Wendy Blacklock AM
In the early 1970s she was in Jane Street’s Don’s Party (David Williamson), An Awful Rose (Keneally) and Bon Bons and Roses for Dolly (Hewitt).
Then came three and a half years as ‘Mummy’ McDonald in Channel 10’s infamous long-running serial No 96.
Under Blacklock, the Australian Content department produced or toured more than 40 shows at home and abroad.
Blacklock has won many awards for her services to the arts.
In the early 1970s she was in Jane Street’s Don’s Party (David Williamson), An Awful Rose (Keneally) and Bon Bons and Roses for Dolly (Hewitt). Then came three and a half years as ‘Mummy’ McDonald in Channel 10’s infamous long-running serial No 96 – and a further 18 months playing the character on the club circuit. It had its drawbacks: ‘Mummy was a real dill,’ lamented Blacklock. ‘I made her a character lady, and everybody thought I was like her.’ In 1978 she was in Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus for the Queensland Theatre Company. But it took a tour of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand with Brian Murphy and Yootha Joyce in a stage spin-off of the TV comedy George and Mildred to finally convince Wendy Blacklock that she would be of greater value in administration.
The big change came in 1982. On an impulse, she walked into the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust offices and asked if they would teach her about ‘contracts and budgets’. Five months later she was appointed co-ordinator of the entrepreneurial department. A few months later, with Australia Council funding, she set up the Australian Content Department, designed to nurture, produce and tour independent artists and small companies. One of her early commissions was Aboriginal playwright Jack Davis’s No Sugar. This and several other Davis plays toured nationally and overseas.
In eight years, under Blacklock, the Australian Content department produced or toured more than 40 shows at home and abroad. In July 1990 the department was incorporated as Performing Lines Ltd, an autonomous, non-profit company funded by the Australia Council and private sponsors, with the same aims. Blacklock was made general manager.
With Blacklock at the helm, Performing Lines continues to search for works of innovation in multi-cultural drama, circus, puppetry, dance and opera, physical theatre, anything that captures the ‘spirit’ of Australia in our contemporary society. The productions may vary from a company of 25 puppeteers and musicians in The Theft of Sita (which has been seen in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, New York, London, Oxford, Warwick, Belfast, Aldeburgh, Zurich, Aarhus, Berlin and Rotterdam) to independent artists such as William Yang and his one-man slide/monologues or Kate Champion with her unique style of movement-based theatre. Other projects have included Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman’s The 7 Stages of Grieving and Leah Purcell’s Box the Pony.
Blacklock has won many awards for her services to the arts: a Glugs Award in 1991, Membership of the Order of Australia in 1992, a Drovers’ ‘Touring Legend’ from the Australian Performing Arts Centres Association and a Sidney Myer Award in 1995 and, in 2003, Live Performance Australia’s James Cassius Williamson Award, all for her outstanding contribution to the performing arts. In 2005 she was the Premier’s personal nominee for the 2005 NSW Women’s Honour Roll.
Frank Van Straten, 2007
Photograph courtesy Performing Lines
Gordon Chater: The Almost Late Gordon Chater, Bantam Books, 1996,
John West: ‘Wendy Blacklock’, in Companion to Theatre in Australia Currency Press, 1995