My First Job: Annette Andre – ‘I didn’t get stage fright on radio’

Annette Andre. Photo: Arthur Weingarten
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I trained as a ballet dancer from the age of four at the academy linked to the Australian Ballet. At 15 I was the youngest ever to join this prestigious company. But my joy was short-lived, as someone discovered that I wasn’t 16 yet – the legal age to work full time. I couldn’t face another year of lessons and decided to give up ballet and pursue an acting career.

I enrolled in a radio training school. My first radio role was in the long-running serial Kid Grayson Rides the Range. That led to my being signed by an agent who was instrumental in my segueing from radio to theatre and TV and a lead role in the first ‘live’ hour-long drama on Australian TV, a two-hander called If It’s a Rose.

Even though I had been performing on stage from a very young age (charity galas and as an extra in ballet productions), I still had to overcome the exquisite torture of stage fright when I did my first TV drama. For some reason, my radio work was anxiety-free, perhaps because my ‘audience’ was only the other actors grouped around the microphone.

My If It’s a Rose co-star was as nervous as I was and in Act II started calling me ‘Annette’ instead of ‘Maria’. If that wasn’t unsettling enough, the zipper on my costume got stuck and I had to play the rest of the scene facing the camera to hide the half-open dress. My ballet training came into play here, as I’d learned to overcome problems such as falling on stage and not let them affect my performance.

Looking back at all the wonderful actors I worked with at an early age, I wish I hadn’t been so shy and had extended myself to get to know them socially and not just as fellow actors. It took me ages to get over this almost overwhelming insecurity. I would urge anyone who suffers from this malady to take early steps to build self-confidence, either through self-help methods or professional advice.

CV: Annette Andre

Age: 77
Training: Australian Ballet

Theatre includes: The Collector (King’s Head and Bush theatres); Business of Murder (Mayfair Theatre); Suddenly at Home (Fortune Theatre); There Goes the Bride (national tour)
TV includes: Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased); The Saint; The Prisoner; Maigret; The Avengers
Film includes: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; This Is My Street
Agent: Thomas Bowington Management

Annette Andre will discuss her career in a live interview entitled Randall and Hopkirk and Me at London’s Museum of Comedy on April 22. She was talking to John Byrne