One of the most touching moments of this year’s parade was a tribute to recently deceased Australian theatre icon Richard Wherrett.
The tribute, entered by Sydney Star Observer and sponsored by Volvo Car Australia, took the form of a celebration of Wherrett’s theatrical career, featuring large flashing theatre signs mounted on the top of Volvo convertibles representing some of his greatest successes as a director. His direction of the cauldron sequence of the opening of the Sydney Olympics was recognised by a drag queen in a 2m wide cauldron costume and a dancing boy in a 3m tall Olympic torch costume.
Several of Wherrett’s good friends and colleagues took part in the float, including stars of stage and screen Jacki Weaver, Geraldine Turner, Lynette Curran, Tina Bursill, Graham Harvey, Mark Trevorrow, Nicholas Eadie and Garry Scale. Between the vehicles, dozens of people were dressed in the original costumes from Wherrett’s Sydney Theatre Company productions, including Chicago, Macbeth and Company.
While Wherrett was best known for his groundbreaking work as an original director of the Sydney Theatre Company, he was no stranger to Mardi Gras. He was a frequent participant in the parade and served as both the party director and a member of the Mardi Gras board.
Wherrett died of AIDS-related illness in December 2001.