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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Musicals / Plays / What's On / Industry News

IN THE SPOTLIGHT... ALAN HOPGOOD

This year proves to be a most memorable year for one of Australia’s leadings playwrights Alan Hopgood, with the celebration of his 80th Birthday and his remarkable sixty year career as an actor, playwright, screenwriter and writer-producer, commemorated in his one-man play THE CARER.

Alan Hopgood’s first play AND THE BIG MEN FLY was presented at Melbourne Theatre Company in 1963, where the legendary football tall story about Achilles Jones became a huge success. Alan fondly remembers AND THE BIG MEN FLY as a turning point in his career, “The first play about Aussie Rules football, which nobody wanted to see, until it opened, then you couldn’t get a ticket for twelve weeks! I wrote it, I was in it and I had to deliver the opening line, on opening night – and it was a laugh! Try that for nerves!”

 


AND THE BIG MEN FLY 1963
Dennis Miller, Elspeth Ballantyne, Alan Hopgood, Paul Karo

In 1964, he followed the success of his play AND THE BIG MEN FLY with THE GOLDEN LEGION OF CLEANING WOMEN and, in 1966, the first play in the world on the subject of the Vietnam war, PRIVATE YUK OBJECTS.

Then followed a career in film and television, winning Australian Writer’s Guild Awards for AND THE BIG MEN FLY, THE CHEERFUL CUCKOLD and THE BUSH BUNCH, and writing several feature films, including ALVIN PURPLE and the documentaries THE PROPHECIES OF NOSTRADAMUS and THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH.

As an actor, Alan spent ten years with the MTC; six years as the popular ‘Doctor Reed’ in BELLBIRD, and then created the characters ‘Wally’ in PRISONER and ‘Jack Lassiter’ in NEIGHBOURS.

 

PRISONER (1983-4)

Alan reminisces on his role in Prisoner, “I had a lovey time as ‘Wally’, the potter. I harboured the escapee ‘Judy Bryant’ and they asked me into the prison to teach pottery, where I had a screen love affair with the Governor, a female solicitor and I would have had one with ‘Judy’ if her inclination had been that way.”

 


NEIGHBOURS (1984-5/2013)
Alan Hopgood as ‘Jack Lassiter’

“My first time in Neighbours co-incided with the ‘apocryphal’ cast of Kylie, Jason, Guy and Clive. I was happy to be an observer as these ‘babies’ wrought their magic. My second time, turned out to be my ‘death’ - off screen. Not even a funeral! And I do excellent deaths,” laughs Alan.

His performance as ‘Rumkowski’ in Avraham Cykiert's mono-drama THE EMPEROR OF THE GHETTO played seasons in Melbourne and won him the Best Actor at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in 1994. He has now performed the play 150 times, eighty of them for schools.

Another iconic role Alan starred in was the film THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER II in 1988, where he also featured in the tv series THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER (2001) where he remembers shooting this in Daylesford. “My first morning, called 6am, it was thick fog! I drove round and round, slowly panicking looking for the location. Finally I knocked on a house, The location was only metres away - but you couldn’t see it!...yes, yes, GPS wasn’t invented then.”
 



THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER II (1988)

His collaboration with Michael Easton produced the children’s opera LITTLE REDINKA for the Victorian State Opera and PETROV- THE MUSICAL for the Summer Music Festival in 1992 and the musiographies OH, MR PORTER, RODGERS AND HART and CALLAS – THE WOMAN. He produced THE MARIO LANZA STORY for Mietta’s in 1994/5, the Melbourne Concert Hall and a tour of Queensland.

In 1996, his book about prostate cancer, SURVIVING PROSTATE CANCER – ONE MAN’S JOURNEY was published. He then adapted his story into a comedy about men’s health, intimacy and cancer FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE which premiered at Chapel Off Chapel in Melbourne in 1997 and then toured regional areas in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania in 2000. The video of the play is regularly shown by the Cancer Council, most importantly in rural areas, followed by a forum and discussion. As a result he has addressed many Conferences, Men’s Health and Rotary Nights.

 

Alan Hopgood starring in
FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE

In March 2000, his play THE CARER, starring Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, premiered at Chapel Off Chapel. The play has been highly praised for its sensitive treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and its warmth and humour. The play toured Australia twice, with Bud Tingwell giving 260 performances. It toured New Zealand in 2005 with Ray Henwood and had a brief season in Washington DC. It has also been filmed for video and adapted for radio.

In 2004, Alan was commissioned to adapt the War Diaries of Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop for McPherson Touring and this play premiered in Canberra before seasons in Melbourne, South Australia and Tasmania.

He has written two short plays on the experiences of women and men with diabetes, and these have toured for Diabetes Australia (Victoria), followed by plays about widows and geriatric sex for Seniors Week 2006 and his latest one HEALTHPLAY, a series of 9 plays, using that comedy and drama to deal with challenging subjects, such as cancer and palliative care. Under his direction HEALTHPLAY has given 320 performances across Australia and, importantly, employed some 28 Australian actors.

His latest screenplay THE WHISTLER has received development funding from Film Victoria. In January 2005, Alan was made a Member of the Order of Australia for service to the performing arts as an actor, playwright and producer and to the community through raising awareness of men’s health issues.
 

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