ACU (Australian Catholic University)

ACU Alum

Issue 2, Winter 2012

Loving the limelight

From piano to blackboard to floorshow, ACU graduate Matthew Hadgraft is willing to take a chance. Caitlin Ganter spoke to the man of many talents about sticking to your passion.

All the world's a stage according to Matthew Hadgraft.  

An actor and trained piano and primary teacher, Matthew is happiest is front of an audience. From putting on a show in Cabaret to performing in an ABBA tribute band, the 32-year-old extrovert loves making people laugh.  

“I vividly recall being a semi-disgruntled, dissatisfied piano teacher wanting to do something else,” Matthew said. “I suddenly had an epiphany, and decided to become a primary school teacher.”

Matthew enrolled in a Bachelor of Education at ACU’s Brisbane Campus, and while studying he met Lynelle Leighton, a devoted ABBA fan.

“While I was studying I also taught piano at Lynelle’s music school. One day she saw an ABBA tribute band give a terrible performance, was adamant they couldn’t do that to ABBA, decided to start her own and asked me if I’d play Benny. I accepted immediately.”

From 2003, Matthew spent seven years playing Benny Anderson with Dancing Queen: Ultimate ABBA Show, now ABBALIVE.  

“During this time I realised I’m happiest when entertaining an audience. I finished my degree and had a few teachings jobs, but nothing compared to how I felt when performing, so this eventually became my priority.”

Since 2010 Matthew has appeared in the Gold Coast production Curtains, played Peter Allen in The Boy from Oz, and portrayed flamboyant interior designer Alistair Spenlow in Move Over Mrs Markham.  He has also performed in Eurobeat, The 39 Steps and Twice in a Lifetime.

“The highlight was in 2011 when I played Cliff Bradshaw in Cabaret at the Cremorne, Brisbane.  I loved it because it was staged by ZenZenZo Physical Theatre Company who had never staged a musical before, so it was fabulously raw.”

Critics thought so too – with the theatrepeople website calling Matthew’s performance “endearing and emotional, he [Matthew] is instantly likeable and a powerful presence in the production.”

Matthew’s musical career began when as a Year 5 student he joined the St John’s Cathedral Choir in Brisbane. Despite the subsequent challenges of singing acting, he said he has found his passion and is sticking to it.

“The business can definitely be fussy - it all comes down to an esoteric ‘something’. Unlike teaching, lots of hard work doesn’t necessarily guarantee outcomes – which can be hugely disheartening and frustrating,” Matthew said.

“In the end I believe you reap what you sow, but no one is going to make you achieve anything so you have to get yourself out there.

“When you activate characters and scenarios effectively, the audience forgets everything … I love bringing people into a different world with me, and I adore making people laugh.

“I plan to have a show in the 2013 Melbourne Comedy Festival, I want to have my own sitcom on the ABC, and I want to host Play School - so I’m aiming high.”

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