabin in Ross, theatregoers in New York were applauding an operatic adaptation of his play Aesop’s Fables.

News that the work had been adapted by its original director Mark Dornford-May for his company Isango Ensemble to perform at the New Victory Theatre on 42nd Street came out of the blue.

“I hadn’t spoken to Mark for a long time. Then I got a phone call saying ‘We’re on in New York’ which was quite a surprise.”

Peter had worked with Mark Dornford-May when he was resident dramatist at the Victoria Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent. “He was a young director full of youth and hope. He asked me to write him a Christmas play for children. His girlfriend was the designer on the production. We were a happy band. He’s since gone out to live in South Africa where he’s set up his own company in Cape Town.”

Born and raised in Newcastle, Peter Terson trained as a teacher in Bristol, where he met his future wife, Sheila. Having briefly returned to Newcastle he moved to the Vale of Evesham where he taught PE. “I’ve no idea why. It was eight years of agony. I spent my time writing plays in the changing rooms!” He said. The area, however, inspired many of his plays.

His big break came when he sent one of them to Peter Cheeseman, who immediately recognised his potential and took him on as resident dramatist at the Victoria Theatre (where Alan Ayckbourn also started his career). He went on to direct more than 20 of his plays, from ‘A Night to Make the Angels Weep’ in 1964 to ‘Rumplestiltskin’ in 1984. Cheeseman was credited with pioneering theatre in the round, an innovation which Peter says he found ‘very liberating’.

It was while at Stoke that his first TV and radio plays were presented and he gained a reputation for adapting novels by Arnold Bennett and Herman Melville, including Bennett’s ‘Clayhanger’ and ‘Anna of the Five Towns’.

As a result of his success in Stoke, he was invited to write for the National Youth Theatre.

See the full story in this week’s edition of the Ross Gazette.