Rabe at the 2015 Helpmann Awards
|Born||Pamela June Koropatnick
(1959-04-30) 30 April 1959
Oakville, Ontario, Canada
|Nationality||Canadian – Australian|
(film, theatre & television)
|Notable work||Sirens (1994)
Paradise Road (1997)
The Well (1997)
Wentworth (TV 2014–)
|Height||183 cm (6 ft 0 in)|
|Awards||AACTA Award — The Well
AACTA Award — Wentworth
See all awards
Pamela Rabe (born 30 April 1959) is a Canadian / Australian stage, television and film actor and theatre director. A graduate from the Playhouse Acting School, in Vancouver, Pamela Rabe is one of Australia’s most highly regarded and awarded actors. She is best known for her appearances in the films Sirens, Così, Paradise Road and starring as Joan Ferguson in the award winning television series Wentworth.
Rabe was born Pamela June Koropatnick in Oakville, Ontario, Canada in 1959. The seventh of eight children, she graduated from the Playhouse Acting School in Vancouver. Rabe relocated to Australia in 1983 with Australian director, Roger Hodgman. They were married in 1984.
Rabe is a prolific contributor to theatrical life in her adopted country in acting and directing, across a wide range of genres – musicals, comedy and drama. With the works of Shakespeare, Moliere, Chekhov, Brecht, Noel Coward, Patrick White and David Mamet forming just a part of her theatrical CV, Rabe has played leading roles on the Australian stage in some of the greatest stage plays of our time. She is a long-standing collaborator with the Sydney Theatre Company and the Melbourne Theatre Company. Rabe was once described by Melbourne theatre critic Alison Croggon as having the sort of presence that “makes shy people swallow hard and lesser mortals involuntarily bow”. 
Some of her other high-profile acting roles include Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee Williams‘s The Glass Menagerie at Belvoir, for which she won a Helpmann Award, Nora Boyle in Patrick White‘s The Season At Sarsaparilla, for which she won a Green Room Award for Best Actress, Richard III in the Sydney Theatre Company production of The War Of The Roses, which also starred Cate Blanchett as Richard II. and Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil in Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Hampton play) along side Hugo Weaving.
In 2005 she performed a challenging experimental Croatian play called Woman-Bomb. where she inhabited the body and mind of a suicide bomber. Rabe was the sole performer in a production that lasted eight hours.
In 2012 Rabe received a Helpmann Award for Best Female Actor in a Musical for her performance in Grey Gardens for The Production Company. In July 2015 she won a second Helpmann Award, this time for Best Female Actor in a Play, for her performance in The Glass Menagerie.
In late 2017 Rabe will play the role of Helene Alving in Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts for the Belvoir Theatre Company, Sydney and the role of Mary in Colm Tóibín‘s The Testament of Mary, at The Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne.
Rabe turned her hand to theatre directing in 2009, and has directed several high-profile plays for Australian theatre companies, including the Australian premiere of In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play), and Elling for the Melbourne Theatre Company. Rabe was nominated for a Green Room Award for best direction on both occasions. In 2012 Rabe was invited to be a member of the guest triumvirate who programmed the Melbourne Theatre Company season for that year.
In 1989, Rabe made her film debut with a minor role in Against the Innocent. Her second role came in 1993 when she was cast in John Duigan‘s romantic comedy, Sirens with Hugh Grant and Sam Neill. Rabe’s first leading role was in the 1995 film Vacant Possession. Following this, she appeared in Così with Toni Collette, Lust and Revenge directed by Paul Cox, and Paradise Road, a film starring Glenn Close set during World War II. In 1997, Rabe was cast in the leading role of 1997 film adaptation, an adaptation of Elizabeth Jolley‘s novel The Well, for which she received an AFI Award for Best Actress. More recently she appeared in the Jasmila Zbanic drama film For Those Who Can Tell No Tales and she narrated the upcoming 2015 film, Symphony of the Wild.
Rabe has appeared on several Australian television series throughout her career. Her first was in 1990, when she received a guest role in the soap opera A Country Practice. Then she featured in a number of recurring roles including the family series Ocean Girl and The Secret Life of Us and a lead role in the short lived series Mercury. In September 2013 it was announced that Rabe would be cast in the Australian prison drama series, Wentworth, a reimagining of the classic Network Ten soap opera Prisoner. She joined Wentworth in Season Two as sadistic prison governor Joan “The Freak” Ferguson, a role originally played by Maggie Kirkpatrick in Prisoner. Rabe as Ferguson is seen as intimidating and evil and often uses a clever, non-physical approach in a way to control and manipulate the prisoners and officers alike, with little need for violence, unlike Kirkpatrick’s character who mainly resorted to violence. Rabe appeared in both Season Two and Season Three in a leading role, as it was finally discovered that Ferguson is unstable and her crimes are revealed. Rabe reprised her role in the fourth season in 2016, in which she becomes a prisoner at Wentworth and uses strategies to get herself out of prison for good. She will reprise her role in the fifth season of Wentworth, to be aired in 2017.
- Other work
|Against the Innocent||1989||American Woman|
|Lust and Revenge||1996||Obnoxious Woman|
|Paradise Road||1997||Mrs. Tippler|
|The Boy Who Feeds Cats||2004||Narrator||Voice; short film|
|For Those Who Can Tell No Tales||2013||Mum|
|Symphony of the Wild||2015||Narrator||Voice|
|A Single Life||1985||Margaret Bennett||Television film|
|A Country Practice||1990||Marnie Rose||Season 10 – “My Sister’s Keeper” (Parts 1 & 2)|
|Seven Deadly Sins||1993||Greed||Miniseries|
|Ocean Girl||1995||Commander Byrne||Recurring role; Season 2 – 13 episodes|
|Mercury||1996||Claire Bannister||Leading role; Season 1 – 13 episodes|
|The Bite||1996||Samira Nazib||Miniseries|
|Frontier||1997||Rosa Campbell Praed||Miniseries|
|Stingers||2001||Eve Reisner||Season 4, Episode 18 – “True Colours”|
|The Secret Life of Us||2003||Luciana||Recurring role; Season 3 – 9 episodes|
|CrashBurn||2003||Andy||Season 1, Episode 13 – “Seven Letters or Less”|
|Holly’s Heroes||2005||Mrs. Rocacelli||3 episodes|
|Wentworth||2014–||Joan Ferguson||Leading role; Season 2 – 5 (36 + episodes)|