Dame Helen June Patricia Evison, DBE 1924 – 2010

Dame Patricia Evison, well-known New Zealand actor, died today.

Sunday 30th May 2010

One of New Zealand’s pioneering television actors died today. Better known to us as Pat Evison, she first appeared on our television screens in the 1970s drama “Pukemanu.”

During its early days, television relied on experienced stage actors to appear in advertisements, serials and features. Some made a career in television while others made occasional appearances while pursuing their stage careers. Pat Evison made a success of television and appeared in productions both here and in Australia. Other names that spring to mind from this era are Kate Harcourt, Peter Harcourt and Davina Whitehouse who had successful stage careers and featured in New Zealand’s early television drama.

Radio New Zealand reports that Pat Evison’s acting career began when she moved to the United Kingdom which probably explains why she is linked in my mind with another New Zealand-born actor, Nyree Dawn Porter, who successfully carved a career in British television – most notably as Irene in “The Forsyte Saga”.

Pat Evison has a special place in our memories through being cast in capable “mumsy” roles in “Pukemanu” and “Close to Home” at a time when we delighted in seeing our own stories on TV for the first time. These serials were so successful and popular that New Zealand film and television went through something of a boom time in the 1970s and 1980s. Her warm, rich sometimes hesitant voice suited the cheerful roles she played, and her vibrant sighs of pleasure or disappointment as “Mum” Pukemanu echo down the years.

Dame Pat Evison was denied a slow fading of the lights on her career by an illness that affected her eyesight several years ago making it difficult to read scripts. Nevertheless, she is remembered as one of our special pioneering television actors, and sadly missed.

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