Leah Purcell is an award-winning actor, singer and writer. She was born to a black mother and a white father who did not publicly acknowledge her as his daughter. In Year 10 at Murgon High School she gained the role of Gloria, the secretary in Bye Bye Birdie. Performing saved her from the consequences of heavy drinking that started when she was seven. Her professional acting career began in 1992 and she came to prominence in 1993 with a role in Jimmy Chi's Bran Nue Dae. Purcell subsequently appeared in film and television roles including a part in Lantana, the adaptation of Andrew Bovell's play, Speaking in Tongues. She also appeared in Nick Cave's The Proposition. and the award-winning film Jindabyne (2006). Purcell received a Matilda Award for theatre in 1994 for her performance in 'Low'.
In 1997, Purcell starred in her own highly acclaimed, one-woman play, Box the Pony. She performed in successful seasons around Australia and in London, Edinburgh and Broadway. Purcell won a number of awards both for the script and for her acting, including the Premier's Literary Award in New South Wales and Queensland. The script is on high-school syllabuses in four states and an audition monologue at NIDA. In 2004, Purcell was invited to the United States for the three-month Eisenhower Fellowship. She was the first indigenous person to be offered this opportunity. In 2005 Purcell played Condoleezza Rice in David Hare's play, 'Stuff Happens' and in 2006 Eve Ensler's acclaimed one-woman show about body image, 'The Good Body'. In 2007 Purcell was nominated in the Best Actress in a Lead Role category in the Sydney Theatre Awards for her performance in the play, 'The Story of the Miracles at Cookie's Table'.
'If anyone can write a full-throttle drama of our colonial past, it’s the indomitable Leah Purcell.
'We all know Henry Lawson’s story of the Drover’s Wife. Her stoic silhouette against an unforgiving landscape, her staring down of the serpent; it’s the frontier myth captured in a few pages. In Leah’s new play the old story gets a very fresh rewrite. Once again the Drover’s Wife is confronted by a threat in her yard, but now it’s a man. He’s bleeding, he’s got secrets, and he’s black. She knows there’s a fugitive wanted for killing whites, and the district is thick with troopers, but something’s holding the Drover’s Wife back from turning this fella in…
'A taut thriller of our pioneering past, with a black sting to the tail, The Drover’s Wife reaches from our nation’s infancy into our complicated present. And best of all, Leah’s playing the Wife herself.' (Publication summary)
'Six teenagers, all elite within their own field, have come to live at Arcadia House to pursue their dreams. For some it's the opportunity of a lifetime. For others it's a last chance. All are strangers, some a long way from home, and the last thing they expect to find is family. Far from home, they must find a path through the new challenges and adventures that the big city offers while dealing with all the trials of growing up.' (Source: ABC3 website)