Multi-award winning actor Trisha Noble is a genuine star of the stage and screen. Her successful career has spanned decades and encompassed roles in Australia, the UK and US in television series, main-stage productions, and even the role of Jobal Naberrie in Star Wars: Episode 2 – Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith.
In September, it was announced that Noble would be joining the cast of Ladies in Black for the 2017 national tour, kicking off on 3 January at the Sydney Lyric Theatre. She’ll be playing the dual roles of Miss Jacobs and Mrs Crown in this story of 1950s Australia that had its world premiere in Brisbane in November 2015 and, earlier this year, took home the Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work.
Ladies in Black takes place in a prestigious city department store, F.G. Goode, and sees starry-eyed school-leaver, Lisa (Sarah Morrison) joining its sales floor.
“It’s an ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie’ musical through and through,” Noble tells Theatre People.
“It reflects brilliantly the era of the fifties, emanating from this gorgeous fashion shop, like a DJ’s, Farmers, Mark Foys – those gorgeous shops we had in those days. Not that we still don’t have DJ’s and Myer, but in those days, they were very, very special, and the women who worked in those stores, like the ladies in black, were beautifully trained, they were coiffed to the nth degree – their hair and make-up [were] perfect – and they were quite intimidating!”
Noble recalls department store visits during her own childhood.
“I remember very well being taken to one of the glorious city stores many times, either by my mother or my grandmother or both, and they would both wear hats and gloves. I mean, this was a big outing!”
Ladies in Black features over 20 original songs penned by legendary singer and musician, Tim Finn, synonymous with groups Split Enz and Crowded House. Australian screenwriter Carolyn Burns has created the book, based on the 1993 novel, The Women in Black, by Madeleine St John. On the design front, Gabriela Tylesova has delivered a range of 30 custom-designed and created dresses and suits.
Noble admits to being out of the loop at the time Ladies in Black had its world premiere in Brisbane.
“I didn’t know about the show and all of a sudden, out of the blue, I was invited to join the show for the national tour,” she says.
“I jumped online, I was able to watch an archival recording that had been done of the show, and I was delighted! I thought it was the most magic show – fantastic script and the music is divine. Tim Finn has done an incredible job with the music.”
Noble describes her two characters as “180 degrees apart as people”. Talking about the role of Miss Jacobs, she says: “She’s been at this big stylish store for over 40 years, and she started serving in the glove department. She’s elegant, she’s dignified, she’s kind and compassionate, and she … lost her fiancé in the first world war … so, she’s just lived her life at the store, going from level to level.”
Noble’s second role, Mrs Crown, is the mother of a “lady in black”.
“This lady … is an absolutely … down-to-earth, Aussie mum, who is a bit rough around the edges – she doesn’t mind calling a spade a spade! I actually can’t wait to play her because I’ve never played that kind of woman on stage in Australia, and I’m very thrilled to be able to go between those two extremes of characters. It’s going to be good fun!”
Noble also looks forward to having the opportunity to work again with director Simon Phillips.
“I did a workshop with him a few years ago. So, he obviously remembered my work, which is really lovely, and has offered me [the opportunity] to join the show for the national tour.”
Noble also talks about having the rare opportunity to appear in a brand new homegrown musical.
“I was lucky to be involved in Shout,” Noble says (she created the role of Thelma O’Keefe – Johnny O’Keefe’s mother – for the national tour.)
“Although it was all wonderful music, it wasn’t written specifically for the show, whereas Tim Finn’s music has been written specifically for this show … It’s this beautiful tapestry of music and lyrics that carry the story of the show forward, and I think that’s a beautiful thing when that happens in a musical.”
Ladies in Black – national tour details
Brisbane – Playhouse, QPAC
28 January – 19 February 2017
Phone: 136 246 or queenslandtheatre.com.au
Melbourne – Regent Theatre
25 February – 19 March 2017
Phone: 1300 111 011 or ticketmaster.com.au
Canberra – Canberra Theatre Centre
27 March – 2 April 2017
Phone: (02) 6275 2700 or canberratheatrecentre.com.au