JUDI Farr’s acting career is nothing if not varied.
She’s played in everything from “Boeing Boeing” to “Death of a Salesman” on stage.
She recently played “very challenging and exciting” matinees as Violet in Steppenwolf’s production of “August: Osage County” for Sydney Theatre Company. She’s directed five plays for Marian Street Theatre in Sydney. Her film roles encompass “Oscar and Lucinda” and “The Year My Voice Broke”.
And, of course, there is Farr’s household fame on TV in “All Saints”, “A Country Practice”, “Kingswood Country” and, of late, alongside Guy Pearce in “Jack Irish: Bad Debts”.
“My work has not been evenly spread,” she tells “CityNews” by phone from Brisbane where she’s been playing super-sleuth Miss Marple in Agatha Christie’s “A Murder is Announced”.
“In the ‘70s I did more TV, in the ‘80s and ‘90s I did a lot of stage work”.
Now Canberra audiences are about to see her playing one of the world’s most famous roles. Farr admits to having seen plenty of Miss Marple shows on TV, but assures me that once she got the role, she refused to watch any more.
“I like to follow Agatha Christie’s view of Miss Marple,” Farr says, “as a kind woman and a gentle lady, but one who was very suspicious of anyone she met… she was fascinated by what makes people tick.”
Modelled on women she grew up with including aunts and a grandmother, the character, she says, “is a genteel lady and something of a busybody, but very clever”.
Farr has no notions of any back-story involving a World War I lover, preferring an alternative version where she was a nurse during World War I.
“She is single and happy about it, she is a very happy woman and content with her lot,” she says.
She has no idea where Miss Marple got her money from, but presumes she inherited from her parents.
As to the story, based on the 1950 Christie novel of the same name, there will be no spoilers, but the unbelievably complicated plot of “A Murder is Announced” sees her staying temporarily at the vicarage in Chipping Cleghorn, close to the action of a strange murder in nearby “Little Paddocks” that has been announced in the local “Gazette”.
The secret of the success of the play, which she has been told by Christie experts is much better than “The Mousetrap”, is that the characters appear to be not a bunch of wild eccentrics but “just a group of very nice people… then the flaws emerge”.
In her view, the play works because of “that urge we all have to be amateur detectives”. After the show, Farr and her fellow actors often ask audience members, “did you work out who did it? Few do”.
From the acting point of view, the greatest fun for Farr is in her stage relationship with Inspector Craddock, played by Mark Lee of “Gallipoli” fame.
“He’s antagonistic at first when she starts suggesting things, but he comes around when he realises that he can really rely on Miss Marple,” he says.
And fear not, readers, although Farr certainly doesn’t give away any secrets to “CityNews”, all is revealed at the end of the play.
“A Murder is Announced”, Canberra Theatre, February 22-28, bookings to canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 6275 2700.