|Born||Monica Cresswell Wood
15 September 1933
|Died||8 January 2010 (aged 76)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Spouse(s)||W. Brian Essex (1954-5?)
Rowland Ball (1968-2010)
She was born Monica Cresswell Wood in Tonga to Australian missionaries Rev. Dr A. Harold Wood and medical Dr Olive Wood. She was an older sister of Rev. Dr H. D'Arcy Wood. She moved to Melbourne, Australia in childhood and attended Methodist Ladies' College and then went on to study French at the University of Melbourne
She was a member of the Melbourne University Dramatic Club where she adopted the stage name Maughan. She made her stage debut opposite Barry Humphries in The Front Page in April 1954. While studying part-time she was a secretary at St Ive's Hospital in Melbourne. She later became a speech teacher at Methodist Ladies' College in Melbourne.
She launched her professional career at the Union Repertory Theatre Company (URTC) in 1957 playing Capulat in Jean Anouilh's romantic comedy Ring Round the Moon. Her first leading role came that same year in Beauty and the Beast. URTC, Australia's first professional theatre company, became the Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC) in 1968. Monica Maughan has appeared in more plays for that flagship company than any other actor.
In 1971 Maughan won the Melbourne Theatre Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of pregnant spinster Anna Bowers in Donald Howarth's Three Months Gone. Coincidentally, Maughan was three months pregnant at the end of the play's run.
She worked for every major theatre company in Australia, including Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and Alan Bennett's Habeas Corpus for the Queensland Theatre Company in 1978, and the role of Aggie in A Hard God produced by the State Theatre Company of South Australia in 1981. Perhaps Maughan's best-known stage role was as Miss Prism in the MTC's "The Importance of Being Earnest". The production, co-starring Geoffrey Rush, was so popular that it toured Australia between 1988 and 1992, and was televised by the ABC. In 1999 she created the role of Suzanne Beckett in Justin Fleming's "Burnt Piano" at Belvoir Company B, and demonstrated a fine command of classical piano played live in each performance. In 2003 she starred in Inheritance by Hannie Rayson. Maughan has also directed plays for the MTC.
Early television roles in Crawford's dramas led to ongoing television parts that made Maughan a recognisable face around Australia, including prim secretary Jean Ford in the first year of The Box (1974–75) and downtrodden prisoner Pat O'Connell for five months in women's-prison drama Prisoner in 1979. She received an AFI Award and a Silver Logie Award for her role as Monica McHugh in the ABC's black comedy mini-series, The Damnation of Harvey McHugh (1994).
Her feature films include A City's Child (1971), Strange Bedfellows (2004), Crackerjack (2002) and Road to Nhill (1997), plus a number of films by Dutch-Australian director Paul Cox. Her last film role was in Blessed, directed by Ana Kokkinos, in 2009.
She did not live to play the title role in Tommy Murphy's play Gwen in Purgatory in which Neil Armfield had cast her for Sydney and Brisbane seasons in 2010.
Maughan was always coy about her age and many sources gave her year of birth as 1938. When celebrating 50 years of professional acting in 2007, Maughan said she was "20 or 21" on her first acting tour in 1954 and admitted she "always lied about my age".
Maughan married Brian Essex, then a medical student, in December 1954 with her father officiating.
Maughan died of complications from cancer at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne on 8 January 2010.