Jane Phegan: What attracts you to Enda Walsh’s writing? Misterman is the second play of his that you have performed.
I love Enda Walsh’s plays and characters because I pick up a script of his and have no idea where to start and that excites me. There’s a consistent theme through most of his plays where his characters are searching for love so there’s a deep truth to them. Added to that, he uses extraordinary language and word play so it’s a delight and a challenge to speak his words. He’s effing brilliant.
Why do you want to take this work or work in general to the Edinburgh stage?
Edinburgh Fringe has always been a bit of a bucket list thing for me but it’s a very expensive exercise so seemed like a bit of an impossibility. When we took Misterman to Hobart last year and had a mini tour experience, Hartley, our lighting designer, suggested we look at going to Edinburgh so we started to put the wheels in motion. Also, Misterman is just a great showy piece for all of us and then I thought I should take my comedy piece, One Hander, as well. Why not?
What inspired you to write and perform One Hander?
I was living in London, having my UK ‘experience’, pretty depressed and artistically deprived. I’ve always had these stories about people’s reactions to my hand, or lack thereof, which have been great dinner party fodder. So at about 3am one morning, after my 10th episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, I decided to get off my arse and face a fear and do a stand up comedy open mic night. I started writing, did the open mic night, and a month later I did a full hour show at the Battersea Barge in London. That’s where it began.
Like myself, you have worked with Kate Gaul several times – what keeps you coming back for more?
Kate Gaul is a genius. She’s unbelievably hard working and has such rigour to her work. She’s constantly asking questions of herself and her creatives right up until the show closes. She always asks ‘what is the story we are telling?’ which seems like basic question but it’s the most important and tends to get forgotten in a lot of productions I see. She’s also not afraid to be ‘direct’ as opposed to ‘polite’ in a rehearsal room which I respond well to and believe it’s a short cut to the best work.
What’s your favourite musical?
I love musicals but my favourite changes daily depending on the mood I’m in. Today it’s probably my old favourite, Into The Woods, because I remember getting a VHS copy of the OBC production with Bernadette Peters, when I was about 13 and watching it 4 times back to back in the one day. It was the first musical I saw that showed they didn’t have to just be frothy and shiny but could have cracking acting as well. I’m also a little bit obsessed with Dear Evan Hansen at the moment- I have a dodgy bootleg copy- but I’m yet to work out if it’s just Ben Platt’s performance that is the extraordinary thing or the show or both.
Thomas Campbell: Tell me about the play and your role?
It is a beautiful piece by Noelle Janaczewska that takes the audience on a wild adventure down the Amazon, a long dreamed of destination, and through the history of that part of the world. At the same time the character is coming to terms with her father’s illness and exploring their relationship which centres around a shared love of literature. They are both venturing into other worlds and the unknown. It is in turn a poetic, funny and, as Ben Neutze described, “ultimately heartbreaking piece of theatre”.
What’s it been like to revisit a role for the second time?
I am just beginning to revisit the role and Noelle has made some minor edits – that is one of the brilliant aspects of being able to do a piece more than once – the ability to refine and go further. I hope to do the same with the performance! I’m looking forward to going back into the world of the show and finding new gems with a sense of knowing.
Are you nervous about taking your work to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival?
Of course!! What a loony thing to do! It’s bad enough taking to the stage on your own in Sydney let alone in front of an international audience. But that is what we do, is it not? Move toward that which scares us the most. Now I’m really nervous – thanks Tom!
What’s Kate Gaul like as a director?
I have worked with Kate a number of times now and that is because I trust her 100%.That trust extends to both the bigger picture and also my performance. Because of that I can push the boundaries of what I think is possible (and be pushed!) and know that she will never let me (or her) look foolish or the show be under par. She is imaginative, forthright, assured, switched on and fun. I admire her drive and Kate is such an intelligent director, in tune with the work and only taking on what she is truly inspired to bring to life.
How are you travelling with a group of misfits like myself?
Actually travelling? By plane. Maybe a train here and there. And I hope we can walk to the venue! How am “dealing” with the group of misfits? I am one! We’re going to have a ball and we get to showcase some Australian work on the international stage. Super excited.
Tom Campbell and Jane Phegan are in Siren Theatre Company’s Edinburgh Program season of Misterman, Good With Maps and One Hander.
Dates: 14 – 18 June, 2017
Venue: Belvoir St Theatre