5 Questions with Anna Houston and Arky Michael

Anna Houston

Arky Michael: What do you love about being an actor?
Anna Houston: I love exploring and living with complex characters that do and say all the things I could never get away with in my own fairly pedestrian life. I get to behave really badly in this show, and it’s thrilling. I also love gluing my script into a scrapbook on day one of rehearsals. No brag, but I’m pretty good at it. My corners are VERY TIDY.

What should audiences expect from Permission To Spin?
Some big questions about how we live and how we treat other. The show is tightly packed with big ideas that fly at you so swiftly, so brutally, that you may need days afterwards to untangle them and formulate a response to the work. Also, heaps of lols. It’s really funny.

What do you find challenging about being an actor?
The industry itself has never been easy. There are so many terrifically talented actors out there not working. Staying optimistic and secure between acting jobs hasn’t gotten any easier since I entered the industry.

When was the last time you felt bliss?
Last night, falling asleep on the couch, heater turned up. That was bliss. Being safe and warm at night shouldn’t be a privilege, but in the Sydney we live in, it is. It feels like a gift. I’m lucky.

What personality traits do you admire most in men?
Empathy. Imagination. Kindness. Generosity. Humility.

Arky Michael

Anna Houston: There are three very flawed characters in Permission To Spin. Which character – Jim, Martin or Cristobel – would you spend a year with on a desert island?
Arky Michael: I would spend a year in the tropics with Cristobel . Martin would turn cannibal and eat me and Jim would send me crazy with his weird neurosis. Cristobel would be the type who’d help me gather island detritus and flora to create and design our own line of natural fibre swimwear and resort wear which would occupy our years of marooned bliss. The label would be called PERMISSION TO SPIN – OUT, BABY!

We first worked together on a play in 2005. In the thirteen years that have followed, what’s the biggest change you’ve noticed in the Australian performing arts industry?
Big changes are the new technology platforms which have blown open the doors to multiple accessible forms of art practise : you can create your own podcasts, blogs, and make films with digital cameras and editing apps on your laptop. Also in the last 15 years, the welcome and long overdue implementation of a cultural shift to reflect the diversity of modern Australia on out stages and screens. What is worse is the continued lack of government policy to nurture the performing arts sector.

Your character Jim manages Miss Polkadot, a children’s entertainer. What was the first album you bought? How old were you?
I was thirteen or so, and I remember recording “Disco Inferno” from the radio onto a blank audio cassette in my purple themed bedroom. The curtains were purple , so were the furry bedspreads and there were a pair of lilac furry feet shaped mats on the floor. I remember this song sending me crazy with joy!

This play deals with some ethical grey areas. When faced with your own ethical dilemmas, who or what do you look to as your moral compass?
Unfortunately it is always a battle locating my moral compass in almost every situation. I’m not proud of this. My innate greed, selfishness and sheer opportunism make me a poor quality life companion candidate. Anything beautiful I want sole rights over, anything delicious I prefer not to share, any item of nice clothing that I covet, I will not stop scheming to acquire. I am a lonely man. But I do think Tanya Plibersek would be a good person to set moral standards by.

Arky Michael, you are not only a masterful actor, you are also a fashion savant. Which member of the Permission To Spin family would you most like to give a fashion makeover? (I know that several of my rehearsal room jumpers have been traumatising for you, so don’t hesitate to nominate me.)
Thank you for saying I’m a fashion icon, because this is a fact. I often hear youngsters yell out : “look mum, there’s a W.A.G.O.S.E.!” (walking art gallery of sartorial elegance). I’d give Anna Houston a makeover because she seems to be confused about what is appropriate clothing for sleeping and clothing when you are awake – she tends to favour ripped stockings, jeans her mum wore in 1935, jumpers that are for babies and she needs to increase the frequency of shampooing her hair. Is this too harsh? I fear it may be, but strangely I can’t find the delete button on this laptop.

Anna Houston and Arky Michael are appearing in Permission To Spin, by Mary Rachel Brown.
Dates: 3 – 28 July, 2018
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre