Born in Papua New Guinea but moving to Australia at a young age, Prior has been at the forefront of theatre for more than three decades and doesn’t look like slowing down any soon. Maintaining a career as busy as hers with motherhood comes natural to Marina, who has cleverly (and admirably) managed to balance her upcoming tour with the shows happening primarily on the weekends or later in the week, so she can still attend to her children. Entertainment is not often a family friendly career, and of this Prior agrees. “You’ll notice that these days I mainly do theatre in Melbourne and don’t do shows that tour as much as I used to.” This allows her to fulfill her principal role as a mum, which she loves!
To get a feel for the places she performs at, Prior says that she usually takes a run around the town after she arrives. “It not only keeps me going in terms of energy, but also gives me a feel for the place. I’ll walk around, breathe, calm myself down and then it’s a sound check, getting dressed and made up, going on stage!”
In a career as long as Prior’s, she has worked alongside some stellar fellow performers and in particular, the late Richard Harris, who was often difficult to work with. “I was performing in Camelot with him, and he changed the script on opening night. As a young 20 year old performer with little experience in stagecraft I was left floundering, but ultimately it toughened me up as a performer.” Of course, live theatre is occasionally prone to the odd ‘non-human’ mishap, and Marina fondly relates moments of stage sets not being co-operative, wigs falling off, and of her and a co star’s Tiara’s being stuck together during a performance.
There have been many more positive and memorable experiences however, and Prior has a wardrobe full of happy memories of places and people. She says that apart from husband Grant Piro (“I have to say that, or he’ll kill me…laughs”) working with the late Rob Guest was wonderful, as he was the nicest, easiest person she has been fortunate enough to perform with.
Sadly, Guest passed away suddenly in 2008 of a stroke and left a huge void in the Australian theatre world.
But the show must go on, and on it does for this songstress who turned 50 last October. Given the chance there are still roles Prior would love to play. “The Witch from ‘Into The Woods’ is a favourite, and I almost got it but had a conflicting role, and also Eliza from ‘My Fair Lady’. I was about to play it but fell pregnant at the time so I didn’t get the opportunity. Ultimately though, I just want to do good work and embrace what I’m doing at the time.” A fine philosophy indeed!
Marina is observant of up and coming young stars and unbegrudgingly identifies fellow performers such as Lucy Durack and Lucy Maunder as having bright futures as leading ladies in their own right.
Prior remains positive about her career and even embraces her less than successful moments in the industry. “Even if something I did I thought of as dreadful, I still embrace them because it created who I am. I don’t think consistent success and perfection gives the humility you get from failure. It’s better to sometime bite off more than you can chew than to stay in your safe zone. Failure is a really good thing- it makes you better!”
The 3 CD Boxset, (available here) which was released in April, is a mixture of her theatre hits and songs from some of the greatest artists and songwriters from our time.
“‘Both Sides Now’ takes me back to my folk roots growing up and has songs from Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell- I always sing this in my shows alongside the Broadway stuff. It’s just a really eclectic mix of music which covers a huge part of my musical background.”
The tour, which starts in August will commence in Brisbane and work its way around the country until December. Prior loves Adelaide and describes it fondly as a culturally rich city that has been most kind to her.
“I’m really looking forward to it of course, and can’t wait to meet audiences.
And no doubt audiences can’t wait to see Marina Prior.
Tickets for Adelaide shows through Bass.
More information including other dates see: http://marinaprior.wix.com/marinaprior
Interviewed by Darren Hassan