'Drag and Daddies and Bears, Oh My!' - Actor, Producer and Advocate, Simon Burke - Part 1

STAGES with Peter Eyers show

Summary: Simon Burke was recently cast as Hugo, the drag mentor to the title character in the musical Everybody's Talking About Jaimie. He has entered an age bracket that finds him playing a succession of paternal roles in The Sound of Music, Catch Me If You Can, La Cage Aux Folles and Tommy Murphy's Strangers in Between. And for two decades he worked alongside a couple of the most famous bears in the business; Teds, Big and Little. Oh my! All of these are just some of the highlights of a career that continues to be varied and stellar. At the age of 13, Simon Burke landed the role of Tom Allen in Fred Schepsi's acclaimed feature film The Devil's Playground. His performance would reward him with the AFI award for Best Actor and the accolade of being the youngest recipient honoured with the award. He would return to The Devil's Playground 38 years later, reprising the role of Tom and serving the project as co-creator and executive producer. This television series would receive AACTA and Logie Awards. Identifying the moment he walked into an empty theatre and ventured onto the stage - he immediately recognised that this is where he wanted to be. Burke has been in regular work since his early debut. He completed an apprenticeship 'on-the-job' with most of the country's leading actors; early gigs had him working alongside Peter Carroll, Robyn Nevin and Maggie Dence. He has performed across all platforms; theatre, television, film, cabaret, musical theatre and a host of the iconic Playschool. A vast array of roles in musical theatre have given us his Marius in the original Australian company of Les Miserables, Billy Flynn in Chicago and Billy Crocker in Anything Goes. Acclaim abroad has seen Burke feature regularly in The West End in productions of La Cage Aux Folles, A Little Night Music, The Phantom of the Opera; and The Sound of Music at The London Palladium. Life in the theatre has also seen him attend to the role of National President of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance; a role he served for 10 years working for better conditions and consideration of fellow artists. He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2015 for distinguished service to the performing arts as an actor, singer and producer, and through senior advocacy roles for performer's rights and access to development and education programs. It continues to be a rewarding and busy time on stage and off for Simon Burke. We discussed the many stages he has traversed - and a lot more - in this reflective episode of Stages.