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Catherine Hill

–– INTERVIEW –– Catherine holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of New South Wales and a Diploma in Acting from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. She worked as an actor in Theatre-inEducation before moving to Melbourne where she established Soup Kitchen Theatre and worked in an artistic and administrative capacity for this company for ten years, directing and acting in many of their shows. As an actor she has also worked for the Hunter Valley Theatre Company, West Theatre, Hit Productions and numerous theatre co-operatives. She has had guest roles on Neighbours, Blue Heelers, MDA, Flying Doctors, Embassy and ABC’s Nice. Her directing credits include, the original productions and national tours of Elizabeth’s Coleman’s Secret Bridesmaids’ Business and It’s My Party (And I’ll Die If I Want To), An Evening with Richard Frankland for the Sydney Opera House and Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Max Gillies Live at the Club Republic, national tour, Homesick! by Abe Pogos, Caryl Churchill’s A Number for Winterfall Theatre Company and more recently Calendar Girls by Tim Firth. Catherine is a recipient of the Ewa Czajor Award for female directors and the Peter Summerton Award for directing. As a dramaturg she has worked with numerous writers including her partner Abe Pogos, Michele Davis-Gray, Glen Shea, Jane Harrison, Richard Frankland, Elizabeth Coleman, Ross Meuller and Peta Brady. Greg T Ross: Thanks for joining us here at The Last Post, Catherine Hill, director. Look, I think perhaps the best thing to start off with, Catherine, is can you tell us a bit about where do you originate from in Australia? Catherine Hill: So I’m from Newcastle in New South Wales. And that’s where I grew up and that’s where I started at young people’s theatre when I was about ten. And so Newcastle was an amazing hub for creativity, had enormous amounts of theatre’s for young people. I think at one stage, before I left Newcastle, I may have been involved in about, I mean, half a dozen at least, theatre companies. GTR: And what led you to that in the beginning? Were you attracted to that idea as a youngster? CH: I was, yeah. So I was about ten and so I had my entire youth ... I think in Newcastle you either grew up with a love of the beach, which I certainly have now, and if you didn’t you found another passion. And I found, came to theatre very early on, in fact. Some of my best friends were, that I have now, were friends I made when I was in theatre in Newcastle. So, you know, I’ve had decades of friendships, so, from Young People’s Theatre in Newcastle

Catherine Hill speaks with The Last Post editor, Greg T Ross about her life in the arts and directing Hallowed Ground, a play that tells the cross-generational story of four women doctors in sites of conflict during war. Repertory Theatre, which was another major company I was involved with. It was just such a creative and generous culture back then. Everyone was incredibly supportive of what you were wanting to do and I think I was 17 when I directed a show for young people’s theatre, and it was a main stage show. It was the first production of Bugsy Malone by Alan Parker, and the company, the theatre was just so completely supportive of this 17 year old girl going, “But, I want to do this!” And you know, giving you full support, full technical support, publicity, everything. It was just an incredibly gracious and generous, creative environment. GTR: At least you didn’t ask to direct something when you were ten. CH: No. Although I do think naivety and youth bring a with it a certain braveness that you have to keep, you know, try to keep alive when you’re older. Because you love feeling invincible when you’re younger, I think. And as you get older you start, you know, you’re far more judgemental of your own work and your own processes and how to make things better. So, there’s a certain wonderful freedom and creative energy when you’re young. GTR: Actually I ponder on that myself, regularly and I think I come to the same conclusions as you Catherine. So that’s brilliant. Now, I guess, do you remember, just briefly back on the ten-year old business, do you remember that first time that you walked in the doors of the theatre? Or wherever you were then practicing. CH: Yeah. That’s right, I think, if I think back, it was one of my, actually, I know very well, it was one of my best friends today was in a production at Young People’s Theatre and she asked me to go along. And I just remember being so transfixed by everything, by the lights, by the music. It has live music. By the performances, by this huge ensemble of children and I pretty much joined the next week, I think. So, yeah, it was a really magical time and it was like I felt I had just stepped in my home. It was like, “Wow, that just feels so beautiful and so right.” And the wonderful thing about, in particular, in Young People’s Theatre, which still exists today, was it really taught you such respect for all elements of theatre. Because you had to work backstage, you had to work, you know, stage management, you had to do your own make up. You had all those things you had to pick up your costume. Like it was just making sure you’re disciplined of that craft. And the understanding of all

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the elements that were involved to bring this magic to stage were respected and all those creatives were acknowledged. So it was an amazing grounding for me, because I then went on and worked in theatre and education as an actor and I went to Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts to study. And I just think it was such a wonderful foundation to build on. GTR: It sounds like a great learning board or starting point for someone that wants to know everything about theatre and appreciate where it comes from and how it enacts with individuals. Fantastic. So what, just briefly Catherine, your parents, have they been involved in theatre? CH: No. My parents, well, they had to end up being supportive of me when they realized it wasn’t a fad project for me. One of the conversations when I was doing, I use to do a lot of, through University and through ... I did Shakespeare in the park and things like that, my mom and my dad both said to me, “Okay we’ll come to musicals and comedies but no more of that Greek and Shakespeare stuff.” So, but they’ve always been, they’ve been supportive when they’ve realized it’s been a career path. And it was going to become a career path. They, I think, initially they were quite concerned around the decision to move into a creative field knowing that it can be quite a difficult path for many people. GTR: I think, it’s the love of what is done that’s going to keep people going into that field. With your performances on stage, you said you became 17 when you did your first directing, with Bugsy Malone, but did you decide after that, that that was where you wanted to go? CH: No, but I did, Newcastle Repertory was also a wonderful company for me. They, I did some directing with them, some small directing pieces. It was only when I graduated from Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts and moved to Melbourne and realised that you have to take some control around your career in terms of producing stuff and creating your own theatre that I established a company called, Lunchtime Theatre. And so I ran Lunchtime Theatre in the city of Melbourne for almost a decade. And that then provided me with a, you know, we use to produce three months of theatre and perform it at the Melbourne Town Hall and then the Athenaeum Theatre, and I think finally it moved to Trades Hall after it had been operating for a little while. But it was -

Profile for The Last Post Magazine

The Last Post Magazine Anzac Day 2019  

In 2019 TLP editor Greg T Ross visited Japan under the Japan-Australia Grassroots Exchange Programme. To commemorate the visit and the prog...

The Last Post Magazine Anzac Day 2019  

In 2019 TLP editor Greg T Ross visited Japan under the Japan-Australia Grassroots Exchange Programme. To commemorate the visit and the prog...

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