Play to honour unlikely friendship between writer and David Helfgott

L-R: Shannon Coyle (Director, Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers' Centre), Louise Helfgott (Playwright), Elizabeth Lewis (Chairperson, Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers' Centre) and Douglas Sutherland-Bruce (Director, Potchnagoola). Photo: David Baylis
L-R: Shannon Coyle (Director, Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers' Centre), Louise Helfgott (Playwright), Elizabeth Lewis (Chairperson, Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers' Centre) and Douglas Sutherland-Bruce (Director, Potchnagoola). Photo: David Baylis

A PLAY will capture the unlikely friendship between distinguished author Katharine Susannah Prichard and renowned Australian concert pianist David Helfgott which was forged in the late 1960s.

Katharine, who was in her 80s at the time, and David, who was just a teenager, enjoyed Friday night chats at Katharine’s home on Old York Road in Greenmount, where she lived for most of her life and which is now the site of the KSP Writers’ Centre.

David’s life, including his friendship with Katharine and struggle with schizoaffective disorder, inspired the Academy Award-winning film Shine.

KSP Writers’ Centre director Shannon Coyle said sometimes David became so enchanted by the conversation with Katharine that he would miss the last bus home and spend all night walking the 21km to his family home in Highgate.

A rare look inside the romantic life of David Helfgott

“David’s sister Louise Helfgott, a writer and nominee for the 2018 Dorothy Hewett Award, has written the script, which will be produced by local director Douglas Sutherland-Bruce and has been endorsed by David Helfgott, who now lives in NSW with his wife Gillian,” she said.

Ms Coyle said Katharine gained international recognition when her 1915 novel The Pioneers won the Hodder and Stoughton All Empire Literature Prize for Australasia.

David Helfgott greets students and guests at Gooseberry Hill Primary School. Picture: David Baylis

 

“Not long after receiving this award, she was introduced to her future husband Hugo Throssell, a strapping young captain of the 10th Light Horse from Northam who had just received a Victoria Cross medal from King George V at Buckingham Palace,” she said.

“Both Katharine and Hugo lost brothers in the Great War, which affected them greatly.

“They went on to become pacifists and anti-war activists.

“Sadly, Hugo could not overcome his memories of battle and tragically took his own life in 1933.

Helfgott wows Gooseberry Hill Primary School

“Katharine didn’t work for a long time after Hugo died.

“Losing Hugo left a hole in her heart that could never fully repair.

“Coming to terms with this grief, though, through literature, music and an unlikely friendship with David, is beautifully explored in Louise’s play.”

The play will have a one day run at the KSP Writers’ Centre as part of the ‘Colours of Katharine’ community event on Sunday, October 6.

The event is a commemoration to honour Katharine for the 50th anniversary of her death, and is supported by the WA Government.

A strictly limited number of tickets for the play, called Potchnagoola, will go on sale in the next few months through Eventbrite.

The ‘Colours of Katharine’ event, including tours, displays and activities, is free.