Meet the Bohemians: Graeme & Patrice

By Catherine Lambert |

The stage is treasured by performers, but behind the scenes there are many family members providing constant support, love, and encouragement.

It’s that love that sustains them and lights their spark on stage.

Large families of young children are a source of much joy for Graeme Isaako, who performs in the ensemble and covers Santiago, and Patrice Tipoki, who is the Satine alternate. They wouldn’t think of travelling without their children.

“My eldest son was born on the road when I was in Disney’s Aladdin in Melbourne and has lived in Singapore, Auckland, and is now back in Melbourne,” Isaako says.

“My daughter Eve was born in Auckland, and our baby was born just before rehearsals started for Moulin Rouge! in Melbourne, so they know all about travel. It’s so special to share this part of my life with them all. I’ve been on the tour bus for many years—before my marriage, in the early parts of my marriage, and as we’ve gone on to create our family.”

It’s also a normal way of life for Tipoki, who was raised on the road, touring extensively with her entertainer parents, who home-schooled all their children.

“It’s part of the genes and part of our lifestyle, because my grandparents were entertainers who moved to Australia from New Zealand and my parents were also entertainers,” Tipoki says.

“It’s something we’ve always done as a family,” she says. “I was home-schooled as a child, so I knew it could be done and we have been able to continue that with my children. I’m grateful we find a way that works for us. We just have to be organised to do what has to be done.”

Tipoki home-schools her eldest children—Elisabeth, 12, and Adelaide, 9—and will start with William, 4, next year while Edward, 2, is still enjoying toddler life.

Her husband is a chiropractor living at their home base on the Sunshine Coast, but he spends three nights a week with them in Melbourne. She takes on the role of Satine at least once a week.

“Home-schooling really works well for us,” she says, “because with me working at night, it’s hard to get the kids up in the morning and ready to go to school. I’d never spend enough time with them if they went to a school. This way, I get to be really involved in their development and learning. The kids are also used to it because they’re all close and have other friends as well who they see regularly.”

Church life is a great support for both her family and Isaako’s, with help and care offered at every opportunity.

“Our first port of call whenever we move to another city is to establish our church community,” Isaako says. “It settles us and allows our children to have a community of Sunday School and mothers’ group for my wife, Rea, so she feels well-supported. I go to work and see 100 people every day, but Rea’s at home with the children, so she needs support as well. She always finds a fitness club and basketball team to join to help her feel grounded.”

He may have some regrets that he doesn’t get to enjoy the “Daddy’s home” rush to the front door every night because of his work, but he gets to spend mornings with his children Soul, 4; Eve, 3; and Lyric, 1.

“I’m quite a hands-on father, and morning time of 9am to 12pm is such a beautiful time with my children,” he says. “That’s when we’re sitting around drawing, painting, reading books, playing Go Fish, or we’ll go to the Royal Botanic Gardens once a week because I thrive in nature. From 12pm to 5pm is ‘me time’ to get ready for my performance.”

Isaako proudly performs 27 lifts in each show, describing the choreography as thrilling but also very taxing. “I’m pushing myself to the limit, but there’s such a beautiful reward in that mixture of pain and joy,” he says.

“I absolutely love what I do. I’m Polynesian, so I’ve always had a piano and guitar in the home. My fondest memory is of my grandmother bringing us home after church to play piano and sing hymns. I say humbly that I don’t find the performing arts very hard, my gift just comes naturally. I’ve been a professional since I was 11 years old.”

A musical heritage has also shaped Tipoki, who shares theatre life with several family members and her Maori parents who toured New Zealand performing Polynesian shows in schools. It’s why she surrounds her children with music and has enrolled Elisabeth in piano lessons.

“Besides my family and my faith, I love singing,” she says. “And as Satine, I get to sing so many fabulous pop songs in gorgeous outfits.”