Ben McIvor: Jo, what do you love about your character Dominique?
Joanna Downing: I love that she can be so dry. I love her intelligence. I love that she is so considered – the way that she looks at the world, and art.
If Dom was an animal, what would she be, and why?
Cat. All lithe and bendy and somewhat mindless of other people’s space.
How do you prepare for a role?
Read the play as many times as humanly possible. Films and books invariably come up in conversation in the rehearsal room, so I try to watch/read as many as I can. I’m reading the Female Eunuch at the moment because of this one! I also started an image collection… Dom knows so much more about art and artists than I do, so I needed to familiarise myself with the images. Oh and of course, the French. I’ve been practising daily to get it up to scratch.
How has this play affected your understanding of art?
Well I hope it’s made me more conscientious. It’s definitely made me want to go to Musee D’Orsay and Marmottan to spend time with the real pieces. I think the play has given me an emotional attachment to the works, simply through Dom’s love of them, that I didn’t have before.
What’s it like working with Anthony Skuse?
Heaven! He is so considered and very open. The tone of the room was always warm and comfortable, but he also cuts through any extraneous bullshit. I have a sneaking suspicion that he can read me better than I can read myself.
Joanna Downing: What do you like most about the space at KXT (Kings Cross Theatre)?
I hope this doesn’t sound too weird, but I absolutely love the foyer! The art, the furniture, the typewriter, that stunning lamp, the egg timer, the books, that creepy dream catcher blowing around in the air conditioning under the glow of the exit sign… it feels like you’ve stepped into a strange dream.
What’s the biggest point of difference between you and your character?
I tend to think ahead a lot, whereas the thing I admire most about Barry is he lives moment to moment. He doesn’t think, he just does.
Who is your favourite artist and why?
Oooh, good question! This is particularly hard to answer because doing this play with Mr Skuse has really opened up a world that seemed so foreign to me. I’m going to go with Scottie Marsh, though. Growing up in the Inner-West, Hip-hop and graffiti played a big part in shaping my youth, and “fine art” seemed like something so far away from street art. Sipping nice wine in white-walled galleries was a world away from Posca’d train cabins and “Bombed” walls. I think Mr Marsh seems to do a great job of blurring the line between graffiti and fine art… and if I was a youth in 2017 who was into street art, this type of work might spark my interest into the world of fine art. I hope that makes sense!?
Do you have any pre-show ‘rituals’ to get you into character?
I guess it depends on the role. I like to do character work early on in the rehearsal process and I have a long list of questions that I ask my character to discover more about how they view themselves and their world… I read some of the responses before each show, and think about the images they create.
What’s your favourite music and what’s your character’s favourite music?
I think Barry is very much a jazz man. I think when he paints, he doesn’t like typically structured songs with lyrics, a beginning, middle, and end. I think he likes improvisation- instruments talking with each other. Me? At the moment I’m really into Bossa Nova. It’s the kinda stuff you can relax to, dance to, cook to, drive to or jam to. I love the variety of instruments that are used in Bossa… the sound has a certain “charm” to it.
Joanna Downing and Ben McIvor can be seen in Between The Streetlight And The Moon by Melita Rowston.
Dates: 5 – 27 May, 2017
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre