Last Thursday night, with a small group of friends and family gathered, Poppy Lynch turned on the switch that lit up the new sign naming the bar in the Griffin foyer ‘The Penny Cook Bar’ in honour of her mother. Her dad, David, had just given a beautiful speech recalling how he had met the love of his life at that very bar (prior to the renovations of course!) and hoping that, in a theatre full of ghosts, we may now hear her extraordinary laugh when we come here for a pre-show drink. The sign is pink and the glow lights up everyone in the foyer very attractively, which you’ll be happy to see next time you are here.
The naming of the bar in her honour was an idea dreamed up by Peter Lowry of the SBW Foundation and Diana Simmonds, as a way of publicly remembering that without Penny, Griffin would not be standing where it is today. There is a story she was often called on to tell of the meeting between Dr Rodney Seaborn (the famous and fabulous ‘S’ of the SBW) and herself, which set in motion the Seaborn, Broughton & Walford Foundation buying the Stables and becoming the protectors of Griffin (and thus of all Australian playwrights). I’m mashing the timeline up a bit as I tell the story, but it is one of our great myths in the story of the growth of Australian theatre, and it will survive my inaccuracies so long as the major players are remembered with respect and love for what they achieved. Hence, the sign. So that an audience member 100 years from now (perhaps a relative of yours) for some great new Australian play, asks the bartender (a talented emerging playwright who has to pay rent of course) who’s mixing a Four Pillars (now world-dominating) gin and tonic: “Who was Penny Cook?”, will be told the story of that extraordinary woman who spent her life making Australian stories for us.
Cheers to Penny, cheers always to Dr Seaborn, and to the SBW Foundation for paying for the sign and for making sure Australian plays always have a home, cheers to Poppy and David, and cheers to you, the best audience in the country. Enjoy the sign when you come and join us for Meyne Wyatt’s City of Gold, and listen for Penny’s laugh.