She joined the Australian Performing Group in 1970 when it moved into the Pram Factory, performing in such classic Australian works as Dimboola and Don's Party. She has performed in numerous productions of Shakespeare in the Gardens and has toured extensively with a number of one-woman shows including Emma Celabrazione! and Ironing Out The Wrinkles.
She talks to Australian Stage's Simon Piening about her new role as an all-singing, Bollywood-dancing octogenarian in Olive Branches Out.
Olive Branches Out is a sequel to Ironing Out The Wrinkles, which toured across Australia and which was a major success for you. Can you tell us a bit about the play...
IOW, explores issues of ageing… the pain and the comedy, in all its manifestations. The theatre of it is physical, musical and above all engages the audience full frontal!
For an 80 year old, Olive Wilson is a pretty feisty character and you clearly have an affection for her. Tell us about Olive. What do you enjoy most about playing this character?
Olive defies her age, by taking her family and the world on and particularly her country. She has enormous courage and honesty, which is comic and moving, as she realises, the world she truly inhabits. The real similarity between Olive and myself is that we are both highly provocative individuals!
Is Olive based on anyone in particular?
Not really. Olive is very much an Australian woman of her generation who ends up gaining real insight into her beloved Australia and not so beloved family as she travels outside the boundaries, both physically and metaphorically.
This is quite a physical performance. In this play you are required to sing, dance (Bollywood style!) and breathe fire. What sort of preparation did you do for the role?
I do a lot of exercise to survive the physical rigours. The fire breathing has been replaced by bra burning - the booby prize!
The play was written for you by your brother, Michael Krape – have you worked together before the Olive plays?
These are the first plays we have worked on together, although it feels like we have been creating havoc forever.
You’ve had an extensive and successful career in theatre, performing with the highly influential Pram Factory during what is regarded as something of a golden era for Australian Theatre. How do you look back on those days now?
It made me very aware of my identity as an Australian, which as you can see, has had a lasting effect. The theatrical world of the Pram Factory was devoted to comic, physical representations that went beyond naturalism. This meant you were able to play men, children, octogenarians - everything was possible. Your imagination was allowed full expression.
As a group were you aware of the impact you were having?
Not in the beginning, but certainly as the audiences kept coming, you were aware of the significance of the work being done.
What sort of changes have you seen in the industry since?
In some ways a more fearful response to restricting the imagination because of perceived audience taste. Its in the independent theatre where more time and money are available that the really daring and beautiful work is being done.
You’ve worked across, film, tv and live theatre – do you have a preference?
I haven’t done enough film or TV to really judge those mediums. Its safe to say that theatre allows you to break conventions and boundaries that our film and TV have yet to do.
I know you have a national tour planned for Olive Branches Out – are there any other works in the pipeline?
I will be doing an independent production, QUEEN OF BINGO and a Russian play by Ovstrovsky, called TOO CLEVER BY HALF, in 2008.
For further information on Olive Branches Out, click here»