Saturday, April 28th, 2012
VAL Riches knows all too well the importance of providing support to people with cancer – she has lived with non-Hodgkins lymphoma since 1981 and has spent years of helping people at SolarisCare.

A keen thespian in her spare time, the cancer support worker is stepping up to the stage at Melville Theatre this May in a show that will help raise funds for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Jane Austen’s classic Emma is an officially registered fundraising supporter and the theatre will donate $2 from every ticket sold to the foundation, as well as raffle proceeds and any donations collected.

Directed by Vanessa Jensen, Emma follows a beautiful and clever young woman who prides herself on her matchmaking ability – but while she’s preoccupied with romance, she’s clueless to her own feelings of love.

When Emma takes on a young friend as her latest project, her well-intentioned efforts misfire, leading to a whirlwind of complications.

Riches is the production’s stage manager and also plays the silent role of Mrs Bates.

“Humour is the aim, especially given my character says nothing,” she said. “My daughter on stage never stops talking and she often has to shout to me.

“The biggest challenge is trying not to steal the scene and remembering to take my stage manager’s headset off before I go on stage.”

With more than 45 years in theatre in New South Wales, Queensland and WA, Riches has been involved in almost every aspect – acting, directing, stage management, props, costumes, building sets – you name it, she’s done it.

A life member of Melville Theatre, she has also appeared in The Sound of Music at the Regal Theatre and The Sugar Mother at the Metcalfe Playhouse.

In 2009, Riches was nominated for best supporting actress at the annual Finley Awards for her role in Navigating.

“I enjoy theatre but, for a variety of reasons, haven’t been involved so much lately so this is a good opportunity,” she said.

“I’m also pleased to be a part of something that will help people with cancer, particularly given my own background with it, which I have learnt to live with.”

Riches has had five courses of a variety of chemotherapies with each lasting between six months and two years.

“I was most proud of my Finley Award nomination because it occurred during chemo and anyone who has had chemo knows how it affects memory,” she said.

“That’s why I was excited to perform in The Boys at the Old Mill Theatre two years ago, proving to myself I can still get on stage and act.

“Sometimes I’m not so sure but Vanessa Jensen, director of Emma, has total faith.”

Jensen has adapted the script for stage herself, based on the original 1815 novel.

“I am a Jane Austen fan, and have been for years,” she said. “I directed Pride and Prejudice at Melville Theatre and wanted to direct Emma next – but I struggled to find a version of Emma I liked.

“They were all modernised and changed and the lyrical beauty of Austen’s words were often lost with the propriety and manners hidden.

“I asked myself what I was looking for and the answer was ‘the novel on the stage’, so I set out to dramatise it.

“Changes had to be made to accommodate theatrical conventions and to keep the show to a reasonable length but the tone, style and many of the words are straight from the pages of the novel.”

Emma plays at 8pm, May 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19 with a 2pm matinee May 13. Tickets are $18, $14 concession – book on (08) 9330 4565 or email [email protected]

Melville Theatre is on the corner of Stock Road and Canning Highway, Palmyra. More information is available at

Jane,_Old_Mrs_Bates_and_Miss_Bates: Val Riches, centre, is helping to raise money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation in Emma at Melville Theatre with Carmen Miles and Olivia Darby.

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Melville Theatre

The Melville Theatre Company was the brainchild of David J. Burton who, in 1982, called a meeting for interested people in the community to form a theatre company in the Melville area.

As a result, the Melville Theatre Company was born. The newly formed company's first production was the farce, Not Now Darling. With its second production, The Sound of Music, the young company won the Finley Award for the Best Production of the Year in Community Theatre. Since then, actors and directors have consistently featured in the list of awards at the annual State Drama Festival, now known as Dramafest.

Initially, performances were in the Melville Civic Centre but, since 1987, the venue has been the Roy Edinger Centre, on the corner of Stock Road and Canning Highway, Palmyra.
Val Riches
P: 0402 436 105

Vanessa Jensen

P: 0413 079 146


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