A musical theatre production chronicling the fascinating life and times of one of modern Australia’s most influential cooks, Margaret Fulton, will take the cake when it comes to The Q later this month.
Having debuted their production earlier this month, Margaret Fulton the Musical producer Alli Pope told Canberra Weekly the work had been on her radar since first seeing the script in 2018.
“I wasn’t entirely convinced at the beginning because I wondered how exciting a musical could be about a cook,” she said.
“Then I read the script and I was blown away. She was so interesting and had such a full life.”
The delightful musical follows Fulton’s journey from humble beginnings in her Scottish immigrant family to celebrity cook super-stardom.
The production features a cast of six and comes to The Q, Queanbeyan on 23-27 March near the beginning of an 83-performance regional tour covering most of Australia.
Twentieth century Australian home cooking can be defined by a pre-Fulton and post-Fulton era, both either side of the 1969 release of the seminal Margaret Fulton Cookbook.
The book featured Fulton’s burnt orange crockpots and chunky stoneware serving dishes and encouraged housewives to try their hand at nasi goreng and apricot chicken.
“She’s the woman who taught Australians how to cook,” Pope said.
In 2021, Australia is a culinary melting pot where many of us happily sample and enjoy exotic foods from right across the world. But 52 years ago, that wasn’t so, and, in that respect, Fulton blazed the trail; prior to her book Australian home cooking revolved almost entirely around the classic meat and three veg.
“She brought something different and encouraged people to try new ingredients,” Pope said. “Before that people didn’t even think outside that box.”
The production’s set and costumes lend itself to Fulton’s cooking and home lives and leans into a late 1960s/early 1970s Australian aesthetic.
Fulton’s kitchen and living area occupies each side of the stage, and the set is adorned with pink paisley wallpapers, pale blue panelling and kitschy cookware.
“It’s a really bright, colourful show with lots going on,” Pope said. “You could imagine she’s in the kitchen doing a demo and then breaks into full song about a pressure cooker.”
The creative pedigree of the musical’s creators is nearly as impressive as Fulton’s own work.
Writer Doug MacLeod has worked on Fast Forward, Full Frontal, Kath and Kim and The Micallef Program, and brings the quirky, clever sensibility of those works to Margaret Fulton.
Similarly, composer Yuri Worontschak has worked across theatre, screen and studio music; with some credits including Eric Bana feature film Love the Beast, Mad as Hell, and Kath and Kim too.
“All the songs are quite different, so it makes for a really interesting 80 minutes,” Pope said.
Both Macleod and Worontschak started whipping up Margaret Fulton the Musical in 2005.
Although she passed in 2019 aged 94, Ms Fulton saw an early version of the musical in 2012 when it was in workshop stage.
“At least she got to see her life on stage, which thrilled her; I heard she was absolutely thrilled by that,” Pope said.
Margaret Fulton the Musical comes to The Q, Queanbeyan, 23-27 March; theq.net.au
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