Peter Lathan was born and bred as the son of a Methodist pitman in Sunderland, coming from a family whose roots in the North East can be traced back to 1715.
His first experience of theatre performance arrived at the age of 13 in 1956 playing Marion in a school production of Sean O'Casey's Cock-a-Doodle Dandy. This led to a lifelong addiction to the art form. In his own words, “the Performing Arts is not a career but a way of life. It’s not what you do, but what you are.”
Following attendance at all-boys Bede Grammar School Sunderland, he completed his education at King’s College, Cambridge University reading Classics for one year before switching to English. It was there in 1966 that he directed his first production (a Chekhov one-acter, The Anniversary).
On graduating, he joined Sunderland Drama Club (now the Royalty Theatre) and was author of a book to commemorate its golden jubilee, Fifty years on: Sunderland Drama Club, 1925-1975.
Instead of restricting himself to one aspect, at various points in his life, Peter was an actor, a director, a playwright, an artistic director, an educator, and author, PR officer, lighting designer and house manager. He even became a highly regarded official photographer at the region’s theatres, also supplying photographs for the book Laughing Mirrours: A Selection Of Poems Chronological by Layton Ring in 1965.
Rather than pursuing a full-time career in theatre, he preferred to share his enthusiasm with young people, spending over three decades working as a school drama teacher. As a playwright, his first play professionally performed (The Passion, a version of the medieval Mystery Plays) was produced in 1975. He directed more than 70 productions with school and youth groups and professional companies primarily with KG Productions, a company he founded in 1999.
He directed more than 35 plays from new writing (the company commissioned, produced and toured novelist Chaz Brenchley's first play A Cold Coming) to classics, including a full-length musical, a number of pantos, touring TIE shows and corporate work for a wide variety of clients and was commissioned to write and direct The South Tyneside Story for the Millennium Dome. His plays have been produced throughout the UK, and in the US, Germany and India.
Far ahead of the pack, in 1995 he identified the scope that online publishing could provide for the arts, developing a School Show Page on CompuServe. From 1997 to 2001, he was employed by The Mining Company, subsequently About.com (New York), to run a web site on British Theatre and then set up and became founding Editor of the British Theatre Guide in 2001. After stepping down as Editor in January 2012, he continued to act as North East Editor and wrote a column for North East Bylines until a few weeks before his death.
In 2009, he was invited by the Customs House, South Shields to direct an open-air, site-specific version of The Tempest, the first in an annual summer Shakespeare in the Park event using an ensemble of some of the region's leading professional actors and in 2010, he directed Romeo and Juliet.
He also wrote and directed three Customs House community plays which featured a large amateur cast and musicians and a professional creative and production team and devised and directed small-scale touring productions of themed Shakespeare compilations.
Between 1968 and 1980, he regularly contributed to The Stage, Cabaret and Variety Revue and Musicians Only and had a two-year spell as theatre correspondent for BBC Radio Newcastle. His magnum opus was It's Behind You: The Story of Panto (New Holland Publishers 2003).
He taught drama in schools and with youth theatres, ran an introductory course for would-be playwrights, a two-year drama course for adults under the auspices of a local Adult and Community Learning department and introduced drama as a therapy for recovering addicts and adults with severe learning disabilities.
He served on arts-related council committees, did PR, front of house management and lighting design for the St David's Arts Festival as well as appearing there as an actor and director and ran a range of drama workshops in primary and secondary schools and undertook consultancy work, specifying equipment and design for school theatres and drama studios.
In the '70s, he was Chair of the board of management of the Wearabout Theatre Company, a professional company in Sunderland. From 2000 to 2009, he was a Trustee of Sunderland’s Customs House Theatre and from 2010 until 2017 was a Trustee of No Limits Theatre Company, a professional company for performers with a learning disability.
Peter married Irene in 1968; they separated in 1993 but remained very good friends. Although they had no children, they were very proud of the professional success of his goddaughter, the stage and screen actress Laura Elphinstone.