Looking back on his career, Noel Tovey writes: ‘I could work in three languages. I had dined in the finest restaurants in Europe and America with pop stars and royalty and I had a career in the theatre that most Australians would envy.’ The man who wrote these words grew up an abused and neglected child. When he was seventeen, he served time in Melbourne’s Pentridge Prison for ‘the abominable crime of buggery’, a fact not always mentioned in online references.
Tovey began life as a dancer in Melbourne. In 1960 he went to London where he became a successful performer, director, and art dealer. Tovey is also Aboriginal. Part of London’s appeal for him was the relief it offered from the relentless racism of the Australia of his youth. His own reconciliation, with his return to Australia in 1990, and his exploration of his own Aboriginal ancestry, is central to his story. Thirteen years ago Tovey published a memoir, Little Black Bastard (Hodder, 2004) which became the basis for a one-man show, staged in a number of cities. (Aged eighty-two, Tovey will reprise it at La Mama Theatre in early May 2017.) And Then I Found Me, a sequel to that book, covers the thirty years during which Tovey built a successful career in London.