When the wild and unclassifiable genius Warwick Broadhead went to live on Waiheke Island six years ago, he liked saying that he was entering his "contemplative years".
At 63, he had sworn off staging the massive, magical and deliciously mad theatrical extravaganzas that had earned him a small but bedazzled legion of adoring fans.
But the man who told the local paper that he was a "thespian extraordinaire, high priest of rituals and court jester" hadn't stopped performing. Ten days ago, in the island hilltop home he had had built with performance in mind, he staged the first monthly episode of a show called Monkey, which was scheduled to take two and a half years to complete.
The performing and contemplative years ended last Thursday when Broadhead, who had endured poor cardiac health, was found dead in his home. He had turned 70 just before Christmas.
Broadhead was the kind of man for whom the word "flamboyant" was pathetically inadequate. He carried off the most extravagant gestures with an insouciance that quite disarmed the observer's puzzlement.
Famously, he married his Grey Lynn villa, which - naturally enough - required him to formally divorce it before he could leave. One of my abiding memories is of his business card, which bore only his name, although he later had a website: today, its front page says that he is "no longer with us, having passed on to join the gods".
Yet to depict Broadhead as simply a performer is to ignore the better part of his genius. In dozens of shows, from Full Moon Follies in 1972 to A Delicate Quest in 1999, he created magnificent theatrical extravaganzas, on a scale that was always beyond grand - using non-professional performers who always shared in the shows' conception as well as their execution.
Participants were never required to audition - he was fond of saying that they auditioned him - and typically they would speak years later about how transformative the experience was.
In the 2008 film Rubbings From a Live Man, director Florian Habicht presented another side of Broadhead, recording monologues about the pain of growing up gay in a brick house in Mt Roskill, about family secrets, about his sympathy for a father who could not understand his son.
If it added up to a picture of torment, Broadhead told me at the time that he saw himself as happy. "Or maybe I have lived in fantasy and just pretended to be happy."
Broadhead will be farewelled (in extravagant fashion, no doubt) this morning at 11 at St Matthew-in-the-City.
As a more conventional dramatist than he once wrote: "Goodnight, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."
Warwick Stanley Broadhead: December 22, 1944-January 8, 2015
• Grew up in Auckland in a working-class Catholic family with three siblings.
• Claimed he knew he was gay at the age of 6 but "masqueraded" as a heterosexual.
• After completing compulsory military service, fled to Australia and later transformed himself into a flamboyant thespian.
• Deported from the US for shoplifting embroidery thread and returned to NZ to become a theatre director.
• By his death, had written, acted in, directed and produced more than 50 productions, with hundreds of performances in New Zealand and overseas.
• In 2002, suffered four heart attacks and had a triple bypass.
• Funeral will be held today at 11am at St Matthew-in-the-City Church.