For some reason, my parents used to let me watch The Naked Vicar comedy show when I was eight. It was the first time I saw Noeline Brown on TV and she was so powerful, funny and a woman! There’s a saying that goes, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” I think seeing Noeline being funny [on TV] made me realise I could do that.
She was also one of the few women I was aware of at that time who didn’t have children. I don’t have children either, for whatever reason, and it’s kind of nice sometimes to see that and think, “Oh, that’s something we both would’ve liked. It didn’t happen, but that’s OK.”
It was a real thrill to meet her as an adult when we were doing Home Delivery [on ABC TV]. We took her back home to Stanmore [in Sydney], and spending the day with her there was just awesome.
DAWN FRENCH AND JENNIFER SAUNDERS
I love English humour and I used to record episodes of French and Saunders [the sketch show by Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders] when it came out in 1987 and watch them over and over again. They took the piss out of things that were a bit sacred, like sex and contraception.
There’s a great sketch where they play two girls at a bus stop having a conversation about condoms. Jennifer’s the quiet one and Dawn thinks she’s the “expert”, who pronounces condom as comdon, “Yes, a comdon. C-O-M-D-O-N.” Jennifer says, “How do you expect to have safe sex when you can’t even spell it properly?” It’s four minutes of delight.
When the world is terrible around you, sometimes you just want to forget and be utterly entertained; Dawn and Jennifer definitely do that.
The first time I saw [British actress] Emma Thompson was in a film called The Tall Guy, in which she played a very straight, sensible and outspoken nurse. She was really direct, in a way I felt like I couldn’t be direct.
I always thought of Emma as a very successful film and theatre actress. Then I read she was given her own comedy TV show, called Thompson, and it just died. For some reason people didn’t like it. She said it was a great lesson: it’s important to know that you can fail and start again.
After that she wrote the screenplay for, and starred in, Sense and Sensibility. It took five years to turn the book into a film. It’s a beautiful piece of work and won a bunch of awards. It proves you’ve got to keep going – and not be afraid of what people think of you.
DR ANNE THOMPSON
Dr Anne Thompson was my movement teacher at the Victorian College of the Arts, where I studied acting in my 20s.
She was extremely graceful, tall and elegant. She taught me how to move my body and look after my body, which is so important as a performer.
Anne was really good at personal feedback. She once said to me, “You do realise that you’re constantly seeking my approval?” And she was so right.
She said, “If you’re always performing for someone else, you will exhaust yourself. You need to work for your own pleasure and sense of satisfaction.” That was a revelation to me.
Julia Zemiro is artistic director of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, from June 7-22, adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au.
Correction: The print edition of this story incorrectly named Dr Anne Thompson. We sincerely apologise for the mistake.