“Regrets, I’ve have a few, but then again, too few to mention.” – lyrics from My Way (sung by Frank Sinatra and many others).
These words frame one crucial element of Justin Olstein and Eleanor Sharpe’s Curtain Call, a documentary about actors Terry and Carole Ann Gill and their now closed theatre restaurant The Tivoli, formerly located in Melbourne’s Inner South-East.
Emigrating from England in the 1960s, actors Terry and Carole Ann came to Australia for a better shot at work and success. Though unemployed at times (no surprise in Australia’s small performing arts industry), the pair worked odd jobs on the stage and on the screen before moving into children’s pantomimes. This eventually led to the pair opening in The Tivoli and running it with great success for a number of years.
Filmed by former Tivoli employee Olstein and his collaborative partner Sharpe, the filmmakers go behind the curtain to trace the journey that brought Terry and Carole Ann to the Tivoli and then follow their emotional ride during the threat and eventual closure of the theatre restaurant.
You’d be hard-pressed not to fall in love with the irrepressible Terry and Carole Ann as they candidly describe their relationship with each other, Carole Ann’s mother (which could be described as hysterically and painfully candid) as well as with the craft of performing. Their nature lends itself to old-school theatricality and vaudevillian storytelling with a slice of (appropriate) wickedness. Terry and Carole Ann are true performers and their presence is heavily engaging in every scene.
Terry, who was recognizable to this reviewer from the brilliant Aussie film Crackers is an absolute ball of fire with Carole Ann packing her share of strong punches. The pair’s honesty is truly refreshing displaying the filmmakers’ abilities to get beneath the surface. One particular and surprising highlight sees Carole Ann reflecting on her regrets of not staying in England, and thus adding another deep layer to her already intriguing personality.
The story of the Gills and their Tivoli theatre restaurant speaks volumes for the current arts scene within Australia. Devoid of enough proper funding and support on a public and private level (for private think of the Astor Theatre and the George Revival Cinema and their issues with landlords), Curtain Call reminds its audience that these artists really require better protection. Like any true survivors, the Gill’s bounce back and go on to do their pantomime’s in a church hall, but the stale taste of injustice lingers and rightly so.
A poignant and hilarious document with larger than life subjects, Curtain Call is not only a story that should be seen, but it should be seen by the masses.
Curtain Call is screening at the 2014 Melbourne International Film Festival on Sunday 3 August and Tuesday 12 August.