When I was asked to play Kate Leigh in Razor Gang Wars for Deadhouse, I literally got goosebumps ..
Growing up, my parents would tell stories of Kate and her rival Tilly Divine and admired these women and their strength.
Kate was an enigma .. a contradiction.. a poor country girl from Dubbo who rose to power. Born in 1881, she was the eighth child of Roman Catholic parents. Strong willed she fought her parents, and her childhood and teenage years were ones of neglect, ending up at the notorious Parramatta Girls Home. She learned that she could only rely on herself .. she controlled her own life.
Kate became an Australian underworld icon and known as the ‘Queen of Surry Hills’ .. the ‘Snow Queen’. But she had competition and became engaged in a well-known, violent feud with her rival Tilly Devine that lasted 20 years. You can’t help but admire her. She had a harsh life and she not only survived – she thrived.
But she was just as well known for her acts of generosity for the unemployed during a repressive era, and her wartime patriotism. The people on the street were her people .. “I ain’t never turned a low life away ..” Kate became a beloved figure in Sydney – not just one to fear.
Kate had so many facets to her, and or me as an actor, the challenge is to show both Kate’s strength and her vulnerability – especially, where her daughter Eileen was concerned.
Kate was loved and respected and more than 700 mourners attended her funeral.
I hope that I do Kate proud.