1938 - 2023
Judi Farr was one of the most admired and loved actors of her generation enjoying a career of over half a century that included some of Australia’s best loved television series to stage roles in which she often defined the character for all who followed.
She made us laugh in classic comedies like My Name’s McGooley, What’s Yours? and the spin-off series Rita And Wally, as Thelma Bullpitt in Kingswood Country and Janice Corniglio in Grass Roots.
Her stage presence was always electrifying. Mitchell Butel described her performance as Gwen in Michael Gow’s wonderful stage play Away in which she played the archetype of the surviving depression baby ‘mum’.
“She understood that character so well - a woman angry at the imperfection of the world and her life, with a cruel streak, but who at the end of the day was just a child looking for love and redemption like all of us.”
Judi played Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman opposite Warren Mitchell and Mel Gibson for Nimrod; stole the show as Bertha, the maid in Boeing Boeing.
Was hilarious as Madame Pernelle in Barrie Kosky’s Tartuffe, featured in multiple roles in Angels in America, The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Women of Troy all for Sydney Theatre Company, winning a 1992 Theatre Critics Award for the latter.
In 2013 she brought the iconic character of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple to Sydney and Melbourne audiences in A Murder is Announced.
Born in Cairns, Queensland, her long career took her to the stages of every major theatre company in the country and to television and cinema screens. Film credits included Dawn, Fatty Finn, The Year My Voice Broke, Flirting, Walking On Water, Oscar and Lucinda, December Boys, They’re a Weird Mob and Alvin Purple. Judi also featured in Unfolding Florence, Gillian Armstrong’s 2006 docu-drama on the life and death of designer Florence Broadhurst.
Additional television credits included roles in Mother And Son, Rafferty’s Rules, A Country Practice, GP, Murder Call, All Saints, Water Rats, The Alice, Changi and many more. She played Aunty Peg in Please Like Me and Peg Maloney in A Place To Call Home and was hilarious in No 96 as Alderman Mrs Bullock trying to steal Daddy from Mummy.
Judi was also fondly remembered by colleagues who served with her for three years on the Committee of Actors Benevolent Fund.
Judy Farr as Miss Marple in Agatha Christie's 'A Murder Is Announced'
She was always aware of the precarious nature of being an actor and as an acting teacher gave sage advice on how to survive in the profession.
“Have another job you can turn to. It’s a good idea to have another string to your bow,” she suggested. “It is such an elusive profession and you cannot rely on it being constant. That’s just the power of the thing. I feel sorry for people who get retrenched from their jobs that they’ve had for years and expected to have for years. Because it comes as such a shock. But an actor says ‘Oh! Lost that job! I’ll try for another one, I guess.’”
Judi retired from acting in 2015 after a battle with cancer.
In 2016 she was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Sydney Theatre Awards.
Theatre critic John McCallum, who presented Judi with her Award, described her as having “an astonishing ability as an actor to be both mischievous and serious at the same time”, adding, “she can make you laugh and cry.”
Greeted with a sustained standing ovation, Judi who had a stroke in 2016, said that she had decided “now was the time to out my new face – this is a challenge I am now accepting.”
Judi Farr was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for her “significant service to the performing arts as an actor” in the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
She was loved and admired by all who knew her and worked with her, a giant of the stage and a great loss to the profession. Mitchell Butel’s words make a fitting epitaph.
“A phenomenal actress (always brilliant, smart, strong, hilarious), a devilish wit with a throaty wicked laugh, a no-nonsense professional, a generous, warm and humble colleague”
Vale Judi Farr