David and Kristin Williamson.
David and Kristin Williamson.

Staying & playing together: Williamson's lifetime of love

DAVID Williamson is 75 this month. He's at the age when he could be putting his feet up at his ocean front home at Sunshine Beach and enjoying the fruits of a career spanning nearly 50 years as Australia's lauded, and leading, international playwright.

He certainly has enough grandchildren to play with. He and his author/ journalist wife Kristin have just come home from California where they welcomed their 12th into the world.

But no, David is busier than he has ever been.

He is currently adapting Rupert, his 2013 play about Rupert Murdoch, for US cable television. It is a six part miniseries and he has finished part one. He also has a Hollywood movie in development but he wants to keep it under wraps for now.

His new play Odd Man Out opened in Sydney last month and Noosa Long Weekend festival director, Ian Mackellar, is bringing it to Noosa in March as a publicity and fundraising precursor to the festival. Tickets are now sale at The J.

"I've had a very lucky life," he told Seniors when we called to wish him a happy 75th which is on February 24.

"I'm one of those rare playwrights who gets just about every play he writes produced. I get such a kick out of constructing something, seeing it come to life with good actors and then the big buzz of watching the audience react."

And even after household name productions like Don's Party, The Club, The Removalists, Travelling North and 25 screenplays for hugely successful movies like Phar Lap and Gallipoli and Emerald City the need for the "buzz" is clearly still there.

David and Kristin Williamson in Los Angeles in December celebrating the birth of their 12th grandchild with family and friends.
David and Kristin Williamson in Los Angeles in December celebrating the birth of their 12th grandchild with family and friends.

David went to high school in Bairnsdale Victoria and attributes his career path to a teacher, Alan McLeod. "He brought Shakespeare to life for me. The basic human emotions of love, hate, revenge, ambition, all of these things are timeless," he said.

"He steered me to being a playwright by making drama seem interesting, relevant and a real exploration of human nature which it is.

"I started by writing some university material in the 60s and, oh my goodness, there you go, I'm still going."

Twelve years ago he developed a heart rhythm problem called atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter.

"I had them both and they seemed to alternate. It was stress related. I was working too hard and I went from being a four cylinder car to a three cylinder car," he said.

"I went on effective medication and I was able to live with it. The fibrillation still reappears from time to time but I have a new lease of life now.

The work hasn't ceased and, fortunately, audiences are still coming in numbers."

David described how he and Kristin met during rehearsals for The Removalist at La Mama Theatre in Melbourne.

"I was looking for a replacement lead actor and suddenly this gorgeous woman turned up. The problem was we were both married to other people at the time.

"We've been together 45 years and I've just dropped her off in Hastings St to have lunch and go shopping with two of the grandkids. Something must have been right about it."

David believes romance is "important in your life.

"Kristin would feel very bereft if I didn't find some good red roses on Valentine's Day.

It's been a bit of a scramble sometimes but I've always managed it. It's part of our calendar and I try and take her out for a nice dinner."

The interview ended just as Kristin arrived home. I mentioned Valentine's Day and she recalled how she and David were in a Chinese restaurant in Umina on the NSW coast.

"There was an electric organ and David started playing and singing My Funny Valentine.

"Our teenage children were mortified but the restaurant people applauded.

Our friend, actor John Bell, who was with us, was astonished.

"He hadn't seen the exhibitionist side of the quiet playwright before that night."


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