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The First 50 Podcast — Episode 1: Robyn Archer

Saturday, 28 January 2023
40 min listen
AFC Libby and Robyn 230125 07

In Episode 1 of The First 50 Podcast, hear internationally renowned cabaret and theatre performer Robyn Archer chat to host Libby O’Donovan as she delves into her history at Adelaide Festival Centre, what cabaret means to her and how she was part of the first ever performance in Adelaide Festival Centre’s Space Theatre which subsequently launched her career! 

Listen to The First 50 — Episode 1: Robyn Archer now

That moment, in this theatre, absolutely changed my career for the rest of my life.

My professional career really began in this centre…

— Robyn Archer

I was invited to sing the lead in The Seven Deadly Sins, the production which opened Space Theatre in the new Adelaide Festival Centre and changed the direction of my career for ever. 

A year later I met English dramaturg John Willett in the Playhouse production of The Threepenny Opera, and John invited me to the National Theatre in London - and my international career began. I wonder if any of that would have happened had there been no major cultural centre in Adelaide.  

At that time I knew lots about entertainment, but little about the arts, and ever since I have sung, performed and directed on every stage and in every nook and cranny of Adelaide Festival Centre. The Adelaide Festival, which I directed in 1998 and 2000, would not be the enduring success it is without Adelaide Festival Centre, and fifty years on Dunstan Playhouse is still my very favourite venue anywhere:  I’m proud to be treading its boards again during this year of celebration.” 

About The First 50 Podcast

Hosted by the powerful and sassy Libby O’Donovan, The First 50 podcast series will provide 12 snapshot moments that cover the Centre’s 50-year history. Hear stories, anecdotes and memories by those who have had their lives touched by the theatre: performers, artistic directors, ushers, and Walk of Fame-ers. 

The 12 episodes within the series will be published monthly across 2023. Be sure to follow for monthly drops. 

Robyn Archer - bio 

Robyn Archer AO is a singer, writer, artistic director and public advocate for the arts. She is acknowledged internationally for her interpretation of the Brecht/Eisler/Weill repertoire which she recorded in 1983 as Robyn Archer Sings Brecht Vols 1 and 2 at Abbey Road with the London Sinfonietta.  

Winner of the 2013 Helpmann Award for Best Cabaret Performer, and nominated Cabaret Icon in the 2016 Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Robyn has sung classic cabaret worldwide and currently performs recitals of French, German and American song: Que Reste-t’il, Dancing on the Volcano, and The Other Great American Songbook, all with Michael Morley (piano) and George Butrumlis (accordion) have been seen at Adelaide Cabaret Festivals over the last decade,  as have other of her shows including iprotest! with Paul Grabowsky, and the intriguing one-to-one show Whispering with Matthew Carey.  

Robyn performed a new show Picaresque for the 2019 Adelaide Festival and a new program with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, The Fortunes of Exile in August the same year.  Of her eleven albums, the soundtrack to A Pack of Women and children’s album Mrs Bottle’s Burp both received ARIA nominations: her most recent recording (March 2019) is Classic Cabaret Rarities on the Rouseabout record label. 

Robyn’s career has been wide and wild, from the success of one-woman shows such as A Star is Torn and Tonight Lola Blau both premiered forty years ago, to political cabarets such as Kold Komfort Kaffe, Pack of Women and Scandals to her much–admired artistic direction of the major Australian arts festivals in Adelaide (1998 and 2000), Melbourne, Tasmania and Canberra. Robyn is a multi-award winner including The Sydney Critics Theatre Award, the Dame Elizabeth Murdoch Cultural Leadership Award, the International Society of Performing Arts Citation of Merit (New York), the LPA JC Williamson Award and the SA Premier’s Lifetime achievement Award. In addition to her Officer of Australia, she has been honoured by France, Belgium and the US, holds honorary doctorates from six Australian Universities and is an Australian Book Review Laureate and Honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Libby O’Donovan - bio

Libby O’Donovan is a “powerful and sassy performer” (Sydney Morning Herald), renowned for her nuanced interpretations and extraordinary voice. She is a critically acclaimed jazz and cabaret performer and an award-winning Musical Director. Libby has entertained audiences the world-over with her unique talents, performing in New York, Tokyo and Toronto as well as Australia-wide. Equally at home in small ensemble acts as well as solo performances, she has been a proud member of ARIA nominated Coco’s Lunch, Flat on Your Bacharach, and Women With Standards, for which she won a Green Room Award for Musical Direction. 

Highly regarded as a solo artist, Libby has performed seasons for the Adelaide Festival of Arts, Edinburgh Fringe, Sydney Spring Festival, Perth International Arts Festival, the International Jazz Educators Convention, Adelaide Cabaret Festival (including working with Broadway composers Jason Robert-Brown and Andrew Lippa), Melbourne Fringe, Adelaide Fringe, Feast Festival, and the Wangaratta Jazz Festival. 

Her theatre credits include Matthew Robinson’s Metro Street, Doppio Parallelo’s DJ Squat, Contaminations Lab and The Last Child, Vitalstatistix’s Way Dead Cool and Patch Theatre Company’s Sharon Keep Ya Hair On! Libby’s recent body of work in Cabaret includes The Story of Meredith Crocksley, Some of My Best Friends Are Single, Gady La La: Songs for the Sophisticated Fag Hag, Kate Leigh: The Worst Woman, UNSUNG and The Cowgirl and The Showgirl. 

As a recording artist she has featured on numerous Jazz and Cabaret albums, as well as her critically acclaimed self-penned albums The Complication, Home to You and Back to Broken Hill

Libby is also highly in demand as a composer, arranger and musical director. 

Libby was the recipient of Adelaide Cabaret Festival’s Icon Award in 2022. 

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