On Being Mr and Mrs Banks

If you’ve seen Disney & Cam Mack’s Australian production of Mary Poppins, you’ll know there is as much in the show for grown ups as there is for children. It’s an impressive production and if you’re a parent, you’ll get so much from it on so many different levels. We asked Simon Burke and Pippa Grandison about being Mr and Mrs Banks.

Being Mrs Banks

Pippa Grandison

This is the second time you’ve stepped in to take over a role on an Australian stage. In comparison to going green for 6 months of Wicked, what has it been like to become Mrs Banks?

Well, it’s certainly been easier than being painted green! They really are such different roles, so comparison is trcky. I will say that being Mrs Banks has been a very enjoyable journey. Now being a mother on stage as well as in real life has made the transition a natural one.

What is it about being Mrs Banks that you relate to or try to connect with?

Winifred is really the heart of the piece and has so much love for her family. Particularly her husband, throughout his struggle to connect and I love the challenge of maintaining that unconditional caring nature she possesses.

Do you think you will bring a percentage of the Underbelly crowd to the theatre? There’s a demographic who know you now as a nightclub singer! How much of Mary Poppins – a children’s classic – is for the grown ups? 

Well I’m not sure about that! They’ll get a very contrasting lady in Mrs Banks…There is, however, a great deal of pleasure and enjoyment for all ages in Mary Poppins. Most people can relate to a dysfunctional family in need of help.

You have a new Mr Banks in Simon Burke. How has it been to work with Simon after becoming accustomed to Philip Quast’s take on the role?

There is always an adjustment period, particularly when the relationship is such an important one, but it’s been great to find new things together.

How do you connect with the children in the show?

It’s wonderful working with them. All so talented and lovely people. I really feel that being a mum has helped me with that connection too.

How has the experience of having your own child and becoming a mother to Charlie impacted on your approach to your work? As a performer, what is easier, more challenging and more important to you now than it was before? Is there anything that has paled into insignificance?

I’m more confident now for some reason. I still get nervous but my approach no longer has that judgment factor (of myself I mean) so I go to places I may not have before. Life experience is a wonderful thing. Nothing is more important to me than my family and this takes the pressure off.

Ironically, in order to be involved in this production, you required a nanny for Charlie. Did you have any special requirements, as Jane and Michael do?

Indeed. practically perfect is a must. At the moment, her dad is working in Melbourne and her aunty is nannying for us. Janet was there when Charlie was born, so obviously I trust her completely.

What does opening night in a new city mean for you?

It’s very exciting. Brisbane has been particularly enjoyable as it’s really my first opening ad Mrs Banks.

What’s coming up next for you?

I can’t say as yet but I’ll stay with Mary Poppins for a little while yet.

What do you want to see happen in theatre and musical theatre in this country over the next twelve months?

That’s a very specific time frame! Continued support for our local talent, in all departments, and more people interested in coming to the theatre as well as watching the tele!



Being Mr Banks











Simon Burke

Mary Poppins is the first Disney production to come to Brisbane. Is it your first Disney gig? And is this a significant leg of the tour, to return to the city so near the author’s birthplace in Maryborough? 

It’s great to be back in Brisbane after such a long time (my last big show here was CHICAGO first time around back in 2000!) and especially to be part of this wonderful Cameron Mackintosh/Disney hybrid production. I’m sure the spirit of PJ Travers is blowing its way to QPAC when the wind is right…

You’re playing Mr Banks, an arrogant British banker who is a little out of touch with his wife and children until Mary Poppins comes to stay. What was it about this character that appealed to you? What does his journey look like?

George has a fantastically interesting journey and it’s that journey that most appeals to me in the role. From a man who begins the show describing his childhood as “there was no time for hugs and kisses and all that soppy nonsense”, a man who has no time for his wife or kids, a man for whom position and advancement is all that matters, to a man who embraces family life and realises that the precious years he has with his kids before they grow up are the most important thing in his life.

Did you see Philip Quast in the role before you stepped into it? How did you work on developing a character that is your own? 

I worked very closely with the British creatives on my interpretation of George – a very enjoyable and rewarding experience

How has it been to work with Pippa Grandison as Mrs Banks? What have you brought to the show and to each other, in terms of playing the married couple in what must still be perceived as a rather traditional nuclear family?

Pippa and I have a mutual best friend so we’ve known each other for a long time but never worked this closely together before. She brings a real warmth to Winifred and you can certainly believe that she used to be an actress!

What can we learn from this family and their collective journey?

Love is all.

Where does your own journey take you next, with such an expansive career and now a debut solo album and a solo show of the same name (Something About Always), under your belt?

Well – immediately it takes me to Perth with MARY POPPINS after Brisbane – and after that possibly back to London for a while. Having been there for the past 4 years and had such a great time it really seems that living and working in both cities (Sydney and London) would be the ideal.

What would you like to see happen in Australian musical theatre this year?

Musical Theatre seems to be having a boom in Australia at the moment so of course I’d love to see that continue – we have so many fantastically talented performers in this country and I’d love to see them all in work!


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