6 February 2023

Retired accountant's play to hit the stage

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Margaret Sleigh

Margaret Sleigh was a charted account for over 25 years. Photo: Supplied.

Retired accountant Margaret Sleigh had never written a play in her life when she decided to throw caution to the wind.

According to the Temora local, doing anything creative within accounting was seen as a “criminal offence”.

“I have never written a play, and anything creative has always been frowned upon,” Margaret said.

“Being retired has allowed me to branch out and spread my wings, so to speak.”

However, Margaret had always written poetry and articles in her spare time.

Margaret got involved with Motion Arts Temora (MAT) because she enjoyed sewing and making costumes and delivered five outfits for MAT’s live production of Hello Dolly! in 2018.

After the play’s success, MAT’s president Scott Hayman was looking to showcase an Australian Christmas play, and Margaret decided to put her hand up for the scriptwriting job.

“He went through the catalogues put out by agents but could not find anything suitable. I thought I better write one,” Margaret said.

“It’s not terribly Christmassy but more about the family and how their young ones get enlisted.”

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Home for Christmas is set around World War I and centres on a farming family, the Caseys.

Margaret worked on the play on and off from the end of 2018 and it is now set to hit the stage later this year at the Temora Memorial Town Hall.

“It would go into storage for a while, and we’d wonder whether we’re ever going to put it on … and suddenly, I would come up with something.

“I would probably still be adding bits and fixing it until I handed it over to director Susan Hunn.

“My daughter told me, ‘When you hand over the (script) to the director, you’re not allowed to do anything more with it.”

Margaret’s career as a playwright will not continue beyond her current play as she has no plans of writing more.

Margaret said she had gathered “so much fabric” to make outfits for her characters, as most would need two costumes.

“When the war was on, it was frowned upon to wear colours as it was considered the country was in mourning … you wore sombre colours like whites and greys.

“Before and after the war, the characters will have nice costumes.

“I’m just terrified of having something which is glaringly historically inaccurate … that’s my main fear.”

Margaret’s good friend of 50 years, Tony Buggy, who was once the musical director of The Four Kinsmen, is also involved in the upcoming play.

“Tony came to my aid and managed to get some semblance of music written for most of the songs,” Margaret said. “One of my sisters, Barbi, is here now helping me. She used to be a music teacher, and she is going through some of the songs where I felt the tunes were not quite what I had in mind.”

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Since starting the new writing phase, Margaret has written a couple of other plays.

“One of my plays, Order in the Court, was performed recently. It was a 10-minute play about a policeman who managed to handcuff himself to an espresso machine and book his brother-in-law for driving while a passenger was not restrained by a seat belt.

“He, the policeman, was, in fact, the passenger. It was very convoluted. I think you need to have been there,” Margaret said.

Born in Sydney and raised in Canberra, Margaret moved to Temora with her husband after he was offered the position of principal at St Anne’s Central School.

The couple fell in love with the town and decided to retire in Temora at the end of 2011.

Margaret was in the accounting industry for more than 25 years. She started in tax, moved on to company law and insolvency and eventually started her own practice.

“I sold the business to one of the young chaps that worked for me … I had to retire after my doctor told me I needed to stop because of my rheumatoid arthritis.”

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