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Barry Hill having a chat about his life in theatre in Adelaide

Barry Hill’s lifelong dedication to performing arts honoured with Order of Australia Medal

Adelaide is home to professional and amateur theatre companies and venues, and is known for its vibrant theatre scene.

If you are immersed in the craft of theatre, either as a theatregoer enthusiast or a professional, the news of Barry Hill receiving an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his lifelong contribution to theatre will come as no surprise.

Barry’s career in amateur theatre spans over 54 years. He has directed over 100 plays and 50 musicals. The stories, skills, and experiences emerging from his work are both fascinating and inspiring.

Barry, who lives in an ACH Group retirement living village, has shared his fascinating life story.

Finding his voice

Barry’s journey into theatre started in his teens. Growing up with a health condition and stutter did not stop him from being curious and open-minded about different ideas and concepts, including singing. His curiosity was noticed by his neighbour who gently persuaded him to join the Henley Beach Methodist Gilbert & Sullivan Soc as a chorus member in 1969.

In 1974, Barry got his first taste of theatre when he joined the Metropolitan Musical Theatre Co. and has performed and directed there ever since.

Bright beginning

In 1976, Barry joined the Q Theatre where he was mentored by the legendary Q Theatre founder Betty Quin.

Barry recalls how Betty encouraged him to embark on the journey of becoming a musical director, saying: “Darling, you can clearly direct”.

So, he did and debuted in 1979, with a performance involving 12 actors, called You Can’t Take It With You.

Since then, Barry worked with a number of theatre companies, including; Tea Tree Players, Burnside Players, St Jude’s Players, Galleon Theatre Company, the Hills Musical Theatre Company, Therry Dramatic Society, Mayfair Theatre Company, Marie Clark Theatre Company, LA Mama, John Edmund Theatre Company, and the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of SA, to name a few.

Powerful performances and memorable roles

Some of the highlights of Barry’s directing career include:

  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Adelaide Repertory Theatre
  • Tom, Dick and Harry at Tea Tree Players
  • Private Lives at Therry Dramatic Society and the Q Theatre
  • My Fair Lady and Hello Dolly at The Met
  • Directing the late June Bronhill in La Vie Parisienne at Gilbert and Sullivan Society
  • Directing the late Marjorie Irving and the late John Edmund in The Kingfisher at John Edmund Theatre

Barry’s favourite acting roles include:

  • Roger de Bris in The Producers at Marie Clark Theatre Company
  • Cookie McGee (Nice Work If You Can Get It) at The Met
  • Ko Ko in The Mikado at G&S Soc of SA
  • Sydney Bruhl in Deathtrap at Galleon
  • Gus in Cats at The Met
  • Noel Coward in Noel & Gertie at Therry Dramatic Society
  • Queen Dottie in Sleeping Beauty at Tea Tree Players
  • Acting Captain Terri Dennis in Privates on Parade at John Edmund Theatre
Barry Hill (right) as Gus in Cats at The Met, 2015
Barry (right) as Gus in Cats at The Met, 2015

Time flies when you are having fun

“When you’re performing, it’s fun, sometimes hysterical and politically incorrect, but also fulfilling as you see people’s immediate reaction,” Barry shares. “In contrast, as a director you need to look out for everybody and everything, and have control over the concept.”

It’s also the people you work with that make it worth it

When asked about the people he liked to work with, June Brownhill – a world famous opera singer, performer and actress, comes to mind.
“This was the beginning of a wonderful friendship that lasted until her passing in 2005. I was lucky enough to have private concerts with her serenading me and learnt a lot of opera theatre skills from the expert!”

June Bronhill and Barry Hill during rehearsals for La Vie Parisienne, 1991
June Bronhill and Barry during rehearsals for La Vie Parisienne, 1991

Barry was awarded the BRAVO award for enduring service in Adelaide Theatre, and ‘the best director’ award for Tom, Dick and Harry at Tea Tree Players.

Beyond COVID complexities

When COVID hit, Barry was in the middle of a season of ‘The Producers’ with Marie Clark Theatre Company. He was excelling as Roger de Bris, which is one of his favourite roles. However, due to mask regulations it was much more difficult to read people’s reactions, and the cast had to work harder to get feedback from the audience.

Barry Hill (right) as Roger de Bris with Ben Todd as Carmen Ghia 2021/22 – Marie Clarke Theatre Company
Barry (right) as Roger de Bris with Ben Todd as Carmen Ghia 2021/22 – Marie Clarke Theatre Company

Encouraging emerging talent

“You can achieve big things even when you start small,” Barry shares, hoping that he will be remembered as someone who is encouraging new talent.

And his advice for someone who wants to give theatre a go? Look for opportunities, keep an eye on Adelaide Theatre Guide auditions, start small, get involved and learn the craft.

Up close and personal

Barry is a former primary school teacher and now works part-time for St John’s Youth Services.  At night when not directing or performing, he writes theatre reviews for Stage Whispers and It’s on the House. He has also been a voice-artist and featured in many commercials and some TV series.

On behalf of ACH Group, we congratulate Barry on his recognition for his lifelong contribution to theatre and musical performance.

2023 marks the third year of Barry’s life at one of ACH Group retirement living communities and as he says: “I’m loving it”.

Barry’s is currently directing Only an Orphan Girl, a melodrama for Tea Tree Players premiering in April

Only an Orphan Girl
  • Wed 12 April 2023 – Saturday 15 April 2023, Performance at 8.00pm
  • Wed 19 April 2023 – Saturday 22 April 2023, Performance at 8.00pm
  • Sat 15 April 2023, Sunday 16 April 2023, Saturday 22 April 2023, Matinee at 2.30pm

Bookings: Tea Tree Players Theatre – Cnr Yatala Vale Road and Hancock Road, Surrey Downs, 5126, Bookings – (08) 8289 5266

In Bed With the Butler
  • Thu 13 Apr at 7:30pm
  • Fri 14 Apr at 7:30pm
  • Sat 15 Apr at 7:30pm
  • Sun 16 Apr at 4:00pm
  • Thu 20 Apr at 7:30pm
  • Fri 21 Apr at 7:30pm
  • Sat 22 Apr at 2:00pm
  • Sat 22 Apr at 7:30pm

Tickets: Arts Theatre, 53 Angus St, Adelaide or ring 08 8212 5777

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