Darke was born Nicholas Temperley Watson Darke in St Eval, near Padstow, on 29 August 1948. He followed in the footsteps of his actor mother, training as an actor at Rose Bruford College in Kent after finishing his schooling in Newquay. He learnt his craft at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke, where he acted in over 80 plays between 1971 and 1978.
Darke wrote his first play, Never Say Rabbit in a Boat, in 1978, after being commissioned by the theatre's director Peter Cheeseman. He also directed eight plays while at the Victoria, and wrote a version of Mother Goose and an adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel, after which he returned to Cornwall to write full-time.
Darke’s plays included The Body, The Dead Monkey and Kissing the Pope (all staged at the RSC), The Oven Glove Murders (at the Bush) and Catch (at the Royal Court) and The Riot (performed by Kneehigh at the National in 1999). He worked extensively with Kneehigh, the Cornwall-based company. In addition to The Riot, he collaborated with Kneehigh on Danger My Ally, The Bogus and The King of Prussia, all of which also toured extensively.
Darke died of cancer aged 56, on 10 June 2005, survived by his wife, the painter and filmmaker Jane Darke, his son Henry and stepson Jamie.
Director Roger Michell, who is organising the tribute, said: “Nick was one of our most successful and prolific playwrights. His work has been seen all over the world, particularly at the National Theatre and the RSC, so it’s appropriate to have a celebration here at the National. He was passionate about the Cornish countryside, and all his plays, wherever they’re set, have some kind of Cornish connection.”
He added: “A group of actors and directors who worked with him will read some scenes from his plays and show clips from his films and from his documentaries. It is to celebrate all aspects of his life and his family are very much involved, and anyone is welcome to come along.”
The memorial takes place at 6.00pm this Friday in the NT Olivier Stalls Foyer. For further information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- by Caroline Ansdell