Touching final ‘review’ of celebrated Lancaster arts critic

Michael Nunn.
Michael Nunn.

Lancaster arts critic and longtime Guardian reviewer Michael Nunn has died, aged 63. His friend Ben Muir from Morecambe-based theatre company Little Gargoyle pays tribute to Michael with a review the man himself would have been proud of.

If you are part of the Lancaster and Morecambe theatre community then you will have heard of the name Michael Nunn.

In fact it might be fairer to say, if you haven’t heard of the name Michael Nunn then you’re not part of the Lancaster and Morecambe theatre community.

Michael has taken his final curtain call and our community lost a gentleman of the arts. A prolific reviewer for both local and national press his was the unmistakable chortle you wanted to hear from the darkness of the auditorium on opening night.

For those of us who craved his adoring praise or feared his acerbic wit we must remember something else.

Michael, along with his partner (in crime) John were the most prolific supporters of the Lancaster and Morecambe arts scene that our community has known.

From amateur to professional, student productions to national tours. Opera, panto, music, theatre, new work and old. He would always be willing to enjoy – or sometimes endure – new experiences to widen his artistic palette, and was always there after the show to offer his congratulations to the team, to take the time to chat to the actors and producers and offer his support, knowledge and encouragement if it was solicited.

‘Reviews mean nothing’ is often the rallying cry that can be heard from the acting community.

It is a cry that none of us really mean. Reviews mean everything and for over a decade the voice of Michael Nunn was the one that would herald our work to a wider audience, would help promote a lesser known studio production across the region, would encourage young actors to keep thriving towards their dream, would fill a company with elation when they read in black and white that the show they had produced was relished.

To say that Michael was a reviewer somewhat belittles the contribution he has made to the arts scene.

He was so much more than that.

He was a friend to our community. A friend to the arts and a friend to me and I for one will miss that chortle in the dark.

Unique and unrivalled. One of a kind. I give Michael Nunn four and a half stars. He lost half a star because in my opinion his final exit was taken far too soon.

*Michael Nunn was born in Leeds in 1953.

He attended Leeds Grammar School then later studied music at Durham University graduating with a 2.2 in 1971.

He started teaching at Dover Grammar School for Boys, then taught in other colleges and universities and even a prison across the north.

Michael began his reviewing with a Leeds based arts magazine called Northern Star in the late ‘70s early ‘80s.

He met his partner John Burkinshaw in Scarborough and they moved to Lancaster in 2002.

In 2006 they celebrated their civil partnership at the Ashton Memorial.

He died on February 22 of a lung infection, aged 63.