John and Benita go Old School for Play School in Senior Moments


L to r: Max Gillies, Geoff Harvey (front), Benita Collings and John Wood.
L to r: Max Gillies, Geoff Harvey (front), Benita Collings and John Wood.

JOHN Wood’s daughters grew up watching Benita Collings on Play School but the Melbourne actor had seen Collings in the spotlight long before then.

“While I was at drama school (NIDA) in the late 1960s, one of the things I did to stay alive was operate a follow spot at Neutral Bay Music Hall and Benita was performing on stage,” Wood said.

“At the time she was probably the sexiest woman I had ever seen. She was extremely beautiful and I didn’t actually meet her but I certainly saw her on stage and was very impressed.

“That story has had a bit of an airing of late. She’s a few years older than me and still has all those qualities on stage.”

The pair’s paths have crossed again to work on Senior Moments, a 90-minute comedy revue also starring Wood’s long-time friend satirist Max Gillies and Midday music director Geoff Harvey, with the Australian tour at Heath Ledger Theatre from March 21.

“It’s exceptionally funny and there are a lot of blackout sketches people of any age will recognise and understand, but particularly relevant to anyone over 60,” 71-year-old Wood said.

“They vary wildly; we do a pastiche of a band of ageing musicians called The Finders who are together again for the first time in 40 years. I play a character in that who is quite crass, Rusty the larrikin lead guitarist, who tells very bad jokes. I can’t believe the audience laughs at some of the stuff he says and even my granddaughter who is only six years old thought I was pretty funny.

“And there’s a wonderful parody of Play School hosted by Benita called Old School.”

Wood, who calls the Yarra Valley home, said he had always loved comedy, despite being known for his more dramatic roles in television shows Blue Heelers and Rafferty’s Rules.

“I used to watch Laurel and Hardy on television with my father and wished I could make him laugh like they could,” he said.

“I’ve always loved doing comedy for that reason because it would make my father laugh. I’ve been very lucky and had a long period doing David Williamson’s play The Club which we toured to Perth several years ago.

“The first production I did of that was also with Max and he wrote something in the press about my quality of clowning in the show, which was wonderful.

“Physically I’m not up to scratch any more but I can still walk, just. I’m not getting any younger and it gets harder and harder to do things because I have rheumatoid arthritis, which means I’m in a fair bit of pain a lot of the time. But I’m still happy, I love working and hope I can keep going; I wouldn’t mind another 15 years. We’ll see.”

THE ESSENTIALS

What: Senior Moments

Where: Heath Ledger Theatre

When: From March 21

Tickets: www.ticketek.com.au