Adriana Xenides spent 19 years spinning letters as co-host of the television game show Wheel of Fortune. She was a glamorous presence in a sexist industry, and when she died in 2010, at age 54, sections of the media duly represented her as two-dimensional: “She battled anorexia, suffered severe depression, attempted suicide and was an emotionally needy woman,” wrote one tabloid

Xenides Chanell Moso in a hero image for Xenides. Photo © Cameron Etchells

Clare Watson never met Xenides, but the Artistic Director of Perth’s Black Swan State Theatre Company believes Xenides was so much more than a tragic figure and by many accounts an intelligent and deeply kind person. Watson would watch Wheel of Fortune while growing up in 1980s Melbourne suburbia, entranced by this woman playing second fiddle to a string of four male co-hosts, including Ernie Sigley, who chided Xenides on air about her “fat ankles”.

Now Watson, with a group of collaborators, has created the musical Xenides, a mash of 1980s pop and original songs, telling Xenides’ story from birth to her premature death from a ruptured intestine. The work is both “tribute and a protest”. Four women, including operatic...

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