“He said he missed live work, and here I was hoping I’d be written into the next episode.”

Versatile performer Cynthia Pickering reveals some of the highs and hilarity of her career so far.

You have had extensive experience not only in performing but also producing theatre and cabaret. Tell us what draws you to certain projects.

Artists are in the communications business and curiosity is our fuel. My solo show Fremantle Waiting is about my Gran and her sisters living in Fremantle during WW2. Her husband served on the HMAS Perth, which was sunk in 1942. She waited years to learn his fate. Women’s anguish during war hasn’t been experienced by our whole country for generations. Lest we forget. 
A beautician friend inspired Skin Deep: A Clinically Proven Cabaret. She told me about how bikini wax appointments morphed into therapy. It’s an intimate space where many people go to polish their armour, so to speak. As vacuous as it may seem, humans are hard-wired to adore beautiful things, it’s in our DNA. I took my script to Tyler (J Jones) and we workshopped it. He is great with structure and pace and directing of course. Some of the best one-liners are by the cast; Lindsay (McNabb) and Grace (Edwards) and my MD, Tim How. Improvisation in a space where no idea is a bad idea is key to making art, is it not? Being nominated for Best Cabaret at FringeWorld up against the international shows was incredible for us all. 

The character of Luiz in this production of The Gondoliers follows the grand tradition of “breeches roles” that is well known in opera, such as Cherubino (The Marriage of Figaro) and Prince Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus). What are your thoughts on taking on this role?

Well, as I said to Paul (Treasure – Director, The Gondoliers) ‘It was bound to happen eventually. I’m no ingénue and menopause is knocking so I’ll take it!’ That said I did dance as Captain Hook, and the Nutcracker Prince at Bunbury’s Big W mall in the 80s. Honestly, I’ve worked with a few Dames in panto, but I had no idea how prevalent it was in opera. Luckily for me we no longer use castrati and my sexy legs are worth exposing in pants. 

Cynthia Pickering (right) with Lindsay McNab (centre) and Grace Edwards (left)

You have had the opportunity of being part of Australian pop cultural history with a role in long-running TV series, Neighbours. Can you tell us about your time on the show and any other industry insights ?

So, I sent Neighbours casting my new showreel every year which they never watched and was cast from modelling photos. It was only a few lines with Toadie in the end. Picture a dingy dressing room, makeup slapped on, blocking, three takes and then, ‘nice to meet you, cheers for coming in, take it easy.’ Chatting with Alan Fletcher was fun, he was excited by Death and the Maiden which I was rehearsing at the time. He said he missed live work, and here I was hoping I’d be written into the next episode.

The Singing Office was my favourite. The selection process for reality TV is just the start of the smoke and mirrors. You’re constantly aware of editing. We did lots of real singing and dancing, and then through to the finals in front of Molly Meldrum and the live studio audience was awesome!

Cynthia starring as Fantine in Les Miserables

What do you love to do with your time when you are not rehearsing or performing?

I love to write. Curiosity, compassion, my education and midlife are a perfect combination for material. I dance. The adult outreach classes at the WA Ballet Company are daunting and debilitating, but I feel complete when I’m there. I enjoy relief teaching, swimming and relaxing with family.

Finish this sentence – my guilty pleasure is…

I discovered Greek Sweet Souffra in Athens in 1996. Both changed my life.

The Gondoliers opens
The Dolphin Theatre, Crawley ~ 16 – 25 May 2024