Tributes to Nic Sommer

Click here for a 25 minute video mainly based on GAOS and GEDS archive footage.

Basically I’ve drawn on both archives because the video is about the man and not this or that society. Also there are a good number of people out there who are members of both societies or even if they’re not then they might well have come along to the other society’s shows/events.

Brian Thomas

 

From playing female characters at his all-boys school Nic graduated to male roles in student productions of Shakespeare and Gilbert & Sullivan. He worked in community theatre in the UK’s West Midlands, appearing in a variety of productions, from Shakespeare to Noel Coward. In Geneva since 1979, a nomadic professional life led to reduced opportunities for the stage but he has performed with GAOS in pantomime (notably as the Dame), music hall and in a cameo role in the Sound of Music. His composition The Goodbye Song has become the regular closing number for pantomimes since 1982. With GEDS he has appeared in As You Like It (2012), Loot (2013), School for Wives (2018), innumerous playreadings and composed original music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2019). Click here for a video of the vocal warm-up.

GEDS  

I returned home from a six-week trip to India on Thursday, and was looking forward to meeting Nic for lunch in the near future. It was immensely shocking to learn that he died the very day of my return. A lovely man whom many people will miss very much. I came to know Nic properly about 10 years ago after his memorable appearance for GAOS as Max Detweiler in The Sound of Music. Subsequently we enjoyed appearing together in GEDS play-readings and began lunching in either Ferney-Voltaire, where I live, or close to his Geneva home. Also gossiping about GEDS by email. (He had a habit of attending first nights of full GEDS productions, so was able to warn me when to stay away. If you’re up there listening, Nic, thanks again!). Nic followed my writing – novels as well as short pieces for the stage – with generosity, encouragement and critical acuity. He actually impersonated a version of me in a stage monologue entitled “Scout’s Honour”, about paedophilia in my boyhood scout troop, which was mounted by GEDS as part of A Night of One-Acts (a predecessor of “GEDS Writes”) by Viki Lazar in 2016. He was brilliant. I played Frankenstein to his Monster in a 2017 playreading. I stepped into his shoes, when he was ill, to play an old GEDS lecher in a playlet by Bill Lloyd called The Rehearsal the same year. We always appreciated each other’s company, both on- and off-stage, and looked forward to being cast in the same plays. Nic always took a very professional attitude to amateur theatre, rehearsing hard, even for playreadings, and worrying about the detail. I remember particularly his devoted work, in support of the already ailing Sue and Alan Leather, on A Laughing Matter – a summer play put on in 2015 in the Leathers’ lovely garden in Chevry. Almost exactly a year ago, Nic volunteered to assemble tributes to Alan Leather, who had just died. Nic wrote of Alan: “A wonderful human being and a great man of the theatre.” He could have been writing about himself.

David Lewis

Some ten years ago after my retirement, I first came to know Nic when he agreed to act in one my early playlets for a GEDS evening. A pattern was set which evolved into ‘GEDS Writes’ and over the years he played in most of my pieces; he sometimes referred to them as ‘Bill Lloyd’s Rants’. Rehearsals often took place at his home or mine. He was always available for advice, and showed an infinite patience with my intermittent and pathetic attempts at directing; I will always remember the look of shock on his face when I managed to go ‘off-script’ for the first time as director. In 2018, while I was ill, he took over and very successfully directed my ‘The Waiting Room’ within the GEDS evening for the Fête du Théâtre 2018. He also played Maurice, one of the major roles in the same production. Recently we worked together on a new playlet for the next ‘GEDS Writes’. On Tuesday, before the last reading at Uptown, I looked around for him in his usual place amongst the front rows. So sad that we will miss his presence, his wit and his kind support.

Bill Lloyd

 

‘I am going to miss dear Nic. So kind, witty, irreverent, curious, so interested in other people and gifted at making you feel seen and appreciated. May god speed you darling man.’

Catherine Monagle  

 

Although Nic and I knew each other for many years, and I long respected his many human qualities, I think we shared a little “end-career” quirk as far as GEDS was concerned.

 I was responsible for what may have been his last appearance in a leading role in a GEDS playreading when, as well as being a great help to me in putting on “The Right Honourable Gentleman” last October, he did an excellent job in reading the part of the chief protagonist, Sir Charles Dilke.  And just a few years ago he was Touchstone in our “As you like it”, against my much more modest role, which will surely have been my last time on the GEDS stage.

 Many members will know that Nic was the composer of the famous “Goodbye” song which ended almost every GAOS pantomime since heaven-knows-when.  And so we sing:  “Goodbye, goodbye, it’s time to say goodbye;  we really did enjoy the show”.  And many thanks for coming.

 David Stieber