Working in both the UK and Australia, Bob’s distinguished career spanned stage, TV and film. Among his many stage credits are A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Merry Widow for Opera Australia, The School for Scandal for STC and The Great Man for STCSA. On television he played Hec O’Farrell in Blue Heelers, Tom Kennedy in Neighbours, Cedric in Something in the Air, and the Pilot in Dr. Who, and he also featured in the Australian film Crackerjack. In 2010, Bob received the prestigious Equity Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Bob Hornery will always hold a special place in the Company’s history and in the memories of everyone who knew and loved him” MTC Executive Director Virginia Lovett said. “He was very much a part of the MTC family and his presence on our stages will be sorely missed. Our hearts go out to his family and friends at this incredibly sad time.”
Bob Hornery took his final bow with MTC in the 2011 production of The Importance of Being Earnest alongside Geoffrey Rush in a production directed by Simon Phillips. He also starred with Geoffrey Rush in A Funny Thing Happened on The Way To the Forum, in Melbourne in 2012.
A particularly moving eulogy has been given by his good friend Mitchell Butel:
“The brilliant and beautiful and hilarious Bob Hornery passed away this afternoon with his beloved daughter Jane Goodman and his dear friend Richard Piper at his side. Bob’s family have asked a few friends to spread the news of his passing.
The words “one of a kind” were written to define Bob. Never a soul more generous and compassionate, daring and bold, mischievous and filthy, vulnerable and open. A master stage craftsman whose text, physical and comic skills were unparallelled. A kind and wise teacher and friend to so many. A beloved partner and father and grandfather.
A few years ago when Bob received the inaugural Actors Equity Lifetime Achievement Award, he took to the stage after being praised by all and sundry and cheekily said, with perfect timing:
“Well, this is quite wonderful. So many lovely and marvelous things have been said about me tonight and I just have to say… they’re all TRUE!”
Alyson Whyte told the crowd that once backstage after being regaled by one of Bob’s legendary anecdotes of his many years in the theatre here and abroad she asked Bob if he had ever been famous and he said, again with a glint, “Oh Alyson, many, many times”. For he knew that fame and fortune were not the point.
He recently told a dear friend that we was “among the lucky ones, because he did it for the love of it”. And so he did.
Much to all of our delights. His last onstage performance was in the musical farce A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 2012 directed by and starring his respective surrogate sons, Simon Phillips and Geoffrey Rush.
Stephen Sondheim said that Bob’s performance as Erronius, the old man searching for his lost children, was possibly his favourite Erronius ever because Bob, while nailing every laugh, made him care for the character in a way he never had before. The master. Bob was the guardian angel of that production. He’d climb gingerly around backstage before his entrances but once on, would fly. And so much fun.
During one of Geoffrey’s comic routines, which one night was particularly extended and crowd-pleasing, Bob turned to me downstage and declared “What is she LIKE!!?” and the three of us were a corpsing mess! Actually, Bob probably held it together and just maintained the glint – the naughty professional. (Bob also went to the same school as me, Marcellin College Randwick and as a young thing, he was a model of what one day I hoped to become so it was a particular thrill to work with him after loving him and his work for so long).
There will be a great big hole in the hearts of the Australian theatre community without him. It’s likely that there will be a celebration of his life this weekend in Melbourne. I’ll provide details as they come to hand. Bob’s dear friend Monica Maughan who passed away a few years ago used to tell a story about Bob.
They were both doing Great Expectations directed by Simon. Simon needed some background extra work in a farm scene so asked Bob and Monica to mime being horses. Bob had a better idea. He told Monica to act like a horse. She did. He led her onstage with an invisible rope. Tied her to an invisible fence and then walked offstage to get a cup of tea and continue his crossword. I love that story. I loved him. As anyone who knew him did. Thanks for all your many gifts Bob.