Sally Burton counts herself fortunate that after numerous visits to Perth in order to spend time with her brother and his family, she finally did what she had been threatening to do for some time. In February 2005 Sally bought a house in Subiaco, sold her house in London and relocated to Perth just over four months later in June 2005.
Following treatment for breast cancer in 2007, Sally recently agreed to become the Patron for Western Australia for The National Breast Cancer Foundation. “There is no good time or place to get cancer but if you have to experience the disease, I can assure you the treatment I received in Perth was outstanding. At every turn I was met with informed opinion and compassion. With every year, we learn more about breast cancer, a disease which does not discriminate, and in the future we will learn even more.”
Sally grew up in Birmingham and while the swinging sixties did not cause as great an impact as she might have liked, there was the opportunity to see some wonderful theatre. Repertory companies travelled through the city performing at such venues as The Alexandra, The Hippodrome and Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Stratford-upon-Avon and the Royal Shakespeare Company were 26 miles away. A journey of probably thirty minutes these days, but somewhat longer in her ancient Morris Minor. “The memory of David Warner as Hamlet is still with me as is Peter Hall’s maverick production of The War Of The Roses. There were three sessions, morning, afternoon and evening. It was a hot and sultry day. The performances, the scale and sheer audacity of the production, everything had been outstanding. As the audience emerged late at night, universally enthralled at what we had been part of, lightening flashed across the sky, there was an ominous clap of thunder and suddenly a deluge of rain. It is something I will never forget.”
After working for the BBC in Birmingham, Sally considered London to be the next step. She worked in the current affairs department on such programmes as Panorama, 24 hours, Newsnight and numerous election specials, while continuing to explore a love of theatre, ballet and opera. “In those days the BBC offered certain allowances, the theatre allowance being one I took up with gusto. We were able to claim an annual ticket allowance.”
In the late seventies, Sally pursued a freelance career working for many of the independent television companies in the UK as a Production Assistant. During this time, Sally worked with Tony Palmer on a number of drama projects. Tony Palmer offered Sally the opportunity to work in Europe on his epic “Wagner”. It was to be a 10 month shoot in Europe, starting in Austria, moving on to Germany, Hungary and Switzerland. Sally fancied a bit of a change, so she accepted Palmer’s offer, loaded up her VW Golf and drove to Vienna. As it happened “a bit of a change” turned into something a whole lot bigger. Cast to play the composer, Richard Wagner, was the legendary actor, Richard Burton, who she would subsequently marry. “It was at this point that a love of theatre and the fact that I had seemed to have absorbed a knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays came in rather handy.”
Sadly, he died in 1984. Sally continued to live in Switzerland at their marital home. In 1988, Sally left Switzerland to live in London, where she worked in television, radio, both producing and presenting, and wrote for a range of newspapers and magazines including The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, The Sunday Times and Woman’s Journal where she wrote a monthly column..
In moving to Perth, Sally continues to pursue her passion for the arts. She regularly attends performances at WAAPA and in 2007 set up The Sally Burton Award for third year acting students. Sally is also Patron of The Black Swan State Theatre Company, thinks Ivan Cavallari is doing an outstanding job at West Australian Ballet and is frequently heard extolling the virtues of WASO. Sally is thrilled her company Onward Production are producing theatre in Perth. To date, ONWARD has produced four shows, in 2009 the Australian premiere of Stewart Permutt’s Singular Women, and the Australian Premiere of Norman Hudis and Marc Sinden’s Seven Deadly Sins, Four Deadly Sinners.
2010 saw the Western Australian premiere of James Millar & Peter Rutherford’s LOVEBiTES, and Terence Rattigan’s classic The Deep Blue Sea both of which received rave reviews by critics and audience alike.