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Carol Burns

Carol Burns

Carol Ann Burns (29 October 1947 – 22 December 2015) was an Australian actress, theatre director and patron of the arts. She worked extensively in theatre and television serials, as well as telemovies and mini-series in Australia and the United Kingdom. In Australia she was a founding member of the Queensland Theatre Company. Burns was an original cast member, as Franky Doyle, in the serial Prisoner during the first season in 1979 and although she only appeared in the first 20 episodes,[1] she became a major breakout and much loved character, and gained cult status as a fan favourite.[2][3]

Carol Burns
Carol Ann Burns

(1947-10-29)29 October 1947
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Died22 December 2015(2015-12-22) (aged 68)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
EducationBrisbane Arts Theatre, Twelfth Night Theatre
Years active1967–2015
Spouse(s)Alan Lawrence (1979–2015, her death)

Early life

Burns was born and raised in Brisbane, Queensland. Her mother Mary (née Langford) was a receptionist and her father William was a motor spare parts manager.[4] She attended Milton State Primary School where her initiation into the world of theatre began with speech and drama classes in 1958. Burns acted with Brisbane Arts Theatre and also Twelfth Night Theatre, where she was a student of theatre director, Joan Whalley, and also tutored within the junior drama workshops, in Brisbane.


Television and film

Burns' major television role was her performance in the cult television program Prisoner, in which she played the tough but affable lesbian bikie character, Frieda "Franky" Doyle.[5] Although only appearing in the first 20 episodes, her character attained cult status, resulting in her winning a Logie Award for Best Lead Actress in a Series. Burns stated in a 2011 interview that she left the show due to very low pay and an increased workload as a result of the more rapid production of episodes. She also stated that it was her decision to be killed off as she did not want to be lured back. After Burns's departure from the series the producers released a telemovie titled The Franky Doyle Story which they compiled using footage from the episodes in which Burns had participated.

Burns, an experienced and versatile theatre actress, went to the UK and appeared in numerous West End theatre productions and had roles in TV series such as The Bill, Taggart and Heartbeat. Burns also appeared in films, particularly during the late 1970s and 1980s, including The Mango Tree (1977), Bad Blood (1981), Starstruck (1982) and Strikebound (1984)[4]


Burns had acted exclusively in the theatre for ten years before film or television, based in Brisbane. In 2005, Burns performed in the Queensland Theatre Company's sell-out season of Edward Albee's production of The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?. As part of the 2007 season, she appeared in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.[6] She performed for La Boite Theatre. She was in a stage production of Elizabeth: Almost by Chance a Woman by Italian playwright Dario Fo. In 2015, Burns played, in what turned out to be her final performance, the lead role of Winnie in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days for Queensland Theatre Company.[4][7]

Burns directed the Queensland Theatre Company productions of The Road to Mecca (2002) and A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (2003), as well as her own adaptation of Picnic at Hanging Rock (2013) at Brisbane Arts Theatre.[4]

Personal life and death

Burns was married to Alan Lawrence, a British-born musician and composer, for 36 years. She died on 22 December 2015, after a brief cancer illness at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane at the age of 68.[5][8][9]


Year Title Role Director
1977 The Mango Tree Maudie Plover Kevin James Dobson
1981 Bad Blood Dorothy Graham Mike Newell
1982 Starstruck Teacher Gillian Armstrong
1983 Dusty Clara John Richardson
1984 Strikebound Agnes Doig Richard Lowenstein
2003 Gettin' Square Parole Board Chairman Jonathan Teplitzky
2010 Girl Clock! Ms Thompson Jennifer Ussi
2011 The Golden Plate (short) Gretta
  • Michael Gabel
  • Todd Shoemaker
2013 Tracks Mrs. Ward John Curran
2013 The Turning (segment: "Small Mercies") Marjorie Keenan Rhys Graham
2014 Drive Hard Granny Brian Trenchard-Smith
2015 Bullets for the Dead Miss Winnie Michael Du-Shane
Year Title Role Director
1978 Loss of Innocence Eleanor Miniseries (3 episodes)
1978 Run for the Morning Sylvia Blake Season 1 (regular, 6 episodes)
1979 Prisoner Franky Doyle Season 1 (regular, 20 episodes)
1979 The John Sullivan Story Biljana TV movie
1979 The Dolebludgers Shirley TV movie
1980 Bedfellows Unknown role TV movie
1980 Lucinda Brayford Julie Vane Miniseries
1981–1984 Cop Shop Joan Wright (recurring, 3 episodes)
1983 The Dismissal Cairns's Secretary Miniseries (1 episode)
1983 Carson's Law May Campbell (recurring, 3 episodes)
1983 All the Rivers Run Mrs. Slope Miniseries (2 episodes)
1984 Eureka Stockade Anastasia Hayes Miniseries (2 episodes)
1985 Taggart Molly Barron Season 1 (guest, 1 episode)
1986 Strike it Rich! Stella Kingsley Season 1 (recurring, 3 episodes)
1989 Hannay Muriel Thorpe Season 2 (guest, 1 episode)
1989 The Bill Doreen McKenzie Season 5 (guest, 1 episode)
1992 Moon and Son Lucy Gilbert Season 1 (guest, 1 episode)
1993–1994 Casualty Jean Hall Season 7 & 8 (guest, 2 episode)
1993 Paediatric Registrar Season 8 (guest, 1 episode)
1996 Fire Counsellor Season 2 (guest, 1 episode)
1996 Flipper Mes. Hillier Season 1 (guest, 1 episode)
1998 The Day of the Roses Greta Miniseries (2 episodes)
1998 Medivac Mrs. Ryan Season 3 (guest, 1 episodes)
1998 Blue Heelers Gladys Fraser Season 5 (guest, 1 episode)
1998 Misery Guts Ticket Seller Season 1 (guest, 1 episode)
1999 Queen Kat, Carmel & St Jude Nance McCaffery Miniseries (4 episodes)
2000 The Love of Lionel's Life Mavis TV movie
2001 Blue Heelers Eunice Johnson Season 8 (guest, 1 episode)
2003 (S)truth Unknown role Miniseries (3 shorts)
2004 Small Claims Pamela TV movie
2005 Small Claims: White Wedding Pamela TV movie
2006 Small Claims: The Reunion Pamela TV movie
2009 Heartbeat Mrs Pike Season 18 (guest, 2 episodes)
2012 The Strange Calls Gwen Season 1 (guest, 1 episode)
2013 Reef Doctors Mrs. Ogilvy Season 1 (guest, 1 episode)

Awards, honours and nominations

Association Year Award Work/s Results
Logie Awards (Silver Logie) Best Lead Actress in a Series 1979 Prisoner (also known internationally as Prisoner: Cell Block H (USA and UK)and Caged Woman (Canada) Won
Australian Film Institute 1994 Best Actress in a Guest Role in a Television Drama Series Blue Heelers episode – "Deadly Fascination" Nominated
Australian Film Institute Best Actress in a Lead Role 1984 Strikebound Nominated
Australian Film Institute Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1977 The Mango Tree (1977) Nominated
Queensland Actors Equity Award Best Established Artist 2006 Honoured
Matilda Awards Gold Matilda 2015 (posthumously) Honoured
Actors' & Entertainers' Benevolent Fund - Alan Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award[10] 2003 Honoured


  1. Lane, Richard (1991). Prisoner: Cell Block H. Thames Mandarin.
  2. "Vale: Carol Burns".
  3. Matthew Westwood. "Prisoner's Carol Burns loses cancer fight". The Australian.
  4. Hayward, Anthony (28 December 2015). "Carol Burns obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  5. Mitchell-Whittington, Amy (22 December 2015). "Prisoner actor Carol Burns, Queensland Theatre Company founder, dies at 68". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  6. The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams – Queensland Theatre Company
  7. "Australian Actress Carol Burns Passes Away at 68". Broadway World. 21 December 2015. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  8. "Vale: Carol Burns" (PDF). Queensland Theatre Company. 22 December 2015. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
  9. "Prisoner actor Carol Burns dies in Brisbane aged 68". ABC News. 22 December 2015. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  10. "Awards | Actors' & Entertainers' Benevolent Fund of QLD Inc". Retrieved 8 April 2020.
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