Back to coun­try for ac­tor

Robert Coleby cen­tre stage at 71 for top per­for­mance

Central and North Rural Weekly - - NEWS - Ali­son Hous­ton [email protected]­ral­weekly.com

AT 71 and af­ter al­most five decades in the act­ing busi­ness, Robert Coleby is still find­ing new ways to chal­lenge him­self.

He is now star­ring in the Gold Coast’s new Aus­tralian Out­back Spec­tac­u­lar, Heart­land.

Coleby plays farmer Reg, who with wife Marg (Cate Feld­mann) is strug­gling to sur­vive a five-year drought on the land.

The arena show melds live ac­tion, thun­der­ing horses, a dog, quad bike, film, and a state-of-the-art light and sound sys­tem.

“It’s pretty im­mer­sive,” Coleby said.

“The horse-work is def­i­nitely spec­tac­u­lar, but it’s weaved into a story line so that you re­ally care about the peo­ple on those horses.”

So, de­spite their phys­i­cal size against this im­pos­ing out­back back­drop, Coleby says the char­ac­ters loom large, but he ad­mits it’s not an easy gig.

“At my age you look for a chal­lenge,” he said.

“We all know our life is fi­nite, and mine is likely to run out quicker than my Ikea kitchen guar­an­tee - but life is for liv­ing, for tak­ing risks.”

These days, although he still en­joys per­form­ing and re­spond­ing to a live au­di­ence, he said it had to be some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary to get him back on stage.

And in the case of Heart­land, as well as the phys­i­cal and men­tal chal­lenges of the arena, Coleby has a spe­cial link to the land and its harsh re­al­i­ties.

Coleby was just two when his fam­ily em­i­grated from Eng­land to Aus­tralia in 1949, liv­ing with his dad’s brother on a cat­tle farm near Kin­garoy be­fore mov­ing to Mary­bor­ough. HEART OF THE MAT­TER: Robert Coleby plays bat­tling farmer Reg, tak­ing on Aus­tralia's heart-break­ing drought con­di­tions in Aus­tralian Out­back Spec­tac­u­lar's state-of-the-art arena pro­duc­tion, Heart­land. PHO­TOS: VIL­LAGE ROAD­SHOW THEME PARKS

Dur­ing those first years in the Aus­tralian bush he en­coun­tered drought, flood and bush­fire and was bit­ten by a brown snake - pretty much all the out­back can throw at some­one.

And yet, when the fam­ily moved back to Eng­land, he missed the days of walk­ing bare­foot to school, and years later jumped at the chance for an act­ing role in Aus­tralia.

He de­scribed his 1970s re­turn as like step­ping into tech­ni­colour af­ter liv­ing in black and white.

In the years to come, Coleby be­came a main­stay in Aus­tralian TV, per­haps best known for his role as XO in early 1980s se­ries Pa­trol Boat, the fore­run­ner of Sea Pa­trol.

He also ap­peared in the Young Doc­tors, Chop­per Squad, the Levkas Man, An­zacs, Tanam­era, Par­adise Beach, All Saints and House of Hancock among a host of oth­ers.

Most re­cently he starred as El­iz­a­beth Bligh’s (Noni Ha­zle­hurst) love in­ter­est, Sir Dou­glas God­dard, in TV favourite A Place to Call

Home, which sold to 140 over­seas mar­kets.

“It was a re­ally in­ter­est­ing piece be­cause it crossed a num­ber of is­sues, in­clud­ing for Dou­glas the eu­thana­sia de­bate, which is in every­one’s mind at the mo­ment with an age­ing pop­u­la­tion and ask­ing what juris­dic­tion we have over our own fate,” Coleby said.

But hav­ing such a last­ing ca­reer, he said, was a mat­ter of luck as well as ta­lent.

“You can be re­ally good in some­thing no-one watches, or you can be good in some­thing that’s pop­u­lar and get a pe­riod of work and that no­to­ri­ety kicks on to other pro­duc­tions...

“But it’s ex­tra­or­di­nary how many re­ally tal­ented ac­tors don’t get a se­cond chance.”

You also, of course, have to be pre­pared to play your age,

❝know We all our life is fi­nite, and mine is likely to run out quicker than my Ikea kitchen guar­an­tee... — Robert Coleby

he said, re­call­ing meet­ing Jack Thomp­son re­cently while the two were work­ing on sep­a­rate pro­duc­tions at Fox Stu­dios.

Both men’s char­ac­ters died of heart at­tacks, and they rem­i­nisced and laughed about the days when they used to be the ro­man­tic leads.

But he has no com­plaints. He lives on 18 acres on the Gold Coast and loves it - “it’s such a beau­ti­ful part of the world” - and is happy to be work­ing so close to home.

His favourite role, he said, was al­ways his most re­cent, with his aim be­ing to grow and im­prove his per­for­mance all the time.

But be­ing part of “things that count, that have had an im­pact” and have changed peo­ple’s think­ing, like A Place to Call Home, is also

Robert Coleby loves chal­leng­ing roles.im­por­tant.And he hopes Heart­land will give peo­ple a new ap­pre­ci­a­tion of ru­ral life, and the strength and re­silience of those who work the land.With Vil­lage Road­show do­nat­ing $20,000 from ticket sales to drought re­lief, it’s got to make a dif­fer­ence to some peo­ple who de­serve a break.Visit out­back­spec­tac­u­lar. com.au or call 13 33 86.

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