Pamela Rabe Interviews from the early 1980’s – today

Nuke Power Play Tests Ethics

This production asks hard questions about our future, writes Elizabeth Fortescue

When Pamela Rabe marched against the Vietnam War at the age of 12, she believed in people power and an optimistic future. But when the respected actor was preparing for her stage role as a retired nuclear physicist, she became keenly aware of the “ever-present anxiety” of today’s youth — mainly about just how long planet Earth can survive humanity’s mistreatment of it. (more…)

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Wentworth’s Joan ‘The Freak’ Ferguson actress Pamela Rabe stars as Jesus’ mother in solo show

AS JOAN “The Freak” Ferguson in hit TV series Wentworth, Pamela Rabe plays Australia’s most-hated villain.

But in her solo show, the Malthouse Theatre’s production of The Testament of Mary, the acclaimed actress takes on the controversial role of the mother of Jesus.

“They’re not that different in the end,” Rabe said.

“As an actor you’re exploring a human being, the humanity of a character and doing your best to bring that story alive for an audience.

“They’re both women. I just play the woman. The challenge is actually for the audiences to flip from one to the other.”

The play is based on award-winning Irish writer Colm Toibin’s novella, which became a Tony Award-nominated Broadway play and is frequently restaged around the word.

Pamela Rabe | John AppleyardThe Testament of Mary examines themes such as women’s roles in history being rewritten to suit dogma and dealing with the aftermath of trauma. It has found a resonance with current issues including “fake news” and religious extremism.

“This is not the depiction of a saint, this is the depiction of a human being, a mother whose son has died,” Rabe said.

“We know so little about her, and the little that is known is only from some very meagre, meagre words in the New Testament in the Bible.”

The in-demand actress, coming to the play directly from performing in Ibsen’s Ghosts in Sydney, said doing a solo show was “lonely” and she was “descending into a world of grieving mothers”.

“What I love about this piece of writing that Colm Toibin has created (is) it’s very interrogative, an imaginative exploration which invites everyone to have their own individual response to the kind of trigger that he presents,” she said. (more…)

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Pamela Rabe on unpicking the knottiness of Ghosts

Following the success of her Glass Menagerie with Eamon Flack, actor Pamela Rabe reunites with the director to explore the knottiness of Ibsen’s Ghosts. By Harry Windsor.

Pamela Rabe is on the phone, the morning after opening night of the new production of Ibsen’s Ghosts at Belvoir. Without a trace of actorly effusion, she says: “I’m really looking forward to settling it in.”

The show’s previews have afforded the cast, which includes Robert Menzies alongside Rabe, opportunity to tweak the work extensively, a process she likens to “popping grapes”.

Pamela Rabe - The Saturday PaperIt’s a phrase she picked up from director Annabel Arden, the co-founder of British touring theatre Complicité, during rehearsals for The Art of War at the Sydney Theatre Company, where Rabe was a member of the short-lived Actors Company from 2006 to 2009.

“When a thing is starting to congeal and galvanise, suddenly the little moments that you need to attend to become really apparent,” she says. “You learn a lot about the story you’re telling collectively, and the audience is helping you tell that story.”

Ghosts is one of Ibsen’s knottiest works, one “that has no bottom”, according to Rabe. She stars as Mrs Alving, a survivor of violent abuse at the hands of an unfaithful husband, dead for 10 years when the play begins.

We meet the widow drawing up plans for an orphanage with the assistance of the doctrinaire and judgemental Pastor Manders, played by Menzies. Getting the place insured won’t be necessary, he says; it might look like faithlessness. No prizes for guessing what happens next.


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Pamela Rabe opens up about Wentworth’s tongue scene

‘I know what’s happening is horrific’: ‘The Freak’ actress Pamela Rabe explains how she steeled herself to film THAT gruesome tongue-cutting scene in prison show Wentworth

It was one of the most violent scenes in Australian television history.

Now, Wentworth actress Pamela Rabe, who portrays Joan ‘The Freak’ Ferguson has spoken about what it really took for her film the Foxtel show’s infamous tongue-cutting scene.

In an interview with KIIS FM’s Kyle & Jackie O Show on Wednesday, the 58-year-old star revealed she had to compartmentalise as she acted.

In the bloody scene, Pamela’s character screeched, ‘You’ve licked your last pussy!’ to ‘Juicy’ Lucy Gambaro before slicing off her tongue with a scalpel.

‘It’s tough isn’t it? I had to kind of separate it, because I know what’s happening is horrific,’ Pamela explained about filming the gruesome footage. (more…)

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Bea’s parting gift: The Freak’s in the frame

REVENGE is sweet, but it’s not always easy to come by in Wentworth.

Foxtel’s award-winning drama, which is a contemporary reimagining of the iconic 80s series Prisoner, returns for an explosive fifth season on Tuesday.

The season premiere resumes in the days following Bea Smith’s tragic death at the hands of Joan “The Freak” Ferguson, Wentworth’s former Governor who suffered a spectacular fall from grace last season.

Emotional, psychological and professional shock waves pound Wentworth Correctional Centre’s staff and inmates, who set up a memorial for Bea.

Pamela Rabe, who plays Joan, says the reverberations of Bea’s death, for which she has seemingly successfully framed Joan, will be felt throughout the entire season.

“That’s a big change to the culture for the prison of Wentworth and for the storylines that have been dominated by Bea’s trajectory for the past four seasons,” she tells The Guide.

“It helps you realise the world of this drama is a prison where life is precarious and the struggles are monumental, epic; they are life and death. Part of the reality of this narrative is some people are going to disappear.”

In the wake of a stabbing death at her prison, Governor Vera Bennett is under fire from Corrective Services and, with Will on suspension, she is relying more on her deputy Jake, not realising he is Ferguson’s puppet. (more…)

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The Devil You Know

Wentworth Season 5: Pamela Rabe reveals her life as The Freak

PAMELA RABE WALKS into a room on the Wentworth set to talk about the highly-anticipated fifth season of the series, premiering in April on showcase.

While her character Ferguson is renowned for a dagger glare so intense it can leave even a hardened criminal shaking in her shoes, the actress describes herself as “shy”, which is evident as she gazes at the floor or out the window as she ponders then answers questions.

When asked if she can relate to the late Dennis Hopper’s (Blue Velvet) quote on playing characters who plumb the darkest depths of human nature, Rabe says: “People keep asking me, ‘What evil lurks in you to play bad characters?’” Hopper said. His comeback to that was, “There’s no evil in me, I just wear tight underwear”.

Rabe shoots back, “Well, I just wore a tight bun. Keep the bun tight!”

She laughs, but it turns out there’s some truth to what she’s saying.

Pamela Rabe / Joan "The Freak" Ferguson

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Interview: Pamela Rabe – Wentworth

Playing one of the most formidable women in Wentworth prison – Joan ‘The Freak’ Ferguson – has given Pamela Rabe the freedom to develop as an actor.

Wentworth is much more than just a re-imagination of iconic Australian drama series Prisoner. After four successful seasons, it’s now as volatile and unpredictable as the female inmates who populate the titular prison, and continues to gain momentum and a legion of loyal fans.

“Each subsequent season has a huge responsibility to maintain the drama and excitement and then build on it,” says Pamela Rabe, who plays the prison’s fearsome and manipulative governor Joan Ferguson, aka The Freak – a role made famous by Maggie Kirkpatrick in the original series.

“I wanted her to stand alone,” says Rabe of her interpretation of the character. “I’ve worked with Maggie on the stage, and I know her well and know the impact of that character. Joan Ferguson in Wentworth is closer in her persona to Maggie’s character than others who share their names with Prisoner characters, but I chose not to study or incorporate anything Maggie had created. I happily slipped on the gloves and went to work.” (more…)

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