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Simple Gifts - A life in the theatre
George Ogilvie, today one of Australia’s best-loved theatre directors, tells in this remarkable autobiography the story of a boy growing up in provincial Australia who wanted to be an actor so badly he endured hunger, pain and desperation to achieve it. It begins with a penniless teenager joining the last melodrama company in England and ends with a standing ovation at the Sydney Opera House.
It is also a personal record of the false dawn of an Australian theatre in the 1950s through the rise of our State theatre companies to an illustrious career as director and teacher. Artists like Joan Sutherland, Leo McKern, Googie Withers, Warren Mitchell, Dennis Olsen, John Hargreaves, Mel Gibson and Russell Crowe are remembered with affection.
In between is the story of the son of a Scottish immigrant family with a strict Presbyterian work ethic who resolutely taught himself his craft and who found solace at a time of crisis in Siddha Yoga, and pilgrimages to Israel and Taizé. It is a joyful book in which he confesses his fears and errors, and defines his work methods with disarming candour. But beneath the simple gifts is a rigorous, self-motivated spiritual search for the meaning of life which imbues his mature work with the joy of small things.
Alison Croggon, theatre critic and writer, reviewed Simple Gifts for Radio National's program The Book Show. You can read the full transcript here.