Pamela Rabe

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Pamela Rabe
Pamela Rabe (20057673862).jpg
Rabe at the 2015 Helpmann Awards
Born Pamela June Koropatnick
(1959-04-30) 30 April 1959 (age 59)
Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Nationality Canadian - Australian
Occupation Actress, Director
Years active 1981–present
(film, theatre & television)
Notable work Sirens (1994)
Così (1996)
Paradise Road (1997)
The Well (1997)
Wentworth (TV 2014-)
Height 183 cm (6 ft 0 in)
Roger Hodgman (m. 1984)
Awards AACTA AwardThe Well
AACTA AwardWentworth
See all awards

Pamela Rabe (born Pamela June Koropatnick, 30 April 1959) is a Canadian-Australian actress and theatre director. A graduate from the Playhouse Acting School, in Vancouver, Pamela Rabe is one of Australia’s most highly regarded and awarded actors.[1] She is best known for her appearances in the films Sirens, Così, Paradise Road and starring as Joan Ferguson in the award winning television series Wentworth.

Early life

Rabe was born in Oakville, Ontario, Canada in 1959. The seventh of eight children, she graduated from the Playhouse Acting School in Vancouver. Rabe relocated to Australia in 1983 with Australian director, Roger Hodgman. They were married in 1984.



Rabe is a prolific contributor to theatrical life in her adopted country in acting and directing, across a wide range of genres - musicals, comedy and drama. With the works of Shakespeare, Moliere, Chekhov, Brecht, Noel Coward, Patrick White and David Mamet forming just a part of her theatrical CV, Rabe has played leading roles on the Australian stage in some of the greatest stage plays of our time. She is a long-standing collaborator with the Sydney Theatre Company and the Melbourne Theatre Company. Rabe was once described by Melbourne theatre critic Alison Croggon as having the sort of presence that "makes shy people swallow hard and lesser mortals involuntarily bow". [2]

Some of her other high-profile acting roles include Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie at Belvoir, for which she won a Helpmann Award, Nora Boyle in Patrick White's The Season At Sarsaparilla, for which she won a Green Room Award for Best Actress,[3] Richard III in the Sydney Theatre Company production of The War Of The Roses, which also starred Cate Blanchett as Richard II.[4][5] and Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil in Les Liaisons Dangereuses alongside Hugo Weaving.

In 2005 she performed a challenging experimental Croatian play called Woman-Bomb.[6] where she inhabited the body and mind of a suicide bomber. Rabe was the sole performer in a production that lasted eight hours.

In 2010 she starred in the Melbourne stage production of David Mamet's play Boston Marriage.[7]

In 2012 Rabe received a Helpmann Award for Best Female Actor in a Musical for her performance in Grey Gardens for The Production Company. In July 2015 she won a second Helpmann Award, this time for Best Female Actor in a Play, for her performance in The Glass Menagerie.

In late 2017 Rabe played the roles of Helene Alving in Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts for Sydney's Belvoir St Theatre, Mrs. Higgins in the Julie Andrews directed revival of My Fair Lady (replacing Robyn Nevin), and the role of Mary in Colm Tóibín's The Testament of Mary, at The Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne. In 2018 Rabe will star in Lucy Kirkwood's play The Children at the Melbourne Theatre Company.[8]

Rabe turned her hand to theatre directing in 2009, and has directed several high-profile plays for Australian theatre companies, including the Australian premiere of In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play), and Elling for the Melbourne Theatre Company. Rabe was nominated for a Green Room Award for best direction on both occasions. In 2012 Rabe was invited to be a member of the guest triumvirate who programmed the Melbourne Theatre Company season for that year.


In 1989, Rabe made her film debut with a minor role in Against the Innocent. Her second role came in 1993 when she was cast in John Duigan's romantic comedy, Sirens with Hugh Grant and Sam Neill. Rabe's first leading role was in the 1995 film Vacant Possession. Following this, she appeared in Così with Toni Collette, Lust and Revenge directed by Paul Cox, and Paradise Road, a film starring Glenn Close set during World War II. In 1997, Rabe was cast in the leading role of 1997 film adaptation, an adaptation of Elizabeth Jolley's novel The Well, for which she received an AFI Award for Best Actress.[1] More recently she appeared in the Jasmila Zbanic drama film For Those Who Can Tell No Tales and she narrated the upcoming 2015 film, Symphony of the Wild.


Rabe has appeared on several Australian television series throughout her career. Her first was in 1990, when she received a guest role in the soap opera A Country Practice. Then she featured in a number of recurring roles including the family series Ocean Girl and The Secret Life of Us and a lead role in the short lived series Mercury.

In September 2013 it was announced that Rabe would be cast in the Australian prison drama series, Wentworth, a reimagining of the classic Network Ten soap opera Prisoner. She joined Wentworth in Season Two as sadistic prison governor Joan "The Freak" Ferguson, a role originally played by Maggie Kirkpatrick in Prisoner. Rabe as Ferguson is seen as intimidating and evil and often uses a clever, non-physical approach in a way to control and manipulate the prisoners and officers alike, with little need for violence, unlike Kirkpatrick's character who mainly resorted to violence. Rabe appeared in both Season Two and Season Three in a leading role, as it was finally discovered that Ferguson is unstable and her crimes are revealed. Rabe returned as Joan Ferguson in the fourth season in 2016, in which she becomes a prisoner at Wentworth and uses strategies to get herself out of prison for good. Rabe reprised her role for the fifth season of Wentworth in 2017, in which Ferguson remains incarcerated for killing inmate Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack) at the end of the previous season. It was previously unknown if Rabe would reprise her role as Joan Ferguson for the sixth season; however, she began appearing from episode seven of the twelve-part season, as a figment of character Will Jackson's imagination, but it has still not been confirmed if Joan has actually died and if her outcome will be will be revealed by the season finale, set to air on 4 September 2018.[9]

In 2017, Rabe played the role of Maude in the 6-part TV series Fucking Adelaide, which premiered at the Adelaide Film Festival in October 2017.[10][11]

Other work

Rabe served on the board of the Australian Film Institute from 1999–2002[12] and is a former member of the Board of Directors of NIDA.



Year Title Role Notes
1989 Against the Innocent American Woman
1993 Sirens Rose Lindsay
1995 Vacant Possession Tessa
1996 Così Ruth
1996 Lust and Revenge Obnoxious Woman
1997 Paradise Road Mrs. Tippler
1997 The Well Hester
2004 The Boy Who Feeds Cats Narrator Voice; short film
2013 For Those Who Can Tell No Tales Mum
2015 Symphony of the Wild Narrator Voice


Year Title Role Notes
1985 A Single Life Margaret Bennett Television film
1987 Nancy Wake Madeleine Miniseries
1990 A Country Practice Marnie Rose Season 10 - "My Sister's Keeper" (Parts 1 & 2)
1993 Seven Deadly Sins Greed Miniseries
1995 Ocean Girl Commander Byrne Recurring role; Season 2 - 13 episodes
1996 Mercury Claire Bannister Leading role; Season 1 - 13 episodes
1996 The Bite Samira Nazib Miniseries
1997 Frontier Rosa Campbell Praed Miniseries
2001 Stingers Eve Reisner Episode: "True Colours"
2003 The Secret Life of Us Luciana Recurring role; Season 3 - 9 episodes
2003 CrashBurn Andy Episode: "Seven Letters or Less"
2005 Holly's Heroes Mrs. Rocacelli 3 episodes
2014– Wentworth Joan Ferguson Leading role Seasons 2–5 (48 episodes), special guest role Season 6−

Awards and nominations

Year Format Association Category Nominated work Result
1988 Theatre Green Room Award Actress in a Leading Role (Drama)[13] Gertrude Stein and a Companion Won
1991 Theatre Green Room Award Female Actor in a Featured Role (Music Theatre) The Wizard of Oz Won
1993 Theatre Green Room Award Actress in a Leading Role (Drama)[14] Lost in Yonkers Won
1997 Theatre Green Room Award Female Actor in a Featured Role (Music Theatre) A Little Night Music Nominated
1997 Film AACTA Awards Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role The Well Won
1997 Film Stockholm International Film Festival Best Actress Won
1998 Film Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards Best Actor - Female Nominated
2002 Theatre Helpmann Award Best Female Actor in a Musical The Wizard of Oz Nominated
2002 Theatre Green Room Award Female Actor in a Featured Role (Music Theatre) Nominated
2005 Theatre Helpmann Award Best Female Actor in a Play Dinner Nominated
2007 Theatre Helpmann Award Best Female Actor in a Play Mother Courage and Her Children Nominated
2008 Theatre Green Room Award Best Female Performer - Theatre (Companies) The Season At Sarsaparilla Won
2009 Theatre Helpmann Award Best Female Actor in a Play War of the Roses Nominated
2011 Theatre Green Room Award Direction - Theatre (Companies) In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) Nominated
2011 Theatre Green Room Award Female Artist Leading Role - Music Theatre Grey Gardens Won
2012 Theatre Helpmann Award Best Female Actor in a Musical Won
2012 Theatre Green Room Award Direction - Theatre (Companies) Elling Nominated
2015 Theatre Helpmann Award Best Female Actor in a Play The Glass Menagerie Won
2015 Theatre Helpmann Award Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role – Play Beckett Triptych Footfalls Nominated
2015 Television Astra Award Most Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor Wentworth (Season Two) Nominated
2015 Television AACTA Awards Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama Wentworth (Season Three) Won
2016 Television Logie Awards Most Outstanding Actress Wentworth (Season Three) Nominated
2016 Television AACTA Awards Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama Wentworth (Season Four) Nominated
2017 Television AACTA Awards Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama Wentworth (Season Five) Nominated
2018 Television Logie Awards Most Outstanding Actress Wentworth (Season Five) Won
2018 Theatre Helpmann Award Best Female Actor in a Play The Children Won


  1. ^ a b "Pamela Rabe". 16th Street. Archived from the original on 23 February 2011.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Sarsaparilla steals the Melbourne Limelight". Sydney Morning Herald. 2009-04-21. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
  4. ^ "Richard III, thy name is woman". Sydney Morning Herald. 5 January 2009. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  5. ^ Lalak, Alex (19 January 2009). "Review: The War Of The Roses, starring Cate Blanchett". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  6. ^ Womb with a view
  7. ^ Croggon, Alison (11 June 2010). "Pamela Rabe on a roll as a woman behaving badly". The Australian. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Adams, Cameron (21 June 2017). "Wentworth spoiler warning: will The Freak escape being buried alive?". Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  10. ^ Daniela Frangos (2 October 2017). "Fucking Adelaide to Premiere at Adelaide Film Festival". Broadsheet Adelaide. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  11. ^ "Fucking Adelaide". IMDB. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  12. ^ "National Institute of Dramatic Art". 2010. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  13. ^ "Promptings". Saturday Extra. The Age. 27 February 1988. p. 9.
  14. ^ "Playbox tops stage awards". The Age. 18 February 1993. p. 14.

Further reading

  • Pamela Rabe in Melbourne Magazine, 30 July 2010
  • A Woman of Substance, The Age, 23 April 1994

External links

  • Pamela Rabe on IMDb
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