We first met him as the awkward gawky journo Norman Gunston in the early 70’s but since then Garry McDonald has gone on to forge an extraordinary acting career while publicly battling anxiety. A senior statesman of the stage Garry is back in town with the State Theatre of South Australia’s latest production ‘November’.
Leigh: Garry I was about to say welcome to Adelaide but you’re no stranger to Adelaide are you?
Garry: Well I haven’t been here for about 4 years, the longest was probably a month for ‘Sugar Babes’ oh no ‘Uncle Vanya’ I was here longer, rehearsing ‘Uncle Vanya’.
Leigh: Now tell me about this new play that’s brought you back to Adelaide?
Garry: It’s very, very funny. This play is so politically incorrect! It’s about the President, a one term President trying to get out of office with as much money as he can take with him.
Leigh: I grew up with you. Garry: You did? I don’t remember you. Leigh: (laughing) Yes I did! Through the Norman Gunston era and then Mother and Son which was an Aussie favourite.
Garry: Yes, Mother and Son… well I mean I loved doing Norman but Mother and Son was a turning point for me. But also looking over there, there’s a picture of Ruth. She was extraordinary to work with but up until then I was doing Norman and had not cracked that style of comedy. I absolutely adored her… she was like the Guru!
Leigh: Garry when you are here, not as frequently as we’d like, do you get a chance to get out or are you locked into rehearsals?
Garry: Locked into rehearsals. I become a bit monk-like. Four weeks for rehearsals never seems enough, it always is. Last time I really travelled around here was when I did ‘Sugar Babies’ and hired a car and took Rhonda Eddie and we were going to stay in a bed and breakfast, we went through Nuriootpa eight times!
Leigh: That sounds like a one act play in itself!
Garry: Oh god, this looks familiar? Yes it’s Nuriootpa again! I also did Rabbit Proof fence, that was beautiful especially Onkaparinga National Park. I go to the markets, they are fabulous!
Leigh: So if you get a chance to come up for air we might see you at the market?
Garry: Oh yes. Ruth and I did it once. I was doing ‘Sugar Babies’ and she was doing ‘Emerald City’ and we wandered around - we only did it once. Leigh: Were you mugged or something? Garry: Yes, she wore a big hat to try and mask herself!
Sharing the "November" stage with Garry is our very own Pete Michell in the role of Archer Brown, the president's chief advisor.
Pete Michell: He’s incredibly inventive, always the first to come up with brilliant idea to solve whatever you need to solve onstage and he’s a comedy legend so working with him is an honour.
Garry: Adam Cook sent me this script and for ages I though this is such a big role. Oh god...its so outrageous! You couldn’t write a play like this in Australia you’d be hounded offstage.
Leigh: Well you’ve totally whet my appetite I do have to see it now. I have to say its been an absolute pleasure thank you for speaking with me.
Garry: You’ll cut this down to three minutes.
Leigh: You’ll get two. No seriously it’s been lovely to talk to you.