Belinda Wollaston
Belinda Wollaston

Belinda Wollaston answers our questions on her career and upcoming production Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens.


Did you come from a theatrical family?

I didn’t come from a theatrical family. I grew up in Penrith, my mother raised me and as an only child, I spent my childhood years playing make-believe and imagining up all sorts of characters and situations in my life, in-between watching Young Talent Time religiously. My parents worked for ADI in a factory that made ammunition and gun powder for the army. They divorced when I was five. I resorted to imitating Disney voices…I wanted to be Aladdin… I still do the best impression you’ve ever heard (I think so anyway).

I started playing clarinet and sax, but, it wasn’t until my year 7 Orientation day at my high school that I saw what was probably the worst production of Grease you have ever seen. I thought it was brilliant. It inspired me, and that year my school took us on an excursion to see Les Miserables at the Theatre Royal in Sydney. It changed my life and from that day forward I knew what I wanted to do! “I wanna be a leading lady in musical theatre!”  Ten years or so later I was on that same stage at the Theatre Royal playing a lead role in Titanic The Musical. It was a dream come true.

Earliest theatrical memory?

Seeing my high school production of Grease The Musical and then seeing Les Miserables at the Theatre Royal.

Was a career in the theatre always on the cards?  

No, I wanted to be loads of things like a police rescue officer, vet, Aladdin… but I think deep down it was always a part of my destiny without even realising it.

First job in the biz?

My first real professional job was landing a role in a play at the Stables Theatre in Sydney called Three Winters Green by Campio Decent. I played a young fresh-faced lesbian who was very naïve (A case of life imitating art!). The play follows eight characters and it’s based on their reaction to the effect of AIDS in their lives. It is set in the 1980s. Very ironic considering eight years down the track I’m now doing another show based on a very similar thing.

How did you become involved in the production of Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens?

I heard that there was going to be a production staged in Sydney so I rang the producer and said I would really love to audition. The show has been a part of my life since I discovered it years ago. It really is one of my favourites. I got the role I really wanted to play. It was one of the best auditions I’ve ever done.

How would you describe the show to the uninitiated?

It’s a song cycle with a series of brilliant monologues from the family, friends and victims of AIDS. A lot of it is based on the Quilt project. The show is full of honest, real stories about death and how we deal with it from every perspective, but at the same time it’s very inspiring and reminds us all how life is short and to love unconditionally no matter what. And the music is beautiful.

Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens is quite a cathartic show to watch –yet strangely uplifting, how does the subject matter affect you when it comes to performing the piece?

It’s always been a show that I play in my car or sing in the bathroom. But it goes full circle for me. My first play Three Winters Green was about the subject of AIDS and ‘’The Quilt”. We talk about the quilt a lot on this show. During Three Winters Green, I got to see The Quilt on display at the Sydney exhibition centre. It took up the entire place, it’s a day I’ll never forget. I’ve also lost someone very close to me very suddenly. I have experienced loss, I understand and relate to this show very deeply and I’m so happy to be doing this as a part of the Mardi Gras Festival as I am a part of the gay community and I’m so proud to be in a show that is about AIDS awareness, freedom of expression and it forces you to see the strength in all of us.

How do you approach a role, are you a method gal? Is the script King? (Or in this case the songs)

For this particular role, I sing everything. I don’t have any dialogue. So for this, the first step is to learn the music. Get really familiar with the notes and then read the lyrics over and over again so they are not lyrics they are fresh ideas or thoughts coming out of my mouth.

Since it made its debut under the guise of “The Quilt’ back in the 1980s, Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens has proved an incredibly popular show with the LGBTQ community – why do you think the show has had such longevity?

The AIDS epidemic hit the LGBTQ community hard. We were almost the poster children for it even though it affected heterosexuals as well. The truth is AIDS is still around today. It is real and is still with us. At the end of the day, the real core of the piece is death, loss and how we deal with it and its many forms of fear and grief, the lessons we learn along the way and that we need to be grateful for the time we have now and live lives that are full and loud. That is what the LGBTQ community do best (I know that from experience!) The show educates and pays respect to those who lost their lives to AIDS. The Longevity factor being these stories are about some of the darkest days for those people yet there is still moments of humour and joy.  I think we can relate that to whatever time we live in. Especially now when we are fighting for equal rights and the end of war.

It’s not often you see a show with such a large cast – how is it to be part of a big ensemble?

It’s wonderful! I’m very lucky to be working with some very dear friends on that stage as well as some new faces – I love working with big groups of actors because the energy and creativity is electric and very powerful with a big cast like ours.

What’s your favourite moment from the show?

I sing a song called ‘’My Brother Lived In San Francisco’’. It kills me. I still haven’t sung the song straight through without losing it.