WHAT am I supposed to do? Clap my hands and say 'oh good, the old
bag's gone at last'."
Arthur Beare, as always frustrated over the continuing eccentricities of
his mum, Maggie, is defending himself after being chastised for not knowing what
to do "when I'm gone" in the opening scenes of Monday's episode of Mother And
Son on ABC-TV.
Maggie turns bitter: "You can't wait to get rid of me, can you? I'll peg
out one night and you'll just put me out in the street, with the rubbish."
The episode is called The Big Sleep and it turns out to be a very black
episode indeed. Maggie, contemplating her own demise, decides she wants
something much grander than being put out in the street with the garbage. And a
simple pine coffin - or a "Loved One Departure Module" according to the
undertaker - isn't going to be good enough, either. But if Maggie is to have a
grand funeral, so must Daddy Beare. And so, at Maggie's insistence, Arthur digs
up Dad's ashes in the middle of the night because she is determined to give him
a second, better, funeral.
Said Garry McDonald, who has played the long-suffering Arthur for five
seasons over the past nine years: "It's not so much black as different. But it
is very funny. After all these years Ruth can still make me laugh."
Ruth, of course, is McDonald's co-star, Ruth Cracknell. And "all these
years" will add up to exactly 10 late this year. It was in November, 1982, when
McDonald and Cracknell together with Henri Szeps (as brother Robert) and Judy
Morris (Robert's wife Liz) recorded the first episode of the first series of
Mother and Son at the ABC-TV studios at Gore Hill in Sydney. (That episode, The
Home saw Arthur deciding to send Mum to a nursing home. She didn't stay |
McDonald remembers that first episode ruefully. "It wasn't that long after
I had been playing Norman Gunston," he said, "and as Arthur, I was terrible. I
was too over the top and the director kept having to tell me to hold it down. It
took me a while to realise that this was such a different style of comedy and
all you had to do was virtually play it straight."
From an episode of Mother and Son, in which Maggie considers joining her
husband in paradise, McDonald can be seen in a Channel 10 mini-series, The Other
Side Of Paradise, beginning on Channel 10 on Sunday, March 8. Jason Connery is
an English doctor who takes up a new post on a remote Pacific island in 1938.
McDonald appears in Paradise as the local shopkeeper.
McDonald spent four weeks in the Cook Islands last year making the
mini-series. It began as work and ended as a vacation when he was joined there
by his wife Diane Craig (Dr Elly Fielding in E Street ) and their teenage
daughter. That was, he said, a little bit like being in paradise. He was just a
little envious of his Mother and Son co-star, Judy Morris, whose role as the
prim and proper Miss Sowerby, the daughter of a missionary, kept her in paradise
for seven weeks |
When the second episode of The Other Side Of Paradise is screened on March
9, viewers that night will be able to see McDonald in two different roles on
two different channels: Mother and Son, on the ABC, screens at 8pm, followed by
The Other Side of Paradise on Channel 10 at 8.30pm.
This is not unique in McDonald's television career. When Channel 10 owned
the rights to early episodes of Mother and Son, those episodes were being
screened on the same night as another Geoffrey Atherden comedy on ABC-TV,
Atherden "invented" Maggie Beare and her sons and has written every
episode of every series. Just before McDonald and I met for this interview, the
actor was thumbing through a copy of a new publication from the ABC books
division containing five Mother and Son scripts by Atherden, which he had just
"I had forgotten this one," he said turned to a script for an episode
called The Oysters. "Maggie says 'remember yesterday when I bandaged your knee'
and Arthur can't remember and she says 'yes you do, you were playing Superman
and you had a tee-towel around your neck and you jumped off the back steps and
fell flat on your knee' and I said 'mum, that was 30 years years ago' and she
said 'well ... and how's your knee?'"