Written by Tim Stackpool
The Australian theatre and entertainment industry is lamenting the passing of Don Reid, actor, director, playwright, mentor and friend.
More recently known for penning Codgers, the story of senior gentlemen who gather each week at the gym, in it Don tells of real life experiences as they exercise together, chew the fat, laugh, tease and sing. They solve the problems of the world, agreeing to disagree. When secrets, differences and loss of trust threaten to destroy the long established friendships, they learn that ‘difference’ is more a matter of point of view.
Each of Don’s dramas reflect greatly on the experiences, the highs and sometime disappointing lows that Don himself faced during his entire lifetime love of the stage.
Don Reid was a founding member of the Ensemble Company, Australia’s longest continuously running professional theatre company, and for 25 years, performed in, or directed, well over thirty productions. Away from the Ensemble, Don performed for all the major theatre companies across Australia, and in several commercial productions. He enjoyed extensive work in television, film and radio. In 1993, to much critical acclaim, Don wrote and performed at Wharf 2 his one-man play, A Whimsical Fellow, based on the Australian poet, John Shaw Neilson.
Don also had a great love of early Australian history, and the explorers that shaped this nation. In his play Navigating Flinders, Don sets the action in Mauritius where Matthew Flinders was detained for 6 years while returning from his explorations around Australia to England.
Age never wearied Don. Noting the talent that a senior actor has in conveying a complex stream of thought merely via the lifting of a wry eyebrow, he wrote Codgers partly as a gift of employment for his older acting colleagues, saying of the cast “Look at that. Between these men there’s got to be over 400 years of experience on stage, and it shows. You couldn’t do that when you were a 25-year-old actor.”
Just last year, Don was treading the boards again, this time as Norman Thayer in On Golden Pond, a wistful tale of a couple facing their imminent mortality and the struggles of ageing. This followed from his recognition at the 2012 Tropfest short film festival, where he received the Best Actor accolade for a tragic comedy piece.
While his presence on stage and on film will be missed by fans and those loyal to the Australian theatre scene, his absence from the regular theatre-lover ‘Glugs’ luncheons will be profound. Glugs was originally a gathering of Sydney theatre critics, but has grown to welcome patrons, participants and promoters of the craft. Don received two Glugs’ Taffy Davies Memorial Awards for Best New Australian work for Codgers and for Navigating Flinders, as well as the Seaborn Broughton and Walford Glugs Life Achievement Award a couple of years ago.
Don’s presence, along with his partner Fiona, would bring tales of adventures and stories from the great era, as well as openness and support for those still honing their skills.
Don passed away after sustaining a fall, on 9 April 2013 and leaves a legacy to which many can only aspire.