Peter Wolf obituary

Other lives: Award-winning radio, opera and theatre writer

My husband, Peter Wolf, who has died of pancreatic cancer aged 59, was an award-winning radio, opera and theatre writer.

Not many people have their first play performed on the main stage at the Barbican theatre. Even fewer have a cast of David Haig, Nat Parker and Simon Russell Beale. But Peter’s audacious Cargo Cult for the Royal Shakespeare Company festival in 1987 marked the beginning of a 32-year scriptwriting career.

Actors were drawn to the vitality of his dialogue and critical success came with productions of his plays The Last Crusade, Raising Mrs Rossetti, The Golem and The Spirit of Jack Cade. However, in 1990 Peter became chronically ill with an immune condition after contracting glandular fever. He couldn’t hold a pen and, having previously rattled off scripts with ferocious intensity, he was reduced at one point to writing no more than a word an hour.

Nevertheless, my husband was determined to pursue his passion. His first radio play, Volcano, was produced for the BBC in 1996 by Cherry Cookson, and starred Juliet Stevenson, who won a Sony award for her performance. Numerous successes followed: Crossing the Line (2001), which brought to life the moral crises facing a guard stationed at the US-Mexican border, won the gold medal for best drama at the International Festival of Radio in New York. Over six years, Peter wrote 15 radio plays for the BBC.

Into the Mystic, exploring the physical and psychological torment of disease, was commissioned by Jenny Sealey at Graeae Theatre in east London in 2000 via Peter’s inclusion on the Disabled Writers Mentoring Scheme, with Mark Ravenhill acting as Peter’s script mentor. Peter said: “Whenever I complete something, I get a feeling of real joy that I’ve got one over on my illness.”

He was born Rod Siddall in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, one of four children of Brenda (nee Alpe), a librarian, and Don Siddall, a painter and advertising executive. Music was Rod’s first artistic interest before attending Bangor University where he studied history, with a special interest in art history. He and I met there through the dramatic society, and married in my native Los Angeles five years later, in 1982. Along with Ade Morris and Colin Taylor, we toured southern California as the political pop group You Ludo Youth. However, Rod soon transferred his energies to scriptwriting as a full-time occupation, using the pseudonym Peter Wolf.

Writing libretti for the composer Norbert Zehm meant his work has been performed in Austria, Germany, Italy and the UK, and frequently broadcast across Europe. At the Euro 2008 football tournament their anthem Field of Tirol was adopted by one of the host cities, Innsbruck, and recorded by the rock band Black Sand.

As part of its Remembrance Day schedule, the BBC has regularly rebroadcast Strange Meeting, Peter’s 1998 radio play about the poet Wilfred Owen, starring Alex Jennings and Paul Rhys. This November, Peter and Norbert’s chamber opera of the play was presented to great acclaim in Austria.

Rod is survived by me and our daughter, Rebecca, and by his brothers, Jonny and Jerry. His sister, Carolyn, predeceased him.

The essence of Rod’s personality was to see the beauty and goodness in everything, full of hope and potential. His humour, warmth and imagination will be greatly missed by his family.

Leona Heimfeld

The GuardianTramp

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