The Wollongong local who sees 150 plays in Sydney every year

Grahame Best may not be a name you’ve heard before. He’s not a Hollywoood star, an influencer with a million followers, or a sleazy politician making headlines for the wrong reasons. Grahame is a Wollongong local who has made a name for himself as somewhat of a celebrity in the Sydney theatre scene.

For more than 60 years, Grahame has been a patron of the theatre in Sydney. From the main stages of Sydney to the independent and community productions, he’s there. Every time he sees a show, he books a ticket in the centre of the front row so that he can stand up, turn around, and encourage the rest of the audience to give a standing ovation.

About fives year ago, this prompted renowned Sydney theatre actor, Toby Schmitz, to give Grahame the nickname, Standing Ovation Man.

“Last year I know I did 145 plays. It’s usually over 100, but even when I was working, I was usually doing a play a week, you know, back in the 70s,” Grahame told Tristan on 2NRS Drive.

You’d think it would be exhausting, seeing that many shows a year, when barely any of us can stay awake long enough to watch one season of a Netflix show in a week. “Well, it’s about three nights a week, but you know, old men don’t need much sleep mate, and I usually have a grandfather nap of an afternoon,” says Grahame.

So why is theatre so important to this man on the cusp of his 80s? “It’s real. It’s live. You know, it’s salvational, the theatre. I cry, I laugh, I get so emotionally involved in the piece. It’s just a magical thing, it’s the theatrical experience. There’s nothing like a night at the theatre,” Grahame told Tristan.

A little over ten years ago, Grahame had a stroke. He was in the acute stroke unit at Royal North Shore Hospital. When he was discharged, he had a stutter. “I started straight back at theatre, and then I started mouthing the words of the actors, and then I could walk properly again and talk properly again.”

Grahame describes the theatre scene of Sydney as his second family, and it is evident that he is a fixture of that world. At every opening night, in the dressing room of every show, the question is always asked: “When it Grahame Best coming?”

You can hear Tristan’s full interview with Grahame Best here.