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News > Obituaries > Obituary - Kerry Lee Crabbe (OI 1957-64)

Obituary - Kerry Lee Crabbe (OI 1957-64)

We are sorry to announce the passing of Kerry Lee Crabbe in March 2024.
19 Mar 2024
Written by Tina Harvey
Obituaries

Kerry will be missed by his family and friends.

We are conscious that some people from the time when Kerry was at the School may not be in contact with us and we would ask if you could pass on this information to those that you know.

As is the usual practice, we would like to place an obituary for Kerry in the 2023-24 OI Journal and would be very grateful for any stories or memories you may wish to share which we could put together for the publication. Please address any contributions to me through oldipswichians@ipswich.school

Nicholas Allen

OI Chairman

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My friend Kerry Lee Crabbe, a playwright, screenwriter, lyricist and teacher, who has died aged 77, described himself as a “freelance human”.

A passionate belief in human rights was something he shared with Harold Pinter, a friend and mentor over several decades. This led to Kerry’s happiest experience: adapting Pinter’s novel The Dwarfs for the stage. It was filmed and screened on BBC4 in 2002 and produced at the Tricycle theatre in 2003.

At Cambridge University in the late 1960s, he acted (including as a memorable Playboy of the Western World), directed, and wrote plays and sketches for the Footlights. After university he became a trainee at Granada Television, and while there helped adapt Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1976), produced by and starring Laurence Olivier.

For his play Rough Magic (1980), he was nominated most promising playwright by the Evening Standard, but despite critical acclaim, Kerry often felt his work never lived up to that promise and he had bouts of severe depression.

Despite this, he wrote and adapted several plays and 10 screenplays including Memoirs of a Survivor (1981), based on Doris Lessing’s novel. His favourite was The Playboys (1992), starring Albert Finney. Its producer, Simon Perry, has written that what made Kerry a fine writer of drama was his own human warmth, which he lent to his characters.

Kerry was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, to Joan (nee Mason), who worked for the Inland Revenue, and Lee Crabbe, a project manager for the design of farm machinery. He went to Ipswich school and then to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1965 to study English.

As well as writing, Kerry was an engaged and inspiring teacher, first at the National Film and Television School and later for the Royal Literary Fund, the Open University, Kingston and Roehampton universities, the London Film School and London Film Academy. He also, increasingly, taught abroad, particularly enjoying his work in Africa, Asia and Cuba, where he was an honorary professor at the Latin-American film school founded by Fidel Castro and Gabriel García Márquez.

He wrote many song lyrics with his composer friend Daryl Runswick, writing, as he said (quoting Pinter), “with his left hand”. An album of their songs, One More Day (1981), was recorded by Cleo Laine.

Kerry’s first marriage ended in divorce, and his second wife died of cancer, as did one of his partners from his several other relationships. He never stopped caring for all his partners. You can’t just stop caring, he wrote to me, adding that his therapist said this made his life complicated. Humans are complicated, he replied.

He is survived by his sister, Bridget, and two nephews and a niece.

Antoinette Moses the Guardian

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I was very sorry to read that Kerry has died. He was in the same class as me until we went our separate ways in the 6th  form. I remember him as being very artistic, always very polite too. I think he went onto big things in directing plays in London. I last met up with him at the 50th anniversary of my year at the summer luncheon 2014. Sadly another one gone since that reunion. We weren't close friends but I had a lot of respect for his acting talents at school. Seem to remember he produced a form play 'Dr Faustus' where he dragged us mere mortals into trying to be actors!!

RIP Kerry

David Wilson OI 1954-65  

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Kerry & I were friends throughout his time at Ipswich School.

We first met up when Kerry joined the Senior School in 1957. At the time Kerry lived just a few houses away from me in Tuddenham Road, Ipswich.

Throughout his time at the School, Kerry always had a leaning towards “The Arts”. He performed in many plays including Peer Gynt, Doctor Faustus, Volpone, Major Barbara and others. He even tried his hand at Producing some. Whilst at the school he also wrote several plays, and was a member of the Literary and Dramatic Society.

I remember there was a small group of us namely Kerry Crabbe (1957-64), Steve Watson (1959-64) David Friend (1952-63), and myself (1953-64) and we would sometimes meet up after school. In our teenage years, I recall we used to go to parties at David Friend’s parents’ house in Lower Road, Westerfield, when they were out! Those were the days when you had to rely on your parents to ferry you there and back.

The four of us would sometimes sneak off to the notorious Gondolier coffee bar in Upper Brook Street, Ipswich. The “Gon” as it was colloquially known, was downstairs in a cellar below the shop which sold and roasted coffee beans  -  a very evocative roasted coffee aroma always wafted around the junction with the Buttermarket. The Gondolier was well known locally, as it was the first espresso coffee bar to open in Ipswich, having been opened in 1957 by the glamour model Sabrina – it closed in 1964. I remember the coffee bar was very crowded, dimly lit and we would sit around chatting and making a cup of coffee last for ages listening to The Beatles, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Freddy & The Dreamers and many others on the Jukebox.

Kerry left Ipswich School in 1964 and went on to Trinity, Cambridge to read English. He continued to write and adapt many plays, which were performed on television and in theatres. He taught in many institutions at home and abroad.

I was very pleased to have known Kerry and been one of his school friends, my only regret was that we lost touch with each other after leaving school.

John Skeates OI 1953-64

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I remember he was fond of Fives, and quite skilled at the game, but for me, likewise an Ipswichian by birth, but mine two years before that of Kerry's, his name will irrevocably be associated with his own, single-handed production of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus which was  performed in the then newly constructed Great School in early 1963. Preparations for the production were launched with an audition in Sherwood Block's Room Ten one afternoon after school.

As far as I can recall, no staff were involved with the mounting of this work; Kerry led the way with a seemingly effortless and certainly inspired visionary energy. Doctor Faustus, most likely to have been the first dramatisation of the Faust legend when it was written in either 1592 or 1593, is in blank verse with prose tending to be reserved for the comic scenes, and charts the protagonist's inexorable movement towards the dark arts when science, logic, theology and law have been perceived by Faustus to have failed him. Historically, the play has disturbed people due to its dramatic interaction with the demonic realm, and for some reason and after sixty years, I have no explanation for this, but Kerry asked me to play Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, a rôle I was to fulfill on the Great School stage that was to see me entering the action from the wings dressed like a Hollywood mogul and smoking a cigarette. Demonic music was required, and so excerpts from the works of the modernist American composer Edgar Varése embellished the evening's performance with their apocalyptic outbursts and crushing brass crescendos as Faustus, having rejected God and admitted to some of his scholars that he has bargained away his soul, is finally propelled into the jaws of Hell.

All this was over sixty years ago. Thank you Kerry, for this intense and matchless experience.

Richard Staines OI 1951-63

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The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2024/mar/15/kerry-lee-crabbe-obituary

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