Bea Miles was one of the most well-known women in Sydney during the 1960s and was famous for evading public transport fares and reciting Shakespeare for money.
Bea, who passed away in 1973, will return to the city she loves in a one-woman performance Dictionary by a Bitch, created and performed by Vashti Hughes.
“A lot of older people actually met her in the street because she’d talk to anybody and everybody,” says Hughes.
Bea Miles was notorious throughout Sydney for constantly escaping public transport fares, as well as once getting a taxi to Perth and back.
She was also known for reciting Shakespeare and was famous for knowing all of Shakespeare’s works back to front.
Vashti Hughes used her journals as a main primary source for the script, journals which are kept in the State Library, where the performance will take place.
Despite having a privileged upbringing, Bea Miles faced a life of homelessness for a significant portion of her life.
“She had a home for a while in a Rushcutters Bay storm pipe and she found other unusual places to sleep, like park benches,” says Hughes.
“She always seemed to be harassed by the police. She always had people after her for really stupid reasons. They kept throwing her in jail for not paying her bus or train fares, or they’d always try and get her for being vagrant.”
Bea Miles also spent a significant amount of time inside psychiatric institutions, where she was admitted by her own father, who found her behaviour embarrassing. Eventually escaping, Miles spent many years on the run, travelling across Australia.
To Vashti Hughes, Bea Miles represents Australia’s fascination with larrikins.
Vashti says: “She was in the papers a lot and people loved reading about her because people love reading about the type of person who flouts authority and does things their own way. Bea Miles decided that she didn’t want to pay attention to all the rules and regulations, she saw life differently.”
Vashti hopes that the performance will bring in a diverse audience. An opportunity for those in the library network, Sydney’s theatre crowd and those who remember Bea Miles from their own lifetimes to come together and revel in the life of a Sydney legend.
Diary by a Bitch is on every Thursday and Saturday of June 2021 and is held at the State Library of New South Wales. Tickets can be booked here: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/dictionary-by-a-bitch-tickets-154656693333