|Info 6e, Ian McClymont||Close info Window|
|Croquet Matters, January 2019|
Whilst we do not, as a rule, include obituaries in Croquet Matters, we felt that special mention should be made of the December Dominion Post notice relating to the death of former Rose Gardens member, Ian McClymont, in his 100th year.
A long standing AC player, Ian had a unique style of play, with a very short mallet, but was deadly accurate and his last recorded AC handicap (2011) was 2.5.
A fantastic achievement for a player well into his 90’s
Ian McClymont's role as the comically bossy and aggressive caretaker in Roger Hall's classic play Glide Time was about as far from his real character as you could get, but McClymont, described as one of life's old-school gentlemen, took on the role with gusto, morphing into the draconian public service caretaker Wally, best described as a parking warden on steroids.
So successful was the 1976 play that it was moved from Wellington's tiny Circa Theatre to the Opera House, earning the fledgling troupe enough money for new seats in its theatre, then in the Ilott Advertising building.
McClymont, who had no formal training as an actor, was a founding member of Circa, which started earlier that year. There was little money in the early days and he, along with other founding members, put in the hard graft to fit out the theatre at weekly working bees to get it up and running. But his Circa days were towards the end of his acting career.
He had been a stalwart of the early arts scene in Wellington, joining the newly formed Unity Theatre in 1943. The theatre troupe was a forerunner to all other theatres in the city.
Ian McClymont was born in Masterton, but spent his childhood in Whanganui.
While his mother raised him and his three siblings, his father worked in life insurance and later manufacturing porcelain dolls.
He came to Wellington during the war years, joining the air force, though he never saw active duty. McClymont joined the New Zealand Airforce during World war II.
It was once he moved to the capital that McClymont, who had grown up interested and influenced by American movies of the 1930s and 40s, began feeding his interest in acting at Unity Theatre.
Unity started in Wellington in the early 1940s as an agitprop, anti-fascist theatre intent on taking its message to the people. It was inspired by the radical ideas of Group Theatre in New York, Unity in London and, closer to home, Ron Meek's People's Theatre in Hamilton.
He joined Unity in the early years when it was morphing from an agitprop group into an avant garde theatre company, the first of its kind in New Zealand.
Ian McClymont was a potter and an actor.
He was one of the theatre's longest-serving associates, sitting on various committees as well as taking lead roles in some of Unity's most memorable productions, such as Of Mice and Men and View from the Bridge.
Unity Theatre was the seeding ground for the rise of alternative theatre, and its practitioners included many of Wellington's best-known actors and directors. Downstage and, later, Circa were direct descendants of Unity, as was the first New Zealand Drama School Toi Whakaari.
People involved with Unity over the years included Bruce Mason, James K Baxter (both of whom wrote plays specifically for Unity), Nola Millar, George Webby, Grant Tilly, and McClymont's second wife, Anne Flannery. His first wife, Letty, died some years earlier.
He had met Flannery, who became a well-known actor on stage and screen, after seeing her perform in a play. They married in 1958 and went on to have two sons and a daughter.
In the early Unity years, McClymont went to see New Zealand actor, drama producer and teacher Maria Dronke for advice on his harsh, unpredictable voice and recounted her judgment: "You are a cracked vessel, Ian, and there is no way I can mend you."
Undeterred, he went on to play a huge variety of roles demanding a strong commanding physical and psychological presence.
Unity folded in the mid-1970s and McClymont, along with a bunch of other mainstays of the city's theatre scene, founded Circa. McClymont starred in one of its biggest shows, Glide Time.
Ian McClymont stared in many Unity Theatre productions
before he became a founding member of Circa Theatre.
He went on to star on television, including roles on classic Kiwi soap Close To Home, and Country GP. His artistic prowess extended beyond theatre. He dabbled in painting, favouring self-portraits but his main creative outlet became pottery. By day, McClymont had worked repairing cash registers and addressing machines but, when an opportunity arose to open a pottery studio and shop at the Settlement in Willis St – a hub for the wider arts community – he jumped at it, opening Ian's Pot Shop, complete with kiln.
He was in fine company, with the gregarious Harry Seresin, who ran the neighbouring restaurant.
McClymont had the gas-fired kiln working at night, back in the days when health and safety were an afterthought. He was surprised one evening to receive a call from the fire brigade informing him the kiln was on fire.
During this time, he also taught night and weekend classes at Wellington High School's Community Education Centre.
When the Settlement closed down, McClymont moved to Otaki, where he continued as a practising and teaching potter. But, as a master of reinvention, he took up a new role – as a croquet player. Naturally competitive, he went on to become the North Island champion in the sport for his age group, beating many other players decades younger than himself.
He is survived by his children.
Sources: Victoria University (A Popular Vision: The Arts and the Left in New Zealand 1930-50), Jackie Matthews, Ross Jolly.
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© JCC Glass
Updated 23rd February 2019