Robert Motton first cheated death at 13, when he outstayed his welcome on a flying fox and landed on his head. His father gingerly drove the family home to Coburg, where X-rays revealed a fracture circling his skull, but for an inch. According to his mother if it had moved “he would have been gone”. Robert was ensconced for weeks in his parent’s bedroom to inhibit his night wanderings. One night he distributed army gear out the window in his sleep. That was the summer, and he was back on stage by September.
Now, on the cusp of retirement, it seems fitting to appraise how a boy, who wanted to join the army, became a pivotal figure in performing arts education. Before accepting a place at Duntroon, his school master at Ivanhoe Grammar cautioned him. “He said I should go for it,” Motton remembers, “then he said, you like the theatre of the cadets, you’re not necessarily into the real thing. You need to think about why you want to do what you want to do.”
Motton stems from a long line of amateur theatrics amongst his mother’s kin: a legacy that cast him as director of hundreds-of-thousands of children and young adults over 30 years. As Director of Performing Arts at Ringwood Secondary College, Director of The Gang Show, The Australian Girls’ Choir and annual EMR concerts, he has also managed a fulltime teaching position and speaking engagements with Saxton Speakers. His passion has very nearly killed him.
Although Motton helped inspire “Mr G”, in Chris Lilley’s television serial Summer Heights High, he is clearly no ‘Mr G’. His generously built body bears unremarkable clothing, and his Holden Commodore station-wagon is more functional than flamboyant. Instead his irrepressible purpose fills every room. “People say we’re really lucky to have all these boys doing the musical at Year 12, but if you think luck’s got anything to with it you’re an idiot,” he scoffs. “There’s a whole program underneath this that makes it happen.” Continue reading
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