Noni Hazlehurst: Multiple faces of a singular woman
PLAYING Christie, a homeless alcoholic about her own age, has given Logie Hall of Fame actor Noni Hazlehurst a new insight into women who, as she says, "fall through the cracks of society through some fault - or even no fault - of their own".
"The issue of homelessness among older women is becoming increasingly important, particularly in major cities," she told Seniors from her Gold Coast hinterland home.
"It is concerning that, as more refuges and places of solace are closed down and services cut, the numbers of women couch surfing and sleeping in cars are increasing."
Noni, 63, is bringing her one-woman play Mother to Lake Kawana Community Centre this month as part of a regional tour of Queensland and NSW.
Premiering in June last year in Melbourne, the play has been a hit with audiences and critics, with Noni receiving a Helpmann nomination as best actor in a play.
"Christie is one of those people in society who live a life you wouldn't wish on anybody," Noni said.
"She's had few opportunities, little education, made some bad decisions and now she is living with the consequences."
"The important thing about her is that she has a story to tell."
Concurrently on Foxtel Showcase, Noni appears as controlling matriarch Elizabeth Bligh in drama A Place to Call Home. Season four started last month and Noni is hopeful about a fifth going into production next year.
"It is already being shown in 140 countries," she said.
Asked what she thought when people called Elizabeth 'a bitch', Noni said viewers had to consider the times.
"This is a woman who was born in the Victorian era, who married very young and was brought to value 'old country' values of stiff upper lip, face the front, to be of service. Her life to date is the reason she is the way she is.
"She is similar to Christie and similar to all of us. You scratch the surface, peel the layers of the onion away and see the human being underneath.
"That's what I want from my characters, to be able to present a person who is understandable, whom you can empathise with."
Noni was 21 when first married. Her second marriage - to John Jarratt - ended after 10 years.
Reminded she had once said two actors together wasn't the greatest combination, she laughed.
"Yes, I did say that but I qualified it by saying, 'Well, these two actors aren't the greatest combination but we have two beautiful boys (Charlie and William) who are endlessly fascinating.'"
An actor for 40 plus years, Noni this year was inducted into the Logie Hall of Fame-only the second woman to do so, the first being Ruth Cracknell.
Seniors readers will recall her as an original cast member of the 70s' TV show The Sullivans and later hosting ABC-TV's Play School from 1978 to 2002.
She won a Logie in 1985 and 11 years later she was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for services to children and the performing arts.
"Play School changed my life on many levels. They made me want to be an advocate for children who are neglected and abused on any level--physical, emotional, environmental or whatever it may be," she said.
Purchase tickets for the Lake Kawana Community Centre show here: http://www.scvenuesandevents.com.au/lake-kawana-community-centre/events/mother