Travels With JB

Travels With JB

Travel news and reviews

Coral Browne: This F***ing Lady, playing at Melbourne’s fortyfivedownstairs hits the mark on numerous fronts.

Genevieve Mooy as Coral Browne.*
Genevieve Mooy as Coral Browne.

The subject of the play, actor Coral Edith Browne (1913 – 1991), is fascinating. Genevieve Mooy excels in bringing Browne to life with the help of Maureen Sherlock’s script which is informative and full of funny lines, reminiscences and interesting and often surprising anecdotes.

I knew nothing about the West Footscray born Browne (who added ‘e’ to her family name Brown after being advised by a numerologist that her luck would change if she did).

Now, as result of this 70 minute one woman play, I can’t understand why she’s not included in discussions about successful international Australian actors.

Genevieve Mooy as Coral Browne's mother.
Genevieve Mooy as Coral Browne’s mother.*

During the show I discovered Browne left Melbourne as a 21 year old in the 1930’s after a successful stage career with JC Williamson. She quickly landed on her feet and forged a reputation as a popular West End performer and later a brilliant classical actor with The Old Vic and The National.

She also had many memorable screen performances including roles in Auntie Mame, The Killing of Sister George, Dennis Potter’s Dreamchild and Alan Bennett’s An Englishman Abroad in which she famously played herself, touring to Moscow with Hamlet and encountering the British spy Guy Burgess. It earned her a BAFTA award for Best Actress.

Off stage I learnt Browne was known for her wit, glamour and extremely colourful language which comes to the fore during this production. This isn’t the show for anyone adverse to four letter words – as the title indicates!

Genevieve Mooy as Coral Browne.
Genevieve Mooy as Coral Browne.*

It seems Browne was equally well known for her numerous relationships with men and women. During the show we hear of her affairs with Paul Robeson, Jack Buchanan, Maurice Chevalier and Cecil Beaton and her happy marriages to homosexual actor Philip Pearman and horror movie icon Vincent Price.

We also learn about her fractured relationship with her malcontent and manipulative mother, who was never satisfied with Browne’s achievements.

Mooy excels in bringing both Browne and her mother to life in an extremely demanding role. During the show, using different clothing and hats, she expertly portrays a nervous 12 year old Browne performing in a Ballarat Eisteddfod and Browne’s mother. She also presents scenes from different plays Browne appeared it.

A TV screen with images of Browne supports Genevieve Mooy performance.
A TV screen with images of Browne’s career supports Genevieve Mooy performance. *

A TV monitor on the back wall of the play’s set (said to be Browne’s Hollywood Hills home in the 1990s) supports Mooy’s presentation by showing slides of the star’s childhood, her many famous lovers and various movie posters.

It’s the chance to learn about one of our forgotten and very colourful actors together with a witty and informative script which ensures Coral Browne: This F***ing Lady, is both a funny and educational production.

Coral Browne: This F***ing Lady is playing at fortyfivedownstairs (45 Flinders Lane Melbourne) until July 22.  For more information and tickets visit

*Photo credit: Rob George

Jenny Burns attended the opening night of Coral Browne: This F***ing Lady as a guest of the producers.

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3 years ago

[…] seen a previous production of Maureen Sherlock’s play several years ago I had some knowledge of Browne, but thanks to […]

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