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Unlimited love for Benita Collings

For some Australians there is great affection for Justine Clarke, or maybe you just want to hug Alex Papps, depending on you age you might have a soft spot for Takaya Honda or Rhys Muldoon – Play School hosts are held in high regard.

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The grande dame of them all though is Benita Collings. The actor hung out with Jemima, Hamble and Big Ted, singing about the Bananas in Pyjamas for three decades. Only her colleague Don Spencer spent longer on the show, he pips Benita’s service by just a year.

Between 1969 and 1999 Benita recorded 401 episodes of the show bringing her into the lounge rooms of countless Australian families. Asked if she’s continually greeted people who have an everlasting love for her, Benita giggles and emphantically answered “yes”.

“It still amazes me.” she said, explaining that she is genuinely touched every time someone tells her what her time on Play School means to them.

The power of Benita is great, when we were asked if we could have a chat to her, there was no way we could have said no, it would be like telling you own mother you were to busy for a chat.

Benita will visit Perth soon to perform in the revue Senior Moments. 

“The show is called Senior Moments and its a revue about older people and how they deal in essence with younger people. Immediately you’ve got the mismatch of what we as oldies know about the world and how we deal with it, and what younger people think of us and how they do things. They think we’re a bit quaint and funny, and we think sometimes they’re a bit quaint and funny.”

Joining Benita in the show are much loved performers Geoff Harvey, Max Gillies and John Wood.

“It’s a fun cast and I’m looking forward to it.” Benita declares. “There’s songs and dancing and sketches. There’s even a sketch called ‘Old School’ which is play on ‘Play School’ where we rework nursery rhymes.”

Asked at what point in life you should consider yourself to be an older person, Benita breaks out in a loud laugh.

“For me it was a gradual thing, sure you’re hair goes grey and those kind of things, but it wasn’t until I realised one day that the people around me were ‘so much younger than me’. I’ve been around for a long time and the idea started to filter in ‘perhaps I am getting a little bit older.'”

“It never it occurred to me until my seventieth birthday, I thought to myself, ‘Oh My God! That means I’ve been on this earth for seventy years’… That was really the first time I thought of myself  as an older person.”

Now in her late 70’s Benita said at this point in her life she still likes trying new things and has a great desire to travel, having recently visited Bhutan for the first time.

While to the vast majority of people she’s known for her time on Play School, Benita recently played a new role in a TV show that has become a favourite in the queer community.

As I go to ask her about her most recent role, I suddenly can’t remember the name of the show.

“It’s the show about lawyers, with Marta Dusseldorp.”

“Oh, Janet King,” Benita replies, ” It’s okay, you’re just having a seniors moment.”

“I spent the whole thing on Skype.” Benita said, “That was quite a different way to do it.” noting that her character only ever appeared on a iPad.

Senior’s Moments in playing at the Health Leger Theatre from March 21-25 and tickets are available from Ticketek

Graeme Watson


 

 

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