As the musical based on the life of Peter Allen, The Boy From Oz, now playing in Sydney, reaps box-office rewards, another play about an Australian who found international success is about to open in the same city.
Sir Robert Helpmann was revered for his contribution to ballet, and made his mark in many other areas of the entertainment world, being among the first artists to leave Australia to discover world acclaim. Lyrebird:Tales of Helpmann is a one-man play set backstage during the interval of the Australian Ballet's Don Quixote, where Helpmann, played by Tyler Coppin, reflects on his life with poignancy and humour. From his claustrophobic small-town childhood in South Australia to his personal and professional fulfillment in London, the play celebrates the wit and genius of the legendary artist, whose early training was with Pavlova.
The play opens in Sydney after a season at this year's Adelaide festival. Tyler Coppin, who also wrote the play after three years of research, was praised by critics for capturing both the flamboyance and soul of Helpmann.
The lyrebird of the title refers to the symbolic creature featured in Helpmann's first ballet developed in Australia,The Display, which was dedicated to his great friend Katharine Hepburn.
Lyrebird:Tales of Helpmann, produced by Christine Dunstan Productions in association with the Sydney Theatre Company, opens at the Wharf 2 Theatre, Sydney, on March 31. Bookings on (61-2) 9250 1777. --By Russel Watson