Barry Kitcher, Ballet Veteran Author, Turns 87

Barry Kitcher, whose popular memoir From Gaolbird to Lyrebird was reissued last year by BryshaWilson Press as an eBook, featuring over 300 photos ($11.99, available from Amazon, iBooks and Kobo), today celebrates his 87th birthday. The Borovansky Ballet veteran and founding member of The Australian Ballet spent his whole working life employed in theatre of various types. On retirement he glanced back and decided to write a memoir of the historic times through which he had lived. That was more than 20 years ago. He published the book at the turn of this century and over time sold out!

Between the charm of his writing style—open, honest, tinged with frank opinion and a puckish wit—and the fascinating content of his story, Barry attained new popularity as a public speaker and as the unofficial custodian of the Borovansky legacy. At 87 Barry remains as active and amusing as ever. When I visited him today, he was getting ready to go out but his phone wouldn’t stop ringing as his many friends wanted to pass on their best wishes. In fact, it was hard to talk with so much disruption, so I begged him to answer the next call. It was Borovansky veteran Audrey Nicholls! As for the texts coming through, Barry insisted he would read them later. Cards lined the wall units. Tonight he is off to dinner with a large group of friends. We did get down to a bit of book business because Barry is keen to see our new edition of From Gaolbird to Lyrebird go into hard print and we are now looking into that. With the vastly expanded visual content and the inclusion of more historic detail, it would make a handsome, substantial tome. Stay tuned on that one and meanwhile, the eBook is there for you.

Barry Kitcher was born in Cohuna, Victoria, in 1930 and spent his childhood nearby at the family farm on Gunbower Island. When he was in his early teens the family moved to Melbourne where in 1947 his interest in theatre became an obsession with ballet after he saw performances by the visiting Ballet Rambert.

Lessons at the Borovansky Ballet Academy enabled him to become a member of the Borovansky Ballet Company. During the company’s down times Barry danced at the Tivoli Theatre as well as in England and Europe, returning to rejoin what became the last Borovansky Ballet Company. Subsequently, when The Australian Ballet was formed, Barry was contracted as a soloist. When that company’s Artistic Co-director Sir Robert Helpmann choreographed his iconic ballet The Display, he created the historic role of the Lyrebird on Barry.

After retiring from the stage, Barry became a cinema and theatre manager, eventually joining the front-of-house staff at the newly built Victorian Arts Centre, where he had the distinction of managing the Playhouse and the Studio before being moved to the State Theatre and finally, the Concert Hall.

At 87, Barry still drives and not only lives independently but does so in a two-storey unit, dashing up and down the stairs as part of his fitness routine. He should write a book about longevity. Happy birthday, Barry!

From Gaolbird to Lyrebird by Barry Kitcher (eBook, BryshaWilson Press, 2016), $11.99 from Amazon, iBooks, Kobo