Nicola Anne Andrews
On the morning of 23rd December 2015, Nicola Anne Andrews died in a tragic mountaineering accident in the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park on New Zealand’s South Island. Nicola slipped and fell from the summit of The Footstool, an alpine peak in the national park where she was climbing with her partner, James Beilharz. She was 28 years old.
She grew up in Brisbane and it was at St Peters Lutheran College, Indooroopilly, where her enthusiasm for theatre was first ignited when she participated in a number of backstage roles in a production of The Importance of Being Earnest in her Grade 11 year. After leaving school, she studied at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, concurrently continuing with her zeal for the theatre by taking on a number of different roles – lighting, stage management, properties assistant, production manager – in many and varied stage productions with Opera Queensland, La Boite Theatre, QPAC, and QUT’s student theatre, Vena Cava Productions.
In 2007, she was accepted at the Victorian College of Arts where she completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Production – Lighting) in 2010. Nicola became a highly regarded and talented lighting designer working for prestigious theatre companies in Melbourne. Nicola worked with renowned director, Daniel Schlusser, on M + M and Menagerie, Undine with 4Larks Theatre, Fy and Primal Dust with choreographer Josh Lowe, to name but a few. Director Tom Gutteridge with whom she worked on The Fury and Memmie Le Blanc, said, “There was something about her capabilities because she was extremely intelligent… and creative. As one of those people who has that rare crossover of a science mind as well as a creative mind, I always thought she…was going to save the world.”*
Nicola was also co-founder of and lighting designer for Present Tense Theatre Company with Bryce Iver. Bryce said of her that “she could have been one of the lighting designers of theatre around the world…Everything she did she was exceptional at.”* Nicola worked with Bryce on the very successful Chants des Catacombs.
Nicola was unique in her ability to excel in both the arts and sciences. The death of her much-adored father of cancer in 2012, precipitated a change in career direction. Nicola felt an overwhelming desire to contribute to cancer research, to do something more directly meaningful to her own life experiences. Two months before her death, she graduated (with first class honours) from the University of Melbourne with a science degree (Bioengineering Systems) and had been offered a place in the Master of Engineering (biomedical) program.
Nicola had also been awarded a UROP (Undergraduates Research Opportunities Program) placement with CSL. UROP is a highly competitive scheme allowing for outstanding students to gain research experience during their undergraduate years. She worked on a casual basis for CSL whilst completing her demanding university studies. Ineke Muir, her supervisor at CSL said, “I don’t think that, in the decade I’ve been working at CSL, I have ever worked with someone with such well-rounded competency as Nicola…..I have no doubt that, were she to have been able to pursue her career in biomedical research, she would have left a magnificent legacy for generations to come.”*
As well as being immersed in her university studies, Nicola had a love of the outdoors, having been a hiker and snowboarder for some years. She had trekked solo in Nepal reaching Everest Base Camp, and had spent the summer of 2014 hiking in South Island, New Zealand, where she also completed a mountaineering skills course at Mt Cook. However, it was her membership of the RMIT Outdoors Club in Melbourne which really ignited her passion and enthusiasm for serious hiking, rock climbing and mountaineering. In the space of her 17-month membership of ROC, she took part in 40 club trips, became a lead climber, and was elected mountaineering convener three months before her death.
Nicola had a thirst for knowledge, a delight and curiosity in the world around her, and threw herself passionately into everything that she did, transforming the tragedies in her life – the cancer deaths of her brother (when she was eight years old) and her father – into positives, determined to live her life meaningfully, fearlessly and fully.
*The quotes by Tom Gutteridge and Bryce Iver are from an article in The Age, 24th December 2015, “Melbourne woman Nicola Andrews, who died in New Zealand fall, is remembered.” The quote by Ineke Muir is from Ineke’s eulogy to Nicola at her Memorial Service in Melbourne 5th January 2016.