Life and career
Richard Wherrett was born in 1940; his elder brother was the future motoring journalist Peter Wherrett. He was educated at Trinity Grammar School in Sydney. He attended the University of Sydney with Clive James, Germaine Greer, Bruce Beresford, Ken Horler, Mungo McCallum, Bob Ellis, John Bell, John Gaden, Laurie Oakes and Les Murray.
He attended Trinity Grammar School, and later taught English and Ancient History there for four years. In 1965 he went to London and worked with the E15 Acting School. On return to Australia he became associate director to Robin Lovejoy at the Old Tote Theatre Company. In 1970 he joined John Bell at the Nimrod Theatre Company.
He was the founding director of the Sydney Theatre Company. He directed 127 professional theatre productions. In 1972, he directed the first performance of The Sweatproof Boy, first play written by Alma De Groen, of whom he directed most of early works. In 1987, he directed his first grand opera for the Victoria State Opera at the State Theatre Melbourne. Turandot, Giacomo Puccini's final opera, was a lavish production starring Corneliu Murgu, Olivia Stapp and Glenys Fowles, with the State Orchestra of Victoria conducted by Richard Divall.
Richard Wherett was the creative director for the lighting of the torch segment of the Opening Ceremony for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
With his brother Peter he wrote a memoir, Desirelines. He also wrote The Floor of Heaven: My Life in Theatre in 2000.
Richard and Peter Wherrett's father was a cross-dresser, and an abusive and violent alcoholic. Peter also became a cross-dresser. Richard knew he was gay from the age of 17. Nevertheless, he had a well-publicised relationship with the actress Jacki Weaver in the 1970s.
He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1984 for his services to the theatre.
Death and funeral
Richard Wherrett died of liver failure on 7 December 2001, three days before his 61st birthday, after 15 years warding off the effects of HIV. His funeral service was held at St John's Anglican Church, Darlinghurst, with ushers provided by the Sydney Opera House. The General Manager of the Opera House, Michael Lynch, dimmed the lights on the Opera House sails in what Jacki Weaver called "a movingly fitting tribute."
- Richard Wherrett (2000). The floor of heaven : my life in theatre. Sydney : Hodder Headline. ISBN 0-7336-1049-8.
- Philip Parsons, Victoria Chance (Ed.) (1995). Companion to theatre in Australia. Sydney : Currency Press in association with Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-86819-357-7.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Jacki Weaver (2005). Much love, Jac x. Crows Nest, N.S.W. : Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-74114-618-6.
- Live Performance Australia - Richard Wherrett AM 1940-2001 Retrieved 22 September 2012
- Hince, Kenneth. The Victoria State Opera [online]. Meanjin, Vol. 43, No. 1, Autumn 1984: 123–128. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=906314389337341;res=IELLCC> ISSN 0025-6293. [cited 30 May 2013]
- David Leser, "The Demons That Drive Richard Wherrett", Sydney Morning Herald, CorkFloor, 9 June 1995. Retrieved 9 July 2013
- It's an Honour
- Much Love, Jac; Jacki Weaver (Allen & Unwin) 2005, p.257