Sydney Opera House today paid tribute to actor and playwright Bille Brown who died on Sunday 13 January 2013, aged 61.
Opera House CEO Louise Herron said, ‘Bille performed many times at Sydney Opera House and today staff have been sharing fond and often hilarious stories of their time working with undeniably one of the great wits of the theatre. It is a sad fact that Bille will not tread these boards again.’
Following drama studies at the University of Queensland, Bille began his onstage career with the Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) before travelling to the United Kingdom where he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. Bille also appeared in many films (A Fish Called Wanda, Fierce Creatures, Oscar and Lucinda) and played on Broadway as both actor (Wild Honey) and writer (A Christmas Carol). He returned to Australia permanently in 1996 and performed with many of our leading theatre companies and built a significant career in television. Bille also was much in demand as a theatre director and teacher, accepting an adjunct professor position at the University of Queensland in 1999.
Bille Brown’s contribution to Australia’s cultural life was recognised twice. In 2001 he was awarded the Centenary Medal ‘for distinguished service to the arts’ and in 2011 he was named as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) ‘for service to the performing arts as an actor and playwright, and to education’. He received a 2009 Helpmann Award for his role in the musical Spamalot and in 2011 received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Queensland. When the QTC’s current home opened in Brisbane in 2002, a new intimate theatre space was named the Bille Brown Studio.
Louise Herron added, ‘ Among his great roles on Bennelong Point were his Howard Katz for the Sydney Theatre Company in 2003 together with a long and acclaimed association with Bell Shakespeare Company including roles in Twelfth Night, Hamlet and Troilus and Cressida, and he proved outrageously unforgettable in the Strut & Fret production of Feasting On Flesh in 2008. His performance in Belvoir’s Judas Kiss directed by Neil Armfield AO in 1999 will remain a treasure to many Australians, as it does to me. ’
Bille Brown’s legacy to Australian performing arts is vast, and he will be remembered for his generosity as an actor, teacher and director and his commitment to nurturing and mentoring young performers. All of us at Sydney Opera House send our sympathy and condolences to his family and friends. Bille will be greatly missed.