On Thursday 15th August 2013, following a courageous 18 month-long battle with a rare type of cancer, the Melbourne amateur theatre community lost a dear friend, well-known performer and fervent supporter in Pip Smibert.
Pip began his career in non-professional theatre in 1968 while still a student at Monash University. His first major role was with the Toorak Players in Brendan Behan’s The Hostage. He appeared in several more plays and won the Toorak Players Best Actor award on three occasions. He also served on the committee.
'High Society', CLOC Musical Theatre, with Kelly Windle. Photo Courtesy Michael Kai Photography and CLOC Musical Theatre
In 1988 Pip made the transition to musical theatre, appearing as Captain von Trapp in Whitehorse Musical Theatre Company’s The Sound of Music. The following year he would appear in their production of The King and I. Just over a decade later, in 2000, Pip performed the role of Fredrick Egerman in A Little Night Music – a production that he was particularly proud to have been involved in. Night Music was the first of the six musicals he would appear in for CLOC. Gigi, Jekyll & Hyde (another production of which he was particularly proud), The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Boy from Oz and High Society would follow, and it was no coincidence that each production was directed by Chris Bradtke – a man he very much admired and enjoyed working with.
'A Little Night Music', CLOC Musical Theatre, with Sallyann Wilson. Photo Courtesy of CLOC Musical Theatre
However it was Pip’s love of community-based theatre, rather than his onstage portrayals, that will arguably be his most enduring memory. Pip recognised the important role community theatre plays in fostering talent and lifelong friendships and could very often be heard imparting encouragement, enquiring as to the whereabouts of former cast mates or expressing his dislike of the misuse of the word ‘amateur’. (Pip would quickly refer to its Latin derivative; “amatorem” meaning “lover” or “for the love of”. To say that he was fervent in his view that the word should not be used to reference sub-standard performances, would be an understatement!)
'Jekyll & Hyde', CLOC Musical Theatre, with Sally Hughes. Photo Courtesy Gavin D Andrew and CLOC Musical Theatre
A smiling face in many a theatre foyer, a wise and intelligent conversationalist, a humble and often self-effacing performer, a courageous, determined and optimistic fighter, a gentleman, a loving husband, father and grandfather and a kind and devoted friend, Pip, you will be missed by so many.
A Celebration of the life of Mr Pip SMIBERT will be held in The Como Room, Royal South Yarra Lawn Tennis Club, 310 Williams Rd N, Toorak on FRIDAY August 23, 2013 commencing at 2.00pm.
Pip is to be privately cremated.
In lieu of flowers, a donation to Peter Mac in memory of Pip would be appreciated. Envelopes available at the service.