Sheila Oliver is proof that the duchess in the stage production of Alice In Wonderland never seems to age.
The bright-eyed, bubbly actress first played the role of the duchess during the 1960s when visiting America as an exchange student and then reprised the part 55 years later in 2015, as part of the Coolum Theatre Players on the Sunshine Coast.
“It just goes to show that the duchess never ages, does she?” quipped the GemLife Pacific Paradise homeowner.
Her latest role, and probably one of her all-time favourites, is as an outspoken, opinionated, grumpy retired teacher called Jessie in a local amateur theatre production of Calendar Girls, a musical comedy based on the 2003 film of the same name.
“The movie starred some amazing actors such as Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, and I am loving being involved in the Coolum Theatre Player’s production,” she said.
Acting has been a passion of Sheila’s since her school days in the UK, and she can remember how thrilled she was to win the Year 12 drama prize.
On leaving school, she went to university and studied to become a language teacher but found it `too boring’ so changed direction and became a drama teacher.
Sheila continued in the profession when she moved to Australia 50 years ago.
“When not working I would do amateur theatre in Melbourne until I had my fourth child and I sort of dropped my bundle as far as acting was concerned and gave it away for about 25 years,” said Sheila.
That was until 2009 when her passion for live performance on stage was reignited and Sheila auditioned successfully for a role in the professional production of Cinderella at QPAC in Brisbane, playing Prince Charming’s mother.
She described her role as being a cross between Dame Edna Everage and the Queen and said the experience proved to be the start of a busy acting schedule in amateur theatre productions on the Sunshine Coast where she featured in many plays including five in the past 12 months alone.
Patrons have seen her at Coolum Civic Centre, Noosa Arts Theatre, the Lind Lane Theatre in Nambour and Buderim Arts Theatre.
“I’ve been very busy on stage since 2010,” said Sheila, adding that taking on new acting roles not only keeps her young but also active in mind, body and spirit.
“I love comedy and I love to laugh. I’m good at it too,” she said with a huge smile and a wink.
“I am not a sewer, knitter or artist and don’t share my husband George’s love for the gym or croquet so my interest in acting is very important to me, and I plan to keep doing it for as long as I possibly can.”
Many of her stage roles have involved regular rehearsals three nights a week and as opening night nears for each one, cast and crew also work on weekends. It is all worth it, according to Sheila.
“We all get opening night jitters but after each performance there is a great sense of accomplishment, knowing you have done something and done it well. As you get older, it can get harder to remember the lines, but a good actor must make it look effortless every time. Knowing you have done that is magic!”
Sheila has won the support of many GemLife Pacific Paradise homeowners who, along with George, have booked well in advance to see her performance and cheer her on in Calendar Girls.