is Meg from Seven Little
the Role of Meg The
Miracles - "Keep the Cup"
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the Role of Meg
a NIDA graduate, I had done some training at the ABC Television studios,
learning the different methods needed for acting on television and film,
which was so similar and yet so unlike stage acting.
I took to it like a duck to water.
It was “my” element and I looked forward to flexing my acting
muscles for the camera.
my first roles after leaving NIDA remained on the stage.
I co-starred in a pop opera and did a stint with the Queensland
Theatre Company. I was thrilled to be working and learning, and getting paid
for it, but I was still hoping that my art would return me to my
did! As my contract ended
with the QTC, I was contacted and contracted to portray the female lead in
“The Curate in Bohemia”, which was part of the ABC’s Norman Lindsey
was a delightful character, and I was fortunate enough to be complimented
for my work by my director and crew.
I was also fortunate to be working for and with the top quality
crew and director (Alan Burke) the ABC always attracts.
no more film or television work in sight, I went to Perth to play the
female lead in a music hall review. I sang, and did comedy and had direct contact with the
audience, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
muse continued to look after me and, as my contract finished in Perth, my
agent phoned telling me to come back to Sydney immediately.
The ABC was about to produce the classic “ Seven Little
Australians” and they wanted me to be “Meg”, as long as I
successfully passed through one screen test.
screen test was with Elizabeth Alexander who was up for the role of
“Esther” – Meg’s stepmother.
The ABC wanted to make sure we looked “right” together.
I was slightly older than Elizabeth, yet would be portraying the
younger, and more emotional role.
Luckily for me, I’ve always looked younger than my own age.
and I were outfitted by Wardrobe to match our character’s age groups and
time setting, and then we were placed inside a set made for another ABC
period piece. We were asked
to improvise a series of possible encounters between “Esther” and
“Meg” – such as when they were happy together, and when they agued.
Liz and I both had training in improvisation and were able to
immediately relate to our characters and each other.
It was a hoot.
Everyone watching our screen test said they felt we were already
stepmother and daughter. It
was very positive praise. We
both knew we had won our roles by the end of the day.
General was played by a delightful four-year-old boy – Christian
Robinson. I don’t think he
was quite aware of the role he was playing in television history, but he
was certain of one thing … he loved the platinum haired beauty who was
playing his big sister. Her
name was Tanya. Her
character’s name was Baby.
eyes lit up every time he saw Baby. He
would follow her around, and sit near hear – awestruck by her presence.
Christian was not even vaguely impressed by all the adults taking
everything they were doing so terribly seriously, but he was certainly
impressed by Tanya’s long hair and blue eyes, and her gentle, nurturing
was the only person in the cast and crew who could make The General do
whatever he was meant to do in any given scene.
If the director, or his mother directed his actions there was a
50/50 chance that Christian might eventually do what they wanted him to
do. He also sometimes
listened to his television brothers and sisters, and tried to fit in with
our antics, but Tanya was the only person he wanted to impress.
the director of Seven Little Australians was the brilliant Ron Way.
He was aware of the personal dynamics being displayed, and he knew
exactly how to handle the situation.
was a twenty year old actress portraying the sixteen-year-old Meg, the
eldest of the seven children. I
loved all of the children in my television family, and I think they loved
would sometimes sit on my lap and tell me wonderful make-believe stories,
or just be comfortably still inside the cocoon of my affection.
Ron Way was aware of the sibling involvement created by our
characters and the intense and extended amount of time we shared together.
He used that knowledge to everyone’s advantage.
example, one long day, where every technical problem that could occur
seemed to rear its time-delaying head, we were filming a scene involving
only the seven of us. The
scene required The General to do something that Christian had decided he
didn’t want to do. Christian’s
decision was not open to discussion, or cajoling or scolding. He had made up his mind and the rest of us were superfluous
to his thoughts and actions.
Way sized up the situation, and took a directing path that made the scene
work like a dream.
he said as he took me well away from the hubbub that so often occurs when
a group of children are together and bored, “I want you to think like
Meg, and convince your sister, Baby, to somehow make her little brother
behave. Do you think you can
was an unusual direction, but I understood the intent and felt sure I
could do what was asked of me. Baby
and I walked away from the set and I explained the situation to her – we
would all be stuck in the same set with the same tumultuous boredom until
Christian did exactly what The General was meant to do.
Tanya/Baby didn’t like loud noises and raucous behaviour – she
also wanted to have this particular scene over and done with.
sauntered up to The General and stood right in front of him.
His attention was immediately fixed and focused upon his young
goddess. I no longer remember
exactly what Tanya said to Christian.
I only remember how well behaved Christian immediately became.
He did the scene perfectly. He
received a smile from the “woman” he loved and she even held his hand.
It was obvious this was the greatest reward he could have asked
is now a full grown and handsome man is his thirties.
He and Tanya no longer remember the infatuation that helped make
all our lives so much easier, but I can still see it when I look at the
series. It’s strange
– I look at the beautiful adults that Baby and The General have become,
and yet part of me cannot shake the overlaid image my memories place on
both of them. I still feel
love them and they stay eternally young in my heart.
location for Yarrahappini was a magical area of the world just outside of Queanbeyan
which is just outside of Canberra which the capital of Australia.
homestead chosen as Ester’s childhood home and the seven little
Australians holiday retreat is a historical beauty, chosen for its
historical accuracy, its charm, its beautiful gardens and its extensive
and glorious surrounding lands.
cast and crew would land on its doorstop and make great use of its
enormous beauty. Its lands
extended to further than the eye could see and, as a working property, it
still had true stockmen who would not see another human being for weeks at
a time while checking its outlying areas.
remember meeting one such stockman, who was understandably a little
shocked to be surrounded by all “us city folk”.
He was as quiet as a mouse, and yet charming in his determination
to help us in everyway he possibly could.
He visibly lit up every time I asked him about his work.
He didn’t say much in words but the intensity of his love for the
land he patrolled and protected was palatable through the few words he
folk who owned the property that became Yarrahappini were also wonderful. They
accepted their roles as our hosts and regularly made sure we were all
comfortable, as we tramped around their land.
We could ride for hours and still be in their property.
We climbed a small mountain, and looked over a tree-filled vastness
that still belonged to them. They were caretakers of a heaven-on-earth, and they had the
good sense to know it.
remember the sadness they felt, telling me about having to sell off huge
tracks of their land in the near future.
Looking back, I guess they were happy to have us taking such a
loving and romantic look over their world.
They knew we were recording a piece of their own, as well as
went back there many, many years later.
I wish I hadn’t. The heart-warming acreage had become suburban blocks, with
little houses and under-developed gardens. The
homestead itself remained intact, protected by laws and history.
You can now pay a small amount of money and go for a general wonder
over the small area still left of its once great empire.
I’m sure that is a fine experience for anyone interested in
beautiful old houses and gardens … but oh, when you have seen great
beauty, it is hard to see that great beauty stripped to a nub of itself.
goodness, Seven Little Australians was filmed there.
I watch the series and feel joy that the truth about the area is
forever captured for everyone to see.
I look into my heart and memories and feel even greater joy that
once upon a time, I had the honour of sharing the endless acres, and the
Miracles - "Keep the Cup"
Little Australians is wonderfully heart-warming story that translated
extremely well onto screen. I
was fortunate to portray the eldest of the seven children, even though I
was slightly older than the actress portraying the children’s
connected to the production knew we were creating a magical classic that
would even be accepted and appreciated by the extremely talented writer,
(Ethel Turner) who had first seen the story in her mind.
10 part series took 3 months to shoot, and cast and crew become a family
during that time. But
productions finish and actresses have to move onto the next acting
adventure. I worked for the
Tasmanian Theatre Company as Cecily in "The Importance of Being
Ernest", then moved back to Sydney for the musical “Godspell” and
then become part of the revolutionary soapie “Class of ‘74”.
of ‘74” was the first soapie to be aimed directly at the teenage
viewing audience, and we were an instant hit.
Unfortunately my character, Nora Hayes, started the series as a
pregnant teenager, which the “powers-that-be” declared to be totally
inappropriate for a teenage audience … even though the show was only
telling the truth about the pregnancy problem in schools at the time.
was now in limbo, with all sorts of increasingly silly story lines
confusing her character. I
left the show a little confused myself, and thought this was good time for
me to take six months off and see the world.
to See the World
to England in those days took over 30 hours, and I was too excited to
sleep a wink throughout the entire journey.
I arrived at Heathrow airport in the early hours of a grey English
day, with a small amount of luggage ... and a postcard from a friend.
friend was NIDA colleague who was now working for a theatre in a town near
London. He had asked me to
come and stay with him, if ever I made it to England – I was about to
accept his offer. Being young,
and therefore immortal and infallible, I hadn’t bothered to let my
friend know I was about to visit him – I wanted to surprise him!
gave my postcard to a bus driver at the airport, asking what I was
supposed to do to make my way to the destination shown.
The bus driver assured me I just had to catch a certain train and I
would be there in no time.
caught the train. I’ve
always enjoyed train travel. I
watched the countryside fly by, thinking how green and beautiful
everything was. Time passed,
and I still hadn’t arrived at my destination.
I thought this a little strange as I knew my friend was living
somewhere “not too far out of London”, however my senses were a little
befuddled by lack of sleep, and my constant curiosity, and more time
passed with me still fascinated by the scenery flashing by.
Too Far Out of London!!"
wasn’t until I saw a big sign saying we were now entering Wales that I
knew something was most definitely wrong.
Wales was the homeland of my father, but it was most assuredly not
the home of my friend.
alighted from the train at the next stop.
It was a small station with meadows and greenery all around it, and
no sign of civilization. I was the only person to leave the train at that
station. For a long moment, I
thought I was the only person in this part of the world, then I caught
sight of the Stationmaster on the opposite platform.
Stationmaster was staring at me with his jaw dropped and a slight
expression of shock on his face. I
wondered if it was really that unusual for strangers to leave the train at
his station. I walked up to
him, and asked him where I was, and how to get to where I wanted to be.
He seemed to be in a daze as I gave him my train ticket.
I thought giving him a big smile might help too.
He then spoke and I realised I’d walked into a small miracle.
Meg! Aren’t you?
You’re her from that “7 Little Australians”.
admitted I was indeed Meg from “that 7 Little Australians”.
was then informed by my stationmaster how much his family enjoyed the
series. They were avid
fans and thought it one of the best show they had ever seen.
His little girl loved Meg. Would
I please give an autograph, and I must have cup of tea, and yes, I was
nowhere near where my friend lived and I would have to catch a train to
the bottom of England to connect to a train that would eventually land me
at the right place.
Station Master was still saying, “I don’t believe it.
I don’t believe it” and I was still sipping my tea, as the
train I was now meant to catch trundled into our station of small
miracles. I tried to return
my white porcelain cup and saucer to my newfound friend, but he wouldn’t
hear of it. He threw my
luggage into the train, and herded me onto a seat, all the time saying
“Keep the cup, keep the cup.”
train pulled away. I waved
Right Place at the Right Time"
miracles didn’t stop there. Many hours later I eventually landed at my destination, which
is indeed just outside of London. I
went to the theatre where my friend worked only to find he had left that
job a couple of days ago.
felt a little shock wave run through me as I realised I had no idea what
to do next. I decided
worrying wouldn’t help so I trudged back to the train station, to have
somewhere to sit and think, and eat a sandwich or two.
immediately after finishing my food, I walked over to the stairs leading
away from the station. I
had no intention of leaving the station – I just felt the need to look
down the steps for some reason.
it was my turn to be amazed, and have my jaw drop.
Jumping up the stairs, two at a time, was my old friend.
He had returned to somewhere near the theatre one last time to pick
up a few things. If I had
been any earlier, or later, I would have missed him.
I had arrived at just the right time.