Annie Stafford: What’s the best (and/or worst) advice a family member has given you?
Mathew Lee: I never met my grandfather on my mother’s side, but I have been told his motto was “never go to bed angry”. That no matter how pissed off you are, just sort it out before you go to sleep so it doesn’t stew. My Dad also lives by this rule and it’s something that has always been said in our house. Sometimes it’s really hard to abide by it, but I definitely try.
What shaped you the most growing up in Newcastle?
I am very proud of Newcastle and I love going back to visit. My parents have been a huge influence on my life, and I like to think I live with their sense of standing up for what is right and for treating everyone with the same respect. Also, they are literally the most popular people in Newcastle so I have a lot to live up to.
I would also say growing up in the Hunter shaped my identity in different ways. My school life was really brilliant, I was provided with many opportunities, but naturally I was a drama kid in a very sporty public school, and I most definitely experienced bullying because of my sexuality. This is something that many people in our community have to deal with and overcome well in to adulthood. So, in many ways it made me tough. I think I protect myself a lot and I have pretty thick skin, which can be good and bad. Also, I don’t think this is specific to Newcastle and kids cop it everywhere, but perhaps that fear of being seen as openly gay diminished moving to a big city where no one really cares about the way you express yourself. Even just this year, I feel more comfortably myself than ever before. On the other hand, maybe I just got older and stopped caring about what people thought.
Do you have anything that’s been passed down the family (object or trait)?
Mum and I are very similar and I’ve definitely inherited her sense of order and organisation. She writes to-do lists every day and there are lists all over our kitchen in Newcastle, highlighted and stuck to the walls. I do the same in my diary and a weekly schedule. It’s totally mad but I do have to admit that it makes me feel at ease to get all of it onto paper so I can free up my brain. Like most actors in the indie scene, I am juggling three or sometimes four different jobs a week to afford rent, so I need my play-by-play organised and written out so I can see it, and have that moment of pure bliss crossing something off after a stressful day.
What would your characters drag names be?
Girl, okay. You know me so well. After thinking long and hard about this, my drag names would be: Bea Haven-Badleigh for Finley Best, Poor Miss Fortune for Anthony Best and Queen LaReefer for Chris.
Word on the street is that you write a mean Limerick, prove it. Write one about Table.
I am low-key so pleased about this because I have never had a limerick published on the internet. Here we are:
Our table has stood to the test,
Through war and spiritual quest.
From leopards to nuns,
A father who runs-
It lives on in the house of a Best.
Mathew Lee: If you could host a dinner party for one person – dead or alive – who would it be?
Annie Stafford: Ella Fitzgerald. Don’t laugh, but I listen to her every day at work and often harmonise with her… loudly. I would invite her over, cook her lasagna, drink wine and talk about jazz. There might be a piano involved but I don’t want to push it. She made me love jazz.
Other than your support network in Melbourne, what do you miss most about home?
Melbourne is a pretty easy place to miss. But family and friends and good coffee aside, I miss sleep-ins. I’ve never been good at them, and living in Sydney has made that even more apparent. You don’t want to miss anything, you want to start the day by achieving something, you don’t want to fall behind. But now, when I go home to Melbourne, suddenly there’s time. And I can just stop and I don’t feel guilty for getting in a few extra Z’s. Until my mum comes in and passive aggressively opens my blinds and fills my room with vicious sunlight so I have get up and spend time with her. Which I secretly love.
When you imagine the house you grew up in, what do you see most vividly?
A very bold colour palette. I’m talking strong offers coming at you from every angle, but not one of them cohesive. This little house had a little front veranda with bright purple wisteria covering it. Nice right? Magical, whimsical, a sign of things to come. Well take a step inside and be slapped in the face with a ruthlessly green carpet. It was there when my parents bought it so they can’t be blamed. However they can be blamed for the intrusive hot pink paint they beat the hallway with. Like I said, bold colour palette.
Describe your character(s) using only song titles.
Oft. Okay. Well I’m in a 70s mood so we’re going to hang there for this one…
Margaret : Stayin’ Alive, Bee Gees
Babette : Joy To The World, Naturally
Aisha : I Want You To Want Me, Cheap Trick
What is something about yourself you hope to pass down to your children (if you choose to have them)?
My dad once told me that when my mum was pregnant with me and they were daydreaming about the big deal I was going to be, all they truly wanted was for me to have a sense of humour. I could achieve whatever I wanted and be whoever I wanted but lord help us give the girl a sense of humour. And I think that’s what I would want to pass down. Not that I’m calling myself funny, but I think it’s so important to take what you do seriously and not yourself. And I love to laugh just as much as I love to make others laugh. And if I ever have children, hearing them laugh and laughing with/at them would give me great joy.
Catch Mathew Lee and Annie Stafford in Table, by Tanya Ronder.
Dates: 25 Jul – 17 Aug, 2019
Venue: Seymour Centre