Faith Clayton has spent over 60 years working as a professional actress in theatre, film, television and radio in Western Australia. She has worked across countless genres and embraced characters from all walks of life, earning the respect of colleagues and audiences across the country.
Faith’s mother and grandmother were early influences on her love of theatre and read dramatic poems to her as a child. Throughout her childhood, Faith took speech and drama classes. She still remembers her first performance at the age of eight – an alternate reading of Little Miss Muffet, in which she told the story in English, Irish, Scottish and American accents. Faith was fascinated with people from a young age and would take note of and try to emulate unique movements and mannerisms.
Faith finished high school in 1946 and began studying psychology at The University of Western Australia (UWA) the following year. She spent three years completing a bachelor’s degree, exploring her interest in the human mind; studies that she believes greatly contributed to her talent and techniques as an actress. While living on campus at UWA she met her late husband, Alan Richardson, who would eventually go on to become a Professor of Psychology at UWA.
She also began an amateur career in theatre and her first performance with the University Dramatic Society was as Jocasta in Oedipus, at the opening of UWA’s Sunken Garden Amphitheatre in 1948. Images of Faith in the play are used on UWA promotional material to this day. Her work with the University Dramatic Society resulted in enough attention that Faith was offered and accepted a role in the inaugural Festival of Perth production of Richard III in 1953.
Later that year, Faith and her husband moved to London and Faith took a job as a clinical psychologist, putting a career in theatre on the backburner. The couple remained in England until 1957, when they returned to Perth and Faith began to work as a part-time Guidance Officer with the Education Department. They soon started a family and Faith dedicated much of her time to being a mother, while still taking on a variety of theatre roles including Gertrude in Hamlet, the title role in Mother Courage and Mrs Alving in Ghosts. By the early 1970s the actress began to work regularly for the ABC and acted in radio plays, children’s programs and a number of joint productions with the BBC.
In the late 1970s, Faith’s career began to extend to television and film. Her first major film roles were Fran in 1985 and Shame in 1988, with a number of others to follow. Faith continued to perform regularly in theatre productions across Australia, and in 1989, she won the inaugural Swan Gold Award for Best Actress for her performances in The Plough and the Stars and The Day It All Ended.
Faith worked on a number of popular television shows in the 1990s, including Ship to Shore, The Gift and a season of Parallax. In 1992 and 1994, she went on major tours of Australian theatres in Sally Morgan’s Sistergirl, one of her most beloved productions to date. In 1995, she performed as Mrs Higgins in a production of My Fair Lady and as Evangeline Court in a 1997 production of Anything Goes at His Majesty’s Theatre. Throughout her career, Faith found that being on stage and taking on the life of a character was where she felt most comfortable, “You can get lost in a play, and feel it so intensely.”
From 2009 to 2013, Faith spent time working with others in the industry, helping to research and document the history of UWA’s theatre and performances in the lead-up to the UWA’s centenary celebrations in 2013. In 2009, at the Equity Guild Awards, Faith received the inaugural Heritage Award in recognition of over 50 years of professional performance of the highest quality.
Since 2012, Faith has focused her time on performing poetry readings with a group called Well Versed at venues and events around Perth. Faith attributes much of her success over the past six decades to those she met along the way within the industry, and to the incredible support and love she received from her husband and family.