On a hot Sydney weekend afternoon in November fans of a near-octogenarian queued for the signing of his latest book. Stars on Stage A Conversation with Reg Livermore saw Reg Livermore return to The Independent Theatre to talk about the book and his life with ABC Radio presenter James Valentine. It was at the Independent Theatre that Reg Livermore did theatre training as a schoolboy. The two of them appeared relaxed as they conversed about life stages and the stages on which Reg had appeared in his career from early teens until now. These aspects appear in Stages – Reg Livermore A Memoir (Hardie Grant Books, 2018).

A true legend of Australian Theatre, from serious drama to cabaret and more, Reg Livermore has received more than a dozen major awards. He has been a performer, writer, designer and director and appeared on television. In the last few years, he has received three lifetime achievement awards.

In conversation, Reg reflected on some of the relationships, triumphs and tragedies that have shaped him both as a person and performer. Ensuring that he was speaking directly to the audience, Reg appeared variously energetic, sparkling, reflective, matter-of-fact and opinionated. Clearly he demonstrated that he is a person to be respected and listened to if one is at all interested in Australian theatre of the last 66 years and curious about possible life lessons as well as theatrical ones. He did not shy away from failure, had felt its sting and accepted it as part of life. He accepts failure but owns his triumphs. This may be key to his theatrical longevity.

The book is a collection of memoirs with each chapter able to stand alone, helping readers who only want small bites to read at any one time. There are a few black and white reproductions of photos mostly from his performances adding interest and diversion. There isn’t an index, as may be more typical in autobiographies. Reg’s autobiography, Chapters and Chances was published by Hardie Grant Books in 2004.

Reg Livermore was born in Parramatta in December 1938. Early theatrical influences included regular outings to see pantomimes at the famous Tivoli Theatre Sydney. A Knox Grammar Preparatory school teacher expanded his exposure to a variety of cultural performances. He began theatrical training in his early teens.

In 1958, Reg Livermore became a founding member of Hayes Gordon’s Ensemble Theatre, alongside Lorraine Bayly, Don Reid, Jon Ewing and Clarissa Kaye. The book talks about these and many other actors and directors Reg encountered in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and England. In conversation he referred to other actors whose skill, presence and luck had blocked him from realising dreams of gaining more parts as a serious dramatic actor when he was younger. He spoke about his early theatrical training and how in his early 30s, Hair freed him from some of these conventions. A significant highlight for Australian audiences was his appearance in high-heels in the original Rocky Horror Show. He has worked with Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady (2016-2017) and starred in Wicked and The Producers (2004-2005). Reg began writing the book during his 500 performance run as the lead in The Producers.

The book also covers other parts of his life. Issues of sexuality are raised early with schoolyard tales. He had been unconventional from an early age preferring to dance and act than do what most boys were meant to do in conservative Australia. He gave up dance to go to England. His time with pantomimes led Jim Sharman to describe him as a “method acting vaudevillian”. He had a sudden initiation as a sixteen year old into how replaceable actors are when he had to replace a young actor who had recently died. Reg bemoans the apparent reduced dedication of the current generation of younger performers and of the current celebration of celebrity over learning, work, skill and application.

There are chapters dealing with the impact and value of friendships. There is also a chapter covering the impact and value of theatre criticism. Tales of his curious family’s traits are told along with his sorrow at his parents decline. There is a highly dramatic episode in his life when he was disempowered and almost derailed in Dubbo with affairs of the heart and the restaurant business. We travel his life on the road and living away from home. Friendships are examined from inception to extinction. The Memoir has tales of resilience, bravery, fool hardiness and fun. Failures and triumphs are faced head on.

Linking past and future, Reg indicated in conversation that he has had a preference for the one man show rather than the ensemble, but that the “business of staging” deters him from mounting another one man show as the ‘anxiety may be too much’ for him.

STAGES REG LIVERMORE A MEMOIR reveals Reg Livermore’s talent, dedication, lifelong drive, some misdirected decisions and luck. Readers will enjoy a wry smile, poignant moments, joy, sorrow and some deep reflections inspired by this legend of Australian theatre.

For more about STAGES : REG LIVERMORE A MEMOIR, visit {Website:10}