Gaynor Mitchell has lived in Mosman since the 1960s although her connection with Mosman started much earlier with her performance in the Mosman Musical Society’s 1949 production of The Geisha. In this interview Gaynor recalls many special moments in her 26 years of performing with the Society.
I met Gaynor Mitchell in 1984 om the west coast of England during a Country Walkers trek by the Bristol Channel. I met her again in Sydnney in 2004 on a visit and continued to correspond until 2011 when I no longer heard from her in 2012 and 2013. Can you share any information regarding her well being with me? Thank you in advance.
My name is David Field and I live in Fairlight (not far from Mosman where you may recall Gaynor lived for many years). My parents first met Gaynor in the early 50’ so I have known her most of my life. Over the last 3-4 years whilst physically well has suffered from progressively failing memory. Last year it was necessary for Gaynor to move to an aged care facility. Together with her sister, Sister Noni Mitchell we choose a very lovely place..St. Paul’s at Northbridge where she has her own room with Bedroom, Sitting Room & Bathroom. Together Gaynor & I furnished it with some of her favourite pieces from her much loved Apartment.
I hope you may see my note & make contact
6/8 Lauderdale Avenue
FAIRLIGHT, SYDNEY NSW 2094
Phone: Sydney 9907 8345
David Field, Good Evening,
My name is Denise Spence (née Pavitt) and I worked with Gaynor at 2GB during 60’s and 70’s. We have corresponded for many years at Christmas time, catching up with each other’s respective happenings. The reason I am writing, …… today I have received via ‘Return to Sender – Wrong Address’‘ the 2015 Christmas Card – I was surprised and concerned……..but then I found your note on ‘mosmanfaces.net’ hence this note.
I hope you will forgive this intrusion but just had to write to ‘thank you’ (although we have not ever corresponded) for being able to catch up on this current information regarding Gaynor’s health.
Denise Spence (née Pavitt)
My name is Scott.I worked with Gaynor-each playing one of the jurors for the Kent St production of Twelve Angry Men in 1983.After that,I played Margaret Thatcher for the caberet ‘Baggie Snatcher’ by David Hare’
I would love to have more information.Thanks for now,Scott Fraser.
This is all wonderfully alive, there’s traffic, I mean there’s traffic all the time of course right outside my door, but there is a sense of people moving and you see people walking and I’ve only got about two minutes to walk and look down the hill, down Awaba Street and you can see Balmoral and out to the Heads,
That’s what I find with Spit Road, it’s – you’re in the middle of things happening around, you’re not necessarily swamped by them but there are people there and things are going on, and you haven’t got far to go to get to anything, and thank god the Post Office is not far away, and the shops are close.
It’s a bit like being part of – what’s her name – one of the writers, Charmian Clift one time said, ‘it’s a bit like belonging to a village’, and you’ve got that sort of slightly village thing. If you’re bored stiff with yourself on Saturdays or Sundays you can stroll down to the Mosman Junction and you can go to one of the little French cafes they’ve got down there, and somewhere else, and you poke your head in all the places, and not often buy anything, but it’s always interesting. It’s alive and warm, you’re part of it, it’s good.
Hills, community, sense of life, warmth of people, accessibility, being part of a village, village, inclusion, hills, joy
There were very good musical societies around at the time. There was Rockdale, ourselves and Petersham were the original ones, and the Metropolitan and Kogarah and various ones, but certainly the only one that I know that ever got to the air was Mosman.
He did a little thing called The Geisha, which is a very dear little old fashioned thing, bless its heart, they’d done it years before when Mosman first came in, and there happened to be a lead, Mimosa San and then there was the second one who was Lady so and so, Lady Vivienne or something and there was a soubrette role called Juliette I think. And anyway I got it, I got that particular role, which gave me a foot in, which was wonderful really, and from thereon I sort of went through in their soubrette roles and second leads and things like that.
It would have been 19 … I joined at the end of 1948, the first show was in 1949, it would have been February 1949, with The Geisha and then ‘Showboat’ was the next one, and of course I did Julie in that, and Julie is a wonderful role so I had a whale of a time with Julie.
You rush on and you rush off and you change clothes and you change hairstyles. Boom, boom, boom, boom, and you’d finish with one scene and three seconds later you’re back more or less to start the next one. But it was wonderful, a lovely show to do, and it had a very nice King, he was lovely, and the kids were terrific.
Yes, ‘New Moon’, yes I did Roquette in ‘New Moon’. There were good roles in ‘New Moon’, and ‘Victoria and her Huzzar’, which you don’t hear much of, but six wonderful roles and so forth. A woman lead, a male lead, a second male lead, two lots of men and women comediennes, we all had terrific roles and got very good reviews from The Herald actually, for it as well. That was terrific; I loved that – beautiful music. It was a real joy to do.
‘Showboat’, of course, ‘Bitter Sweet’ I loved too, yes. I did ‘Bitter Sweet’ somewhere else first of all, and came over and played it for Mosman later on.
At the time that we were doing “The Maid of the Mountains’ Betty Parsons was playing the Maid – we’d just about finished and John Pearce of course was on 2GB’s staff. So he had been to see it I think on the 2nd last night, somehow like that, and on the following morning on the Friday morning or something they were recording the Gladys Moncrief show, so he said to Gladys – you’ve seen the rest of it , anyway the next thing I know the phone goes and I pick it up and John – he said, ‘oh, can you get me a seat for tonight’, and I said, ‘ohh, John, it’s the last night, it’s been going very well’. He said, ‘Glad would like to come’, I said, ‘ohh,’ we’d have emptied the hall to put Glad in. So we got her in, and she came over, bless her heart, and she was lovely, and she knew Len Gotting who directed it of course, because he had done a lot of comedy roles in Williamson’s while she was there.
She was lovely with us all and also, the funny thing, she said, that’s the only time she has even seen ‘The Maid of the Mountains’, any other time that it had been produced professionally, she was in it. She was charming, and then later, I suppose because it was a couple of years later when we did ‘Desert Song’ she came over and saw that too, which was lovely.
It’s a good stage, we couldn’t fly but we could take backdrops, we had about 19 backdrops for ‘Showboat’,
But it had great depth, which was good and the wing space was lovely and the principal’s dressing room was off to the side and the OP at the back, and the men’s one and the women’s one, and all the chorus dressed downstairs, plenty of room for the male and female, but you had to go – if you wanted to get to get to one side to the other, normally, unless you could get behind a backdrop or something, you had to go under the stage and up the other side which a lot of them do anyway.
But there was quite a lot of space, fairly high up, the only thing we’d have liked – was the orchestra was on the flat in front of us. You know we’d have like something perhaps like a pit – could have put them underneath a bit, not that you didn’t need them. But it had a lovely feel with the audience and they were responsive and everybody knew everybody else, we did three shows a year, in round about February, June I think, and September – July and September. And you sort of went from one to the next to the next. We finished one on a Saturday night mostly, and on a Monday night there was a little second hall, like a rehearsal hall next to the main hall, which is where we used to rehearse, and on the Monday following when the show is closed we’d have a party there and everybody would dance and do things. And then on Wednesday you start rehearsing for the next one, so you went from one to the other. It was like a family, it was terrific.
Everything that could happen in ‘Showboat’ happened in Showboat. It was July and I think it rained practically every night as far as I can remember. A couple of people lost their voices and then Bunnerong Power House blew up. I don’t know what it did, but something happened, they used to sort of shut them off it could go up to about five o’clock or six o’clock what happened anyway, there was no power so we couldn’t use anything and the Mosman Musical Society – the Mosman Daily were very good to us. They sort of hooked us in, they had their own plant or something, so we used to hook up with them until about five to eight so we could make up with the power that came through which wasn’t marvelous but it was – you know, you could see.
And then of course that would go off and then Bunnerong would sort of click in about five to eight or whatever it was, but people would be looking at themselves in the mirror and say, ohh and they’re reaching for things, particularly the poor old black ones -‘where’s this so and so, I haven’t got this… ‘
Mavis Sykes who had the Ballet School up here for years and years and years and everybody knew Mavis, anybody who danced at all in Mosman knew Mavis Sykes and she used to supply the ballets for all the shows and sometimes it would be some small part and bits and pieces they would have as well.
And then when we did Collits’ Inn, which being Australian we had a bird ballet, well I’ve never seen so many Australian birds, magpies and cockatoos and budgies and all sorts, even the little ones and all the rest of it.
One thing about Mosman stage they could fit them all on, it was quite good.
We didn’t actually ever have our own leading man very much, you know, they used to have to borrow them, or get them from other societies. A lot of the societies found that difficult. Then we had Geoff Chard and we had Ron Neil who was later on with the Australian Opera. We had Alan Ferris who was our last Red Shadow, with a lovely voice, a nice man.
Jack London of course played quite a lot in a lot of our leads towards the end. Who else – oh, John Mayne, he did a couple of things, a lovely voice again. They were all premium, good leading men all over Sydney.
Oh yes, he was lovely, yeah, he was a comedienne, Terry and I worked together a lot and Robbie Hatherley and I worked together a lot on the comedy roles, but Terry was very much like Len Gotting
…bright and full of bounce, a good dancer, would fill in anywhere – that sort of thing.
When it’s right it’s lovely, and even if it’s not right it’s lovely. It’s been you to them and if you can make communion with them out there, they feel you – they respond to you and you can see it build you know, and you can actually end up with terribly extended scenes particularly with comedy and stuff, if it’s going well.
It’s a lovely sort of sense of – we had Terry – Terry and I, Robbie and I – we had a little thing – we did (sings) ‘I’ve been repeating – doo de doo dah, doo de doo dah, doo cha, cha, cha’, and then we cross the stage and we came back – well that went on and on. (laughs) It just sort of clicked and it was – oh, it is lovely it really is lovely. I had some good solid roles too – I played Azuri about three times, twice a year, and in the other societies as well. And that, of course is very – mmmmm – get down and let rip. And you make – in fact you can feel it. Sometimes – I mean, generally it’s a nice reaction because mostly they’re with you anyway, they’re not going to sort of fight you, but if you happen to click with it, and it’s – ohhh, it’s lovely.
Electric, mmm, and then they give it music – oh, and you feed it right straight in, and as it gets better and better and bigger and longer – Robbie Hatherley was very inventive and very fresh, had fresh comedy ideas. Lindsay Brown, you’d know, gave him a couple of very good reviews, beautiful reviews, and he did a lot of production himself later on, as comedy and shows and things out at Rockdale and down at Canberra and somewhere else, you know, he was right in.
Our comediennes were very good, Cec McKenzie was another comedian we had, George Brown, of course was their original one from here, he did a lot of work for them.
Yeah, the comedians were good and we stuck and then there was Betty Parsons and Betty Cheal, who sort of leads and second leads, and Rhonda Baker of course, who was lovely, and did some beautiful work, she was a lovely sari in ‘Bitter Sweet’, and she was lovely in ‘New Moon’, she looked lovely, and Geoff Chard was in that.
You know, it was like a family really.
They’ve done some lovely work they did a beautiful ‘Jesus Christ Super Star’ in the Mosman RSL, which is very small, and no wing space. I thought they’ll never do that they’re mad, they’re off their cotton picking scones.
They did it beautifully, it just worked, and they did it very well. They do all their own things, and they do all their own costumes, they’re wonderful in the way they sew them and design them, and Alex does all the – there were the backdrops and bits and pieces for them, and they did a very lovely, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ I don’t even like ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ normally, but it was great, it was full of life and vigour and vim, and you know, it worked beautifully,
Lovely, lovely, lovely – you know, you wanted to get up and say ‘yeah’, and that’s the joy of music, and they obviously like each other all very well and get on, a bit like a family thing and they all work hard and they all come together and really they put a lot of work into the production. It’s good.