Community mourns loss of prominent theatre figure

INSPIRATIONAL: Actor, drama teacher and devoted family man John Crouch is being remembered for being a key figure in the region's performing arts fraternity.

INSPIRATIONAL: Actor, drama teacher and devoted family man John Crouch is being remembered for being a key figure in the region’s performing arts fraternity.

TRIBUTES are flowing today for prominent Mount Gambier actor, theatre producer and drama teacher John Crouch, who passed away after battling cancer.

A nationally renowned performer, John has been remembered as an inspirational and “infectious” figure in the region’s performing arts community.

The talented actor died last Thursday surrounded by his family, aged 64.

John’s son Darcy yesterday described his much loved father as “loving, playful and a devoted family man”.

“His unwavering belief in me is the inspiration for all that I am today,” Darcy said.

Darcy said his father also had an eternal love for his wife Deborah, who was his biggest supporter behind the scenes throughout his life.

“When the curtain closed, mum was his guiding light – their love traversed all.”

A larger than life figure with a perennial passion and talent for theatre, John inspired a myriad of young people to follow their dreams in acting and theatre production.

One of John’s closest friends, Jamie Harding – who collaborated closely with John over many years to produce theatre productions – described his death as a “massive loss to the community”.

“John’s death is devastating news,” Mr Harding told The Border Watch yesterday.

Mr Harding said his former high school teacher was a key driver in the formation of Mount Gambier performing arts company Gener8 Theatre, which filled the void after the demise of Mainstreet Theatre.

“John was a giant inspiration, the dearest of friends and an amazing mentor.

“Through Gener8, his legacy will live on,” he said.

Mr Harding revealed John touched the lives of so many people across the community.

“When you walked down the street with him, people would shout out from across the street to say ‘hello Crouchie’ – he was a local celebrity,” he said.

Oozing creativity, John’s passion for theatre never faded, even during his cancer journey.

“Right up to the end John remained passionate about the arts and the need to create new works,” Mr Harding said.

Explaining John had carved a long career in theatre, television and movies, he said one of his most recent works was Gener8’s innovative In the Pines production.

“Gener8 was the first company in Australia to incorporate virtual reality into the realm of theatre,” Mr Harding said.

TALENTED: John Crouch takes to the stage during a performance of In The Pines at the Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre.

In a beautiful family connection, Darcy Crouch acted alongside his father in the gripping stage play.

Through his role at the Mount Gambier High School as a highly respected drama teacher, John’s encouragement and mentoring resulted in a long list of students entering the performing arts sector.

“Every single student who walked through the doors of his classroom, he lifted them up to reach their full potential,” Mr Harding said.

Actor Jack Ellis – who has risen to national stardom – yesterday paid tribute to his former teacher and mentor.

“I met John when I was 12 years old at Mount Gambier High School. He pushed me to complete Year 12 drama as a Year 10 student,” Jack said.

“He was the first person who mentioned the National Institute of Dramatic Arts to me as a possibility. He is directly responsible for me chasing this crazy acting dream.

” (John) will be forever remembered and cherished as a beautifully energetic and charismatic soul.”

Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre manager Frank Morello described John as a dedicated professional whose passion for theatre and love for life made him an endearing figure.

“He was a charismatic, wickedly funny, larger-than-life personality whose fertile mind was always ticking over,” Mr Morello said.

“He was a man of many words with a charming ability to draw you into his world. I do not recall having a conversation with John without laughing. He was infectious.

“It was always a joy walking backstage during rehearsals for In The Pines and watching him at work.

“He always made time for a meaningful chat and that is what made him so special.”

Mr Crouch has a long list of professional theatre credits with the Troupe Theatre Company, State Theatre Company of South Australia, State Opera of South Australia and Main Street Theatre Company.

His feature film credits include Struck by Lightning, The Time Guardian and Kite Circuit.

Television credits include The River Kings, The Alien Years, Finders Keepers and Push Start.

Mr Crouch was also the inspiration behind Colour Darker Than Black, which went on to win a Ruby Award for innovation.

The community is invited to attend a memorial this Saturday at the Wehl Street Theatre at 2pm to celebrate John’s life.