Peter Batey OAM
Peter Batey is the founding creator of the Bald Archy Prize. He has been a major influence on the development of Australian comedy and satire over the past 50 years.
Peter is one of the pioneers of contemporary Australian theatre having produced and directed numerous seasons of drama, comedy, opera, musicals, revue and puppets in major theatres in every Australian capital city, and overseas. He is also a noted arts administrator, playwright, set and lighting designer, festival director and publicist.
Barry Humphries has publicly acknowledged, in several of his autobiographies, Batey’s contribution to the creation of Edna Everage, while his collaboration with Reg Livermore of many of his famed characters, starting with Betty Blokk Buster is widely acknowledged. He has written a very successful stage play, the folk-comedy, The No-Hopers, and was strongly connected to the Phillip St. Theatre, the home of revue in Sydney for many years, as an actor, director and writer.
His collaboration with, and direction of all five major Reg Livermore stage shows revolutionised the Australian commercial theatre in the mid-70s, for which he was also Executive Producer, Lighting Designer and Promotions Manager. These productions (“Betty Blokk Buster Follies”,” Wonderwoman”, “Sacred Cow”, “Son Of Betty” and “Firing Squad”) still remain the most successful one-man extravaganzas in the history of the Australian theatre, the productions eliciting absolute rave reviews – “One of the most extraordinary events in Australian Theatre history” – “A sensation!” – “The greatest thing since Rice Bubbles” – “The most professional piece of theatre seen in this country”. More than 1200 performances were given between 1975 and 1982 (at todays admission prices that represents gross takings of many millions).
Peter was a founding member of the Melbourne Theatre Company (UTRC) and one of its first Associate Directors, inaugural Artistic Director of the South Australian Theatre Company and the first Director of the Victorian Arts Council. He was Resident Director/Designer at the Perth Playhouse for several years and Director/Manager of Canberra Repertory for 4 years.
His production of “The Magic Pudding” for the Marionette Theatre of Australia was the nation’s official cultural contribution to Expo 70 in Osako and subsequently toured for some 14 months throughout Asia, including Korea, the Phillipines, Singapore and Indonesia, followed by a lengthy country-wide Australian tour. He was invited to direct the Royal Command Performance to honour the Silver Jubilee of HRH Queen Elizabeth II at the Sydney Opera House, the first such event to be televised live across Australia.
His productions have been greatly admired at both the Perth and Adelaide Festivals, and he is one of the few Australian directors to have alternated successfully between the commercial and subsidised theatre companies.
Peter directed some 130 professional productions of plays, from classical comedy and drama to modern Australian works, several of them world premieres. He is reputed to be the only Australian-born director to have had productions in all three of Melbourne’s heritage theatres (The Princess, Her Majesty’s and The Comedy).
Musicals and revues have included “…But I Wouldn’t Want To Live There” (starring Ruth Cracknell, Gloria Dawn and Lyle O’Hara), generally regarded as the definitive Phillip Theatre (Sydney) revue; “The Rocky Horror Show” and “The Little Shop Of Horrors” (both national tours); “Dames At Sea” starring Nancye Hayes; “The Good Ship Walter Raleigh”, “West Of The Black Stump” and “Big Sister” by Reg Livermore (all World Premieres); “Let My People Come” (which enjoyed a 10 months run at Melbourne’s Total Theatre); and several highly successful revues at Perth’s Playhouse, one of which ‘Airs And Graces” held the box office record for many years.
He directed acclaimed productions of “The Impressario”, “The Coronation Of Poppea”, and “La Finta Giardiniera” for the Victorian Opera Company.
His first original play, “The No-Hopers”, was presented for a total of 22 weeks in various venues after its sensational premiere in Perth which was followed by a country tour of Western Australia, a presentation at the Melbourne Theatre Company followed by a lengthy tour of Victoria, a season at the Theatre Royal, Hobart, and another at the Canberra Theatre Centre. A Rock ‘documentary’, “Adelaide Happening or The Colonel Light Show” was commissioned and presented by the South Australian Theatre Company; he adapted the letters of Arthur Streeton toTom Roberts as a successful entertainment, which was presented in the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Victoria and most of the regional galleries of Victoria; he wrote the libretto/lyrics to a powerful rock opera, “Ecstacies”, presented in concert form at Sydney’s Bijou Theatre; and the book and lyrics for an intimate musical, “Songs My Mother Didn’t Teach Me, which he directed at Bondi’s Pavilion Theatre. While Director of the Victorian Arts Council he also wrote and devised a number of works for presentation in schools. He has contributed a whole series of satirical sketches and songs for intimate revues in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth, including Ruth Cracknell’s one-woman show “Puttin’ On The Ritz”, which he also directed and designed.
He has been honoured with the direction of the opening productions at the Canberra Theatre Centre’s Playhouse, Melbourne’s National Theatre, and the Bijou Theatre in Sydney.
Peter Batey has been a member of various arts Boards and Committees for both Federal and State Bodies, and other advisory boards. He was the ACT’s Business Manager for the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, and also a Manager of the Canberra Theatre Centre.
Over the years, his colleagues and associates have included such luminaries as Zoe Caldwell, Ray Lawler, Barry Humphries, June Salter, Peter Sculthorpe, Noel Ferrier, Dennis Olsen, June Bronhill, Elspeth Ballantyne, John Sumner, Sheila Florance, Frank Thring, Richard Divall, Harry M Miller, Melissa Jaffer, Glen Shorrock, Lois Ramsay, Lindsay Kemp, Chrissie Amphlett and producer Eric Dare.
He has resided in country N.S.W for some years, creating the Coolac Festival Of Fun in 1994, located in a small village near Gundagai. Over the next 12 years it presented an amazing array of performers including Don Burrows, Slava Grigoryan, Toni Lamond, Jane Rutter, The Idea Of North, Pardon Me Boys, Bob Bertles, Jane Rutter, The Goldner String Quartet, Coco’s Lunch, Galapagos Duck, Riley Lee and Marshal Maguire, Bob Barnard, The Jive Bombers, The Strano Sisters, the Canberra Youth Orchestra, Nancye Hayes,and many more.
A magnificent annual dinner, showcasing the produce of the region, became one of the features of the festival, attracting leading chefs to provide their services gratis – and achieving the patronage of Margaret Fulton OAM. It came to be widely regarded as the benchmark of culinary promotion in rural Australia. Many national competitions were associated with the festival. There were annual short story and poetry awards (all with a fun element), an extraordinary annual sausage-making challenge, attracting entries from across the nation, quilting, scarecrow, and craft exhibitions and, most notably of all, the now notorious Bald Archy Prize, a comic portrait competition established to satirize similar art competitions. This has grown to be one of the leading, if eccentric, events on the Australian art calendar, achieving an international profile, touring to both regional and capital city venues.
His professionalism in programming, presentation and promotion, and skill at networking and raising sponsorship is apparent by the fact that the festival has never sought nor received any government arts funding. It was designated one of the first Regional Flagship Events by Tourism NSW.
Peter Batey has for many years been a contributing journalist/commentator to a number of publications writing on subjects as diverse as the arts, lifestyle, food and tourism. He currently contributes a special weekly full page in the Wagga Daily Advertiser and two full pages per month in The Land Newspaper. He also has considerable experience in the fields of Publicity and Promotion.
He was awarded an OAM in 1999 for services to the arts and the community. He was a Director on the Board of Riverina Regional Tourism for five years.
He is a Patron of the HOPE Foundation (Helping Other People’s Efforts) a registered charity concerned with the health and welfare of young people in ‘Third World’ countries, currently focused on the orphaned and sick children of Vietnam.
He is a recently elected Councillor of Gundagai Shire Council, and is Chairman of the Friends of Old Gundagai Gaol (FOGG) which aims to restore the 150 year-old heritage site that originally held the notorious Captain Moonlight in custody.
Peter Batey was born at Benalla (Victoria) in 1933 and educated at Benalla East Primary and Benalla High School, and the University of Melbourne.