Posts Tagged ‘Ghost of a chance’

At lunch with a friend last week,  someone I hadn’t seen for many years stuck her head around the corner; Joan’s sister.  She looked so genuinely surprised and pleased to see me I was quite taken aback!

We’d never particularly been friends but I had been very close to her sister, until we lost touch nearly 20 years ago.

After a hug I was told exactly how Joan had passed away within a couple of years of our losing touch, correcting my long-held and erroneous belief that she was so depressed she’s taken her own life.

The truth was not exactly as I had suspected but she definitely suffered with a broken heart; such a sad and lonely ending for someone who gave so much to others.

Standing in front of her still-grieving sister, I felt very guilty for not making more of an effort to see her, before her life soured.


In the very early 1990’s Joan Medlicott started a small community group operating with enthusiasm, zero budgets and a fun atmosphere up here, in the Northern suburbs of Perth.  Most of the members were there for a good time and for three years, it really was a lot of fun to be involved.  

Our first performance was 3 x 1 act plays at Ocean Reef Senior High School’s theatre.  I did costumes, make-up, programs and tickets while my daughter helped with props and appeared in the hilarious ‘It’ll be Alright on the Night’ – her first acting role.

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(Curtains from the local Op Shop made reasonable dresses I thought…)

Then came a few Cabarets upstairs in The Mullaloo Tavern, right on the beach, doing skits and murdering favorite songs – but the drinks and the camaraderie saved each performance.

Our next serious performance was the Hammersley Recreation Centre ‘A Parade of Plays’ again 3 x 1 Act plays to make sure as many who wanted to act, got a chance.

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(Sorry I haven’t scanned the photos from this performance yet.)

I directed ‘Monday to Friday’.  My daughter Jessica McCallum was a very good actress but hated being on the stage.  I couldn’t cast anyone else because she was perfect for the role, so she overcame her nerves and took the part for me.

However, Angela Bray was magnificent  as Thursday.  She was so nervous on the first night, to give her  Dutch courage, she had one too many champagnes…

Naturally, as Director I also became a little more than concerned when she stood in front of me and offered her lipstick saying; “I can’t find my mouth”.

She looked perfectly alright but was totally somewhere else!  All I could think of were how many important lines she had and how she’d been word-perfect in rehearsal!

But I needn’t have worried – Angela didn’t miss a single cue or drop a word.  She did however drink and share around the Props Port while she delivered with perfect ease and timing – her face when the bottle was empty was an absolute picture.  The whole performance was conducted perfectly and totally in character.

If there’d been an Oscar available – Ange would have received it with my blessing and eternal thanks!

We’d grown in confidence and wanted to do a longer project – a play with 3 acts.  We also needed to try and add funds to our pot to get better equipment and cut down on hire fees.

The pantomime Joan had written called ‘It’s a Prairie Tale’ meant everyone could be involved, it also incorporated musical numbers and therefor the cast had to ‘dance’ a little too!  Again, I did many of the costumes, programs and tickets, while my daughter worked on her first love – props and staging as well as acting a small part.

It really was a case of all hands on deck – all of us did things we’d never attempted before or in many cases since.  Bit like film-making really…on a zero budget too!

A significant challenge but hopefully one which would appeal to many and put bums on seats – not just our family and friends cheering us on but the general public as well.

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The pantomime was fun and surprisingly somewhat of a success but although I thought it would bring everyone together, unfortunately the worms were turning.

Some expressed the opinion they wanted to be more serious (now their egos had grown with their confidence) so the group’s next project was a very well-known, tried and true English play called ‘The Anniversary’.

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The group asked me to direct and I’m happy to say the cast and crew of ‘The Anniversary’ did a wonderful job.  It was the group’s first SOLD OUT play and actually made money for  us.  

One member had decided she wanted to be in charge of the group and proceeded to denigrate and dismiss everything Joan was or wanted for the group, worrying and working behind the scenes until she had her way and turned everyone against Joan.  The bitchiness got too much for me so I resigned as soon as the play was done.  

I wanted to start a Youth Theatre Group for 12 – 25 year-olds because I felt there was a need for one – and I was right (but that’s another story).

In the 80’s I’d been involved in film and knew the value of documenting things so during the years I had done just that; I’d taken photos and recorded video (or got someone else to hold the camera) as often as possible.

And nearly 20 years later when I’d told her sister that I’d only been looking at video of Joan, tears came to her eyes.  

Although it had been more than ten years since her loss, the grief was still very raw.  (I don’t think we ever stop grieving, we just learn to cope better on a day to day basis, until someone reminds us.)

Because I’d recently converted some of the old VHS tapes of the plays to DVD,  it felt really good to be able to share moments with Joan which her sister hadn’t been part of.  

A reminder of earlier days and fun times when Joan was in her absolute element organizing performances for the theater group she’d poured her heart and soul into – until they kicked her out!

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Stephen Page

Author: The Salty River Bleeds, The Timbre of Sand, Still Dandelions, A Ranch Bordering the Salty River. Alum: Palomar College, Columbia University, Bennington College. Follow on twitter @SmpageSteve on Instagram @smpagemoria on Facebook @steven.page.1481

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