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George Spartels
, early 1970's

by Ivan Gaal

gelatin silver photograph (image/sheet: 24.2 cm x 19.2 cm)

George Spartels (b. 1954), actor, composer, musician and presenter, was a host on the ABC television children’s program Play School from 1985 to 1999. Born in Melbourne to a Greek father and Irish/English mother, in the 1970s he appeared in no fewer than five different television police dramas: Division 4, Homicide, Matlock Police, Bluey and Cop Shop. In 1981-1983 he played the substantial role of Amos in the Sydney Theatre Company’s Chicago, directed by Richard Wherrett. After playing Nick Poulopoulos for seventeen episodes of the television show Sweet and Sour in 1984, in 1985 he appeared in the film Mad Max – Beyond Thunderdome, third in the Mad Max series. That year, he began his period as the much-loved ‘George from Playschool’ – the title of one of his several albums for children, which include Surfing with the Seagulls (1993) and Return of the Spangled Drongo (1999). In 1992-1993 he was a regular character in Neighbours, playing the part of an Italian, Benito Alessi, in 47 episodes. More recently, he has played Theo Karandonis in Packed to the Rafters (2009-2012). Having played a character in Mike Leigh’s intense ensemble piece Greek Tragedy at the Belvoir in 1989-1990, and Mercutio in Neil Armfield’s Romeo and Juliet for the South Australian theatre Company in 1998, he appeared in Armfield’s The Spook for the Belvoir in 2004 and in various Company B productions to 2008. In 2014 he appeared across Australia, in Toronto and Los Angeles in the international stage production The Last Confession. The Hollywood Reporter reviewer wrote ‘the most satisfying acting turns come from the most virtuous characters . . . [including the] small role of Cardinal Lorscheider (George Spartels)’. Spartels has also starred in live productions of Play School and in children’s concerts including George Meets the Orchestra with the Queensland Philharmonic in 2001.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2019
Accession number: 2019.9