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You’re never too old to act up

What’s the difference between working with children and acting on a stage? Very little – apparently, according to Pat Lovell of the Maleny Players. It’s just one big fun game.


by Judy Fredriksen



Growing up in the county of Middlesex, Greater London, Pat felt amateur dramatics were as much as a part of life as eating and breathing, and she revelled in it.


“I was very involved with amateur dramatics at school. I loved it and joined an amateur dramatic society.”


Upon leaving school, Pat went to a nursery training college, thinking that was the end of her acting. But life had other ideas, even though her theatrical interests manifested in a completely new guise a couple of years later.


Travel had also been high on Pat’s agenda, so when she completed her training, she lucked herself into a position of minding two young children for a family who were sailing out to Australia from England. Now, it just so happens that the mother of the children was the sister of a young, up and coming media mogul – Rupert Murdoch – who had just launched The Australian in Australia.


“We sailed on the Northern Star, which was part of the Shaw Saville Line. The journey took six weeks around the Cape of Good Hope and we landed in Melbourne.”


Pat found that keeping the children amused on the long sea journey was something akin to acting. She continued to look after the two young children before taking up a nanny position with the Baillieu Myer family in Toorak.


“I love children and I always wanted to work with children. I did a lot of acting because I worked with children … I was always acting around with children.”


I guess that makes a mockery of the famous W.C. Fields adage, ‘never work with animals or children’!


But then the wanderlust beckoned again, so Pat set off for Sydney before finding work in the Snowy Mountains, where she spent the season skiing and waitressing. At the end of the season, she found herself back in Sydney entertaining more little captive charges.


Having had enough of the cold weather though, she and a friend thought it would be fun to hitchhike to North Queensland where they could bask in sultry sunshine, feasting on lush tropical fruit and seafood. Although acting faded into the background again, this proved to be a fateful move because it was in Mareeba that Pat met her future husband at a barbeque.


“We were there for a couple of years, I got married up there, I had my first child up there, then twelve months later we went back to England for twelve months.”


The couple returned to live in Brisbane and now with a young family to raise, Pat had little time for a regular commitment, so she resumed her interest in drama by becoming a regular audience member at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.


It has only been in recent years that Pat has, with great delight, found the opportunity to tread the boards once again, and as a bonus, with adult audiences.


After retiring to the Sunshine Coast, she met local writer and publisher Jill Morris at a breakfast one morning. Encouraged by Jill, Pat attended one of the play readings that are regularly hosted by the Maleny Players.


“I started with a play reading, and then the Page to Stage, and Jill encouraged me to get involved in that, so I directed a couple of plays. And then Andrew Robjohns was doing the Shakespeare project. I was overseas at the time and I said I would really like to be involved because I love Shakespeare. He asked if I would assist directing with him, so I did that.”


Drawn to Shakespeare by the twin tragedy and comedy elements that mercilessly expose human foibles and fantasies, Pat says the appeal of the world’s most famous bard never wanes because his work can be modernised. The classical themes like love, hate, greed for power and money, and jealousy are just as relevant today as they were in Shakespeare’s time.


Pat has become enlivened through her involvement with the Maleny Players because of the variety of projects she has worked on. She has written play scripts, though in collaboration with others, and these have been performed at Maleny.

Her involvement with the project of ‘Stages – Club 88’ – an organic undertaking that took audiences through the different stages of ageing using older actors – proves that it is never too late to get involved in something that you’ve always longed to do.


Pat has acted in plays, but in the real reflection of her enthusiasm for the art, she took on the arduous task of directing Tom Stoppard’s challenging farce The Real Inspector Hound.


In modesty she says she was lucky to have had a very experienced cast to help her through that, and also expresses her appreciation to the friendliness of the club members.


“Everyone was so accepting, just so lovely and friendly and willing to embrace anybody.”

Pat is looking forward to being involved in future productions, though for now, she is coyly adhering to the mystique of theatre by keeping the exact details under wraps. But do not fear theatre lovers – all will be revealed next time the curtain goes up at the Maleny Playhouse.

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