David Helfgott visits Greenmount for author commemoration

David Helgott with sister Louise Helfgott

Popular concert pianist David Helfgott, who inspired the Academy Award-winning film Shine, will be visiting Perth in October for the 50th anniversary of the death of Australian author Katharine Susannah Prichard, his mentor and friend, and the debut showing of Potchnagoola

Prichard was a controversial founding member of the Australian Communist Party as well as a world-renowned author, being the first Australian novelist to win an international literary prize for her first novel, Coonardoo, and achieving a nomination for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1951.

Helfgott forged an unlikely friendship with Prichard during the 1960s when he was a teenager and emerging as a talented musician, and she was in her eighties with her career starting to wind down. 

Prichard looked forward to seeing young Helfgott every Friday night when he visited her at her home in the Perth hills, where they would drink tea and discuss music, poetry and politics. He would play the piano and she would encourage his talent. 

On 5-6 October, a one-act play about this unique friendship will be staged as part of the Colours of Katharine: Red Witch or Lavender Lady? community event which commemorates the life of Prichard. 

This anniversary of one of West Australia’s most distinguished authors created a lovely opportunity for siblings David and Louise Helfgott to work together. Noted Perth playwright Louise Helfgott was commissioned to write the play, and through interviews with her brother David Helfgott she discovered the word Potchnagoola, which he invented to capture the essence of his friendship with Prichard. The word is a composite of book titles published by Prichard and became the ideal title for the play.

Helfgott and his wife Gillian are travelling to Perth for the opening night of Potchnagoola and following the performance, he will play some of Katharine’s favourite piano pieces in her memory.

“We are beyond thrilled that David will be joining us to honour Katharine at this private event,” says KSP Writers’ Centre director Shannon Coyle. “The moment when he sits at the very same piano where he once played music for Katharine, will be unforgettable.”

The play, supported by the WA state government, will have a limited run at the KSP Writers’ Centre from 5-6 October 2019. Seats are strictly limited and tickets are available through Humanitix – https://events.humanitix.com.au/potchnagoola-one-act-play/tickets

More information can be found on the KSP website: www.kspwriterscentre.com