5 Questions with Sinead Cristaudo and Rachel Tunaley

Sinead Cristaudo

Rachel Tunaley: What have you learnt about yourself since moving away from home to pursue a career in the performing arts?
Sinead Cristaudo: I learnt first and foremost that no one is going to believe in myself for me. I think having to adapt to being in completely foreign surroundings entirely alone forces you to sink or swim. At some point you have to choose whether or not to back yourself, and there is definitely a hardness in me that I would never have developed without moving away from my home.

What’s your favourite moment to perform in the show?
I love the entire prom sequence, Norma gets to do all of her meddling which is so much fun for me. I also love the opening of our show, the way our very clever director and choreographer has set “In” makes it really meaty and layered so there is plenty to play with each time we run it.

What made you want to audition for Carrie?
I have loved the Stephen King story in its film adaptations and was elated to hear Louis Ellis Productions was auditioning for the musical of which I had always been curious but had never seen. I spent an evening listening to the soundtrack with my housemate Kristy who is also in the cast and we both got decidedly hyped for the auditions. I had also had the pleasure of seeing our director’s previous work of Parade the Jason Robert Brown musical and was in awe of how he presented a show I completely adore. I simply had to audition!

If you could play any role in musical theatre of any age or gender, what would it be?
Without a doubt it would be Mama Rose in Gypsy. Rose is an incredibly complex and flawed character that’s story is told through what I believe to be the best book written for a musical, accompanied with brassy golden age style music. Rose and Gypsy are everything I love about musical theatre, storytelling in a timeless and idiomatic way.

List three women who have inspired you to pursue a career in performing.
Barbra Joan Streisand must be first here, she is the strong, consummate icon I adore. I would sing her arrangements in our tractor shed to my audience of cane for hours, trying to sound exactly like her. Then without a doubt my dance teacher Louise Buljubasich and her mother Carol who cultivated my love for being on a stage from when I was four, exposing me to the wonders of Fosse and time steps and caring for me endlessly while I practically lived out my teens in the studio.

Rachel Tunaley

Sinead Cristaudo: What do you love about playing Chris Hargensen?
Rachel Tunaley: I’ve always been intrigued by villainous characters in shows. There’s just something so fun about playing a character so different from yourself and getting to be super feisty. I admire the way Chris doesn’t let anyone else define her and makes her own rules throughout the show, even though her morale are rather compromised. I also get a killer song and get to belt like no tomorrow which is a win!

Has a mentor or teacher ever given you advice that has shaped the way you approach and view performing, if so what is it?
A teacher I had at NIDA would always get us to look at a text, whether it’s a scene or a song, and he would ask us “what is this?” I loved this approach because there was no falseness to it. It would force us to just look at the act for what it is; “a confession of love”, “a song of mourning”, “an apology”. Asking myself this when approaching a new text forced me to get out of my “artists” brain trying to find a deeper meaning and just accept the text for what it was.

What do you think people love about the story of Carrie that sees it remade in film and revamped in theatre?
Well if you found the movie(s) too scary, I think you’ll find the musical is a little easier to watch. It’s still bloody and there’s still a lot of dark elements but it’s just hard to be scary
while singing show tunes to be honest. The musical also re imagines the characters Stephen king has created and sheds a different light on them that audiences may not have seen before.

What is your favourite part of the rehearsal process? What has it been so far in Carrie?
Definitely getting to do the blocking of ‘The World According To Chris’. I get to have my Regina George Mean Girls moment standing at the point of a triangle with my posse behind me and I’ve just never felt more powerful in my entire life.

What performances or pieces of theatre have inspired you most?
Gosh that’s a hard question because most theatre excites me and inspires me to be a better performer and to want to create something great. The first time I saw Rent the musical really struck a chord with me though. I guess I was used to musicals being super camp and glitzy so when I first saw it I was completely blown away. It depicted a certain honesty and tragedy in such a beautiful way which I wasn’t used to in musicals, plus the music is so damn catchy.

Sinead Cristaudo and Rachel Tunaley can be seen in Carrie the musical.
Dates: 25 Jul – 4 Aug, 2018
Venue: The Depot Theatre

5 Questions with Alison Bennett and Kate Walder

Alison Bennett

Kate Walder: What is your favourite aspect of devising theatre?
Alison Bennett: A bit like when we had lunch today. We peer into each other’s hearts and it’s so pure and it’s the best and the worst of people. I can honestly say that the best moments of my life happen in a rehearsal room. More than performance. I fall in love with the artists and it hurts when it ends. I discover what I think and what I feel and I learn to humbly listen. I know I sound ridiculous but it’s true.

What inspired you and Hurrah Hurrah to create this show?
The Roomba Robotic vacuum cleaner I saw at my brother’s house. More broadly I guess it’s the driving question I have about how do average people, you and me, change the world? That literally keeps me up at night. So when I see an image that I find fascinating, in this case it was my brother introducing his daughter to the Roomba, I just dig in deep and all roads lead back to a similar question which is how do WE – you and I – face ourselves.

Where do you think we go when we die?
Oh my. I don’t know. This show has made me genuinely conflicted about my own beliefs. I don’t know if we continue or if we simply end. I might say however that heaven and hell… nonsense.

Do you think humans will always be able to control AI?
Nope. Without being grim, I think our ego has set us up for self-destruction.

What is the most ridiculous thing you have ever done for the sake of convenience?
That might be ordering dinner from an Uber so I didn’t have to walk the take away home. OMG. It’s awful.

Do you think robots will take over the world?
I think robots will infiltrate our everyday, in the sense that they will become an accepted aspect of our existence. We already know that many industries will become automated, but what will be interesting is whether Artificial Intelligence runs away with itself and surpasses our ability to control it.

Kate Walder

Alison Bennett: Would you ever buy a Roomba Robotic vacuum cleaner?
Kate Walder: Would now because they have so much personality! Not only do they clean your house, they basically double as automated waiters for light objects like beer or your toothbrush. They would also be quite useful as transport for recalcitrant infants.

Why do you think clowning is an exciting performance style?
I adore clown. The whole concept of being brave but fallible, playing with the audience but accepting the flop, being vulnerable and yet a complete idiot is so freeing and honest. It also allows the actors to address a complex issue with the beautiful simplicity of a child, which is often where the most acute observations are made.

How would you describe your attitude to death in 3 words?
Mildly avoidant. Flabbergasted. Metaphysical. Oops that’s 4.

Are you afraid of dying?
I find it hard to answer that question. I can’t imagine what it must be like to face your own death. I don’t think anyone can know until they get there. I wonder about the circumstances and hope it won’t be tragic. I hope I won’t be alone. I hope I will be taken care of. I accept there will be pain but I hope there will be dignity. For now, the fear is not knowing.

Alison Bennett and Kate Walder are appearing in Roomba Nation.
Dates: 4 – 21 July, 2018
Venue: The Old 505 Theatre

5 Questions with Meg Hyeronimus and Danen Young

Meg Hyeronimus

Danen Young: How does it feel to play such an iconic figure as Marilyn?
Meg Hyeronimus: Initially, terrifying. I didn’t really know much about her other than the typical “blonde bombshell” character and that she’s the most famous blonde of all time or at least the 20th Century. So yeah, completely overwhelmed. I dove into my research, gathered everything I could find and found her to be so incredibly extraordinary and complex. As Arthur Miller said in an interview “whatever anybody was she had a little of it”. I also quickly accepted that I’d never be Marilyn. That took some stress away. I think the script definitely helps with that – with the breaking down of her public persona, and portrays a more real and human version of her. My relationship to her has become incredibly personal, I find myself fighting for her in whatever way possible – in everyday life or during rehearsal (I suppose that’s a real driving force for me in the show) and I love her a lot. I feel her pain and her hope. It’s also opened a lot up for me as an actor, I feel more confident in myself and owning my power. I’m very grateful for the whole process. 

How is it different this time round? 
I think there is an obvious shift in each of us, it feels like we’ve matured as actors/theatre-makers. Don’t get me wrong, we very much are still those excited passionate kids – but the approach to our work is more direct and fast paced. The vision for what we want is clearer; for Alec (playing Arthur) and I as actors making choices for our characters and for Danen and his directorial vision. There is a lot more freedom for me as Marilyn now. I’m not trying as hard to be a certain way. I think I have a better understanding of her, or rather MY Marilyn and all that character stuff (which the first time round plagued me for a while). It now comes second nature, leaving me with so much more room to PLAY! It’s so FUN, even when it tears my heart apart. 

What is your favourite thing about the rehearsal room? 
Well, that I get to work with two of my best friends. Also the silly characters that are always floating around. Alec has one whose name is Timothy Panknell. He’s from somewhere in Brooklyn. And never ever fails to make me laugh. Danen and Alec both take on who they think Arthur Miller’s mother would sound and be like. It’s probably the funniest thing I’ve witnessed first hand. 
We have so many stupid jokes and outbursts of nonsense, and it’s generally Alec saying something so absurd and ridiculous that Danen and I lose it for a good 5 mins. 
It’s a good base for us to be open and just play around with the script, despite the work being so sincere and somewhat philosophical.

If you could have dinner with any famous person from the past, who would it be? 
Is it annoying to say Marilyn, because honestly that would be my first choice. I’m desperate to speak to her. Other than that, Hatshepsut. She’s one boss ass bish! 

Marilyn’s from LA and Arthur’s from New York, so where would you rather live, LA or New York?
Young Meg would say New York in a heartbeat. And I would say present Meg would say it too, just a little more hesitant. I need space and love nature, so I’ll say LA. That is my final answer. Which is lucky considering I’m moving there in 3 weeks, HA!

Danen Young

Meg Hyeronimus: LA or NY?
Danen Young: Oooooh that’s tough. I’d have to say NYC in terms of a city to live in. There is sooooooooo much happening in such a small amount of area, and it literally never sleeps. Which is absolutely perfect for a night owl like myself!!

Dinner guest?
I would have to say Nikola Tesla. Such an incredible mind that was not as successful and far reaching as he should have been. The memory of his great work was stomped on by Thomas Edison and I would just want to say sorry for that!!

How different has it been directing this time around?
There have actually been a lot of things that are similar about directing this time around. The difference mainly being the length, and the challenges we’ve faced in terms of developing a rhythm for the show. The short and sweet version of the play was probably a bit nailed into us, so breaking free of this emotional and muscle memory was the first big hurdle. In terms of staging, lighting, and sound the show is coming together fairly in the same, but on a larger scale; so the lighting plots are more complex, there are more sound cues, and more blocking to figure out. But being on a small budget, and having restrictions on how much set we can have, means that we’ve kept the set minimal, to focus on the characters, relationships and memories that Jasper has so beautifully written into his script. Rehearsals are still super fun and full of cheeky banter!

Why produce this play?
Firstly, because the script is amazing. For actors, the words just pull you along, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. But I think it’s also a very interesting take on memory, and celebrity culture in this highly connected world of social media. How can we really know who these people were? Whose word can you trust as an authority on what these people were like? Does it really matter? Is it possible to know someone if you’ve never met them? I can’t really answer these questions, but I want to say that the overwhelming feeling I’ve had whilst directing this play, is that our memories are who we are, but in the end, it’s the memory of us in the minds of other people that define who we are.

Describe the show in 3 words.
Sincere. Ethereal. Heartbreaking.

Meg Hyeronimus plays Marilyn Monroe, and Danen Young directs Arthur & Marilyn, by Jasper Lee-Lindsay.
Dates: 29 May – 2 Jun, 2018
Venue: Blood Moon Theatre

5 Questions with Radek Jonak and Anne Tenney

Radek Jonak

Anne Tenney: You are a joy to have in the rehearsal room, endlessly entertaining and very funny, how did your teachers survive your school days, or, did they?
Radek Jonak: No teachers were harmed in the process! At school, I was actually quiet subdued, I was an overweight kid just blending in. When I get to know people then I relax and be myself.

When you first read Stalking The Bogeyman, what were your initial thoughts about the character, and have you played a similar role in your career to date?
Initial thought was, this guy is everything I stand against, as a human being. Never played a similar role, usually get cast as a cop or a criminal.

In one of your other lives you are a fitness instructor and personal trainer, so you mostly begin your day around 4 am, how do you work this in with a nightly performance schedule?
This will be the first time I will be doing it! Hope to get a lot of naps in.

If you won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world where would you head off to?
Maldives, that island is slowly sinking, and it just looks amazing.

In your career, have you worked on any projects that have given you the opportunity to display your comedic talents?
With my mates, yes! Short films, web series etc. But professionally in a comedic role? No, never had the chance.

Anne Tenney

Radek Jonak: Watching you in this show, you bring along such ease and fun, when you are on stage. When was the first time you remember that you thought, I want to do this for a living?
Anne Tenney: Thank you, Radek. I was acting in a production of The Ballad Of The Sad Cafe during my NIDA years, and, such a beautiful, magical world had been created on the stage, atmospheric lighting etc, etc, it was one of those theatrical experiences where
everything came together. I felt at home , I was collaborating with a group of people all working towards the same end. And that was, to tell a story. So, I was bitten!

If you didn’t end up doing acting, what would have been your back up plan?
Still thinking about that one… Any back up plan I have flirted with inevitably has something to do with the arts, Painting (not houses), writing, so fairly impractical but would love to work with children, or the elderly, and that could be still on the cards.

Name three other actors (dead or alive) you would invite to have dinner with.
OK, first person that comes to mind is Judi Dench, then Deborah Mailman, and Ben Mendelsohn.

Your agent just rang and said, Anne you have been offered to do any part you like… what would it be?
Well, I am too old for her now, but I have always wanted to have a crack at playing Masha from Chekhov’s The Seagull, maybe something similarly comically mournful.

Cat or dog? Warm or cold? Day or night? Sweet or sour? Film or theatre? Skydive or bungee? Early riser or sleep in?
Well, I like them both, depending upon personality, but will say dog. Cold… warm if I can be immersed in cold water. Sour. Day. Film or theatre, mmmm, that’s a toughy, have to sit on the fence, and say a little bit of both. Skydive. ONLY if a gun was being held to my head . And definitely… an early riser.

Radek Jonak and Anne Tenney are appearing in Stalking The Bogeyman, by Markus Potter and David Holthouse.
Dates: 23 May – 23 Jun, 2018
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre

5 Questions with Alana Birtles and Alec Ebert

Alana Birtles

Alec Ebert: Describe Troilus And Cressida in a haiku.
Alana Birtles: Blood-stained earth in Troy / A massacre on both sides / Two lovers parted

Why is Shakespeare, and this play in particular still relevant to us today?
I believe Shakespeare is still relevant today because he deals with humanity and universal themes that we still easily relate to. This is evident in the numerous modern adaptations of Shakespeare today. Troilus And Cressida in particular deals with love and war and the question, ‘What is it that we are actually fighting for? Is all the bloodshed worth it?’ I believe this question still rings true today.

What character do you relate to the most from Troilus And Cressida and who is your secret crush out of all the characters?
I think I would say I relate to Ullyses as he seems to see the sense (or nonsense of war). My secret crush would be Hector I think, because he is such an infamous warrior. I also can’t help
thinking of Eric Bana’s ‘Hector’ because he was pretty fine!

What have you learnt most about yourself on this production, working with 18 other cast members?
I think working with such a big cast teaches you team work and helps you make fast friends. You really are part of an ensemble and it everyone plays their part in making the show great. I have
met some amazing people working on this production and I would love to work with each of them again. I also like to learn from watching other actors in rehearsals and on stage, and this cast has given me many talented people to look to.

If you could invent a superstition that, in 400 years would be religiously followed by actors, what would it be?
That you have to make an offering to the ‘theatre gods’ or playwright before opening night… a song and dance with the entire cast.

Alec Ebert

Alana Birtles: Hector! How do you see him and how do you connect with such an iconic and ancient hero/warrior?
I see Hector as a family man as well as a man of order and honour. I really think he sees war as a necessary evil, needing to be waged in order for life to continue. He doesn’t fight to be
the best warrior there ever was (though he is very good at it); he fights for his wife, his young son, his people and his family… having said all that, he is a proud man with a very healthy ego, so is prone to the fits that pride and ego bring out in even the best of us. I connected with Hector through reading mostly. The Iliad by Homer was my obvious source of most information – there’s some beautiful passages of Hector with his son, Scamandrius and his wife, Andromache. These family elements have helped me to understand Hector beyond an archetypal warrior-leader and is the secret to my forming a connection with him. In saying this, he is meant to be the only mortal warrior said to make Achilles himself afraid, so I needed to ground myself with some martial and physical work. I also took up sword fighting classes (shout out to Action Acting Academy – highly recommended) and an intense training programme to get pretty fit.

You have performed in numerous Shakespeare productions… what is it about Shakespeare that draws you in? Why does it need to be performed?
I asked you a pretty similar question! I think Shakespeare draws me in personally because I love the life in the characters, by which I mean their psychic complexity, mass of contradictions and bewildering actions! Also the stories rock – they are big but unmistakably real – themes of love, war, sex, passion, lust, race, racism, misogyny, pride, gender, revenge… the list goes on and on and on. These themes are current today, many are universal and a necessary condition for human beings and, while we might wish a lot of them weren’t, will be for a very long time to come. I think I’ve just answered why they need to be performed.

Who is your favourite Shakespeare character of all time that you would love to play and why?
I suspect in ten years’ time I’ll look back at this and have a different answer. It’s also grossly unfair: like asking me to pick my favourite puppy in a room full of puppies. I’m going to answer 3. Younger Alec loves Mercutio because he’s a force of nature, elemental and mercurial. Middle Alec loves Hamlet because, well, he is the ultimate human and I want to work with him before I’m too old. Finally old Alec loves Prospero, mostly because I love wizards, and when you combine Shakespeare’s words with a wizard, it’s like cheese goes with pizza. It’s amazing.

If you could play another character in Troilus and Cressida, who would it be and why?
I think Thersites. He’s probably the only honest character in the play and he’s a fascinating mix of narrator, comedian, cynic, wit and outsider that would be a blast to play. At least, Danen,
who plays him in this production, makes it look like a blast.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you during a show?
I was quite emotional in the last scene of a performance of The Two Gentlemen Of Verona, and I was standing right in front of the audience and blew a huge snot out of my nose. It was just obscene.

Alana Birtles and Alec Ebert can be seen in Troilus And Cressida by William Shakespeare.
Dates: 9 – 19 May, 2018
Venue: The Depot Theatre

5 Questions with Yerin Ha and Mark Paguio

Yerin Ha

Mark Paguio: Who has been your biggest influence in your career so far?
Yerin Ha: My biggest influence would have to be my Mum. I’m very grateful that she has not once questioned my career path but instead, always supported me in every way that she can. She even convinced me that I should study acting in Korea because of my Asian background. Even though those were some of the toughest years of my life, I don’t regret it one bit as it made me learn more about who I am, my culture, my language and potential opportunities for me overseas. She has also been the biggest support in my life and has played a major role in moulding me into the performer and woman that I am today.

What do you think is missing in the Australian performing arts sector right now?
Authentic stories, especially for people with culturally diverse backgrounds. If we want to see more people of color on stage and screen, it begins with the writing and producing. But if
there are no writers to write these authentic stories and no producers willing to take risks, it’s just going to be the same stories done by the same people. It would be nice to close the gap
with new voices, new faces and new stories. If you weren’t acting, what field would you be pursuing? I think I would be a baker/patisserie chef. Weirdly enough I get such a satisfaction from
watching/actually putting icing on cakes until it’s smooth with no bumps, and decorating it with whatever you want. The options are endless.

If you had the opportunity to play a role you would never be able to see yourself play, what would it be and why?
It would have to be Debbie Reynold’s role in Singin’ In The Rain. One of my all time favourite movies. I would love to be able to play alongside Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor who are two of the most amazing actors back in that time. The songs and the dances just fill me with such joy when I watch the film, but I couldn’t see the industry accepting that role being played by an Asian women (still to this day).

What attracts you to the headphone verbatim technique and does it differ from a conventional play – from an actor’s point of view?
The process and art form of collating the material for headphone verbatim, and being able to share real stories told by real people intrigues me. These are stories from people you see on
the streets and the technique of headphone verbatim reminds the audience that everybody has their own history and stories, which I feel like we tend to forget as we get caught up with our own lives. I think it does differ for an actor when working on a conventional play, as you’re not bringing options to the floor about how you think the character would behave or talk. Headphone verbatim is a technique that requires you to find character nuance and gesture through voice and intonation. It is a form with so much potential to tell authentic stories, yet is so scarcely seen in Australia.

Mark Paguio

Yerin Ha: What are some of the challenges you face being an Asian actor?
Mark Paguio: I could write a whole essay on this, but given I hate writing essays I won’t. Other than the usual things such as lack of opportunities, prejudice, lack of trust in the bankability of Asian actors etc., I think the lack of accessibility of audiences outside of the white, middle-aged sector to theatre presents a huge problem. It’s a beautiful thing to see yourself or your culture being represented, but when you simply don’t have the funds for – or exposure to – inclusive theatre, it hinders the ability for the industry to grow in a way that addresses the other issues which I have stated. We need more Asian audiences, too! Of course, this issue extends to other actors of colour, actors with disabilities, trans actors etc.

If you could rewind time and change one thing what would it be and why?
There is an infinite amount of things that I would go back in time to change, that would either be beneficial to me in my adult life (i.e. forcing my younger self to play more sports so that I can learn to catch a damn ball in my drama classes), or beneficial to the world (i.e. stopping colonisation because I’m capable of that apparently). But the first thing that comes to my head would be to go back to a particular day in primary school, where the savagery of my 12-year-old self lead to a friend crying because he felt ridiculed from a joke I had made. I felt awful, but this was the first time, to my knowledge, that my words had severely hurt another person, and because of this I was frozen with shame. So I walked off, while my other friends consoled him, without a proper apology. The guilt of that still haunts me to do this day. Let’s make things clear, though. Realistically, I wouldn’t go back to stop myself from making the joke. I would go back to make sure that I apologised.

If you could spend one day with your favourite actor what would you do?
I would spend a day pampering myself because I am my own favourite actor. Kidding. I wouldn’t say I have a favourite actor because there are so many to choose from, but I would love to go to an all you can Korean BBQ with Timothée Chalamet. Firstly, because I would love to pick his brain as a young actor who is killing the game. Secondly, because he seems like a pretty energetic, humble, and intelligent dude that would chat the night away (and chatting over great food with my friends is my favourite pastime). Thirdly, he’s a huge Cardi B fan and I think we’d really vibe together.

What aspects of headphone verbatim do you find most appealing?
Finding the character from text is a process. A huge process where you get to explore and play. Once you get to show it in front of the audience, all the work becomes so rewarding. Naturally, with any process like that it comes with its trials and tribulations. The beauty of this work, and hearing these voices being played in your ear in real time means you get to just dive into their rhythms, energy and lives with ease. All you have to do is connect.

What excites you most about having a career in the arts?
Other than living in fear about when my next paycheck will be, the most exciting thing about having a career in the arts, at least right now, is that the zeitgeist is heading towards an industry that wants to tell stories that reflects the people within the society and the world we live – or that it now wants to tell stories that go beyond the world we live, but is inclusive of the people within our world – despite race, religion, sexual/gender identity, ability etc.

Yerin Ha and Mark Paguio are appearing in I Walk In Your Words, directed by Kristine Landon-Smith.
Dates: 9 – 11 May, 2018
Venue: ATYP

5 Questions with Chris Miller and Jacqui Robson

Chris Miller

Jacqui Robson: What are five words you’d use to describe Lennie Lawson and five words to describe Hugh Lusk?
Chris Miller: Lennie Lawson – Charming, boyish, manipulative, adaptive, psychotic. Hugh Lusk – Determined, confident, altruistic, ambitious, stubborn.

Where on the spectrum of human behaviour would these two men overlap?
More than likely, narcissism. Lawson is pathological and most definitely at the disordered end of the spectrum, lacks empathy and is a slave to his delusions. Lusk is empathetic, yet has a swagger of arrogance to him. Where they overlap is they both suffer from ‘magical thinking’: Lawson in the way he justifies his abhorrent acts of cruelty and Lusk in the way he clutches at straws to build a defence for Louisa Collins when the odds are stacked against him. Where they differ is Lusk has empathy and control whilst Lawson definitely does not.

What has been the hardest thing about playing Lennie?
I’ve done a hell of a lot of research on personality disorders and the Dark Triad (psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism). It’s really heavy stuff. I’ve been exploring which spectrums I sit on, and ramping them up and walking around in public to get a feel for it… and it’s crook. I’m a naturally empathetic kid, so switching into psycho mode and exploring egocentric, sadistic magical thinking is not without its detriment. I’ve had to counterbalance with meditation and positive affirmations, which has actually been awesome as well. So it’s double edged. That, and I have to be consciously aware of not creeping out the cast and crew because I’m in so deep. Either way… it’s real juicy.

What’s it like being in these two productions at the same time?
Awesome! I freakin’ love it. Two totally different characters, pushed to the max, and a sensational team of directors, cast and crew. Jacqui (and the rest of the cast) are so talented, giving and supportive. Also, it’s a different experience playing real people of history. The back story is done for me; it almost feels like I’m allowing them in to possess me and, of course, I get to decorate the cake with Miller-isms. The main thing is just vehemently telling the truth.

Would Hugh Lusk take on Lennie Lawson as a client?
Hmmm, as ambitious as Lusk is, and although he fights for the underdog, Lawson is an abhorrent violent criminal with zero chance of redemption. The evidence is so stacked against him and cut and dry. So, my answer is no. It would be morally incongruent for Lusk to take the case.

Jacqui Robson

Chris Miller: What draws you to playing characters such as Jean Turnbull, June Dally Watkins and Louisa Collins?
Jacqui Robson: Each of these real-life women were caught up in extreme circumstances and I am grateful for the chance to explore their behaviours, and creatively make choices based on what I can only guess at why they did what they did. They are all complex and, in these stories, they experience terrible tragedies in different ways. I get to play with their strengths and vulnerabilities, but hopefully also honour their experiences.

Tell us about your process to delve deeper to find the truth and embody these characters.
I started with imagining how I would behave in their circumstances, and then try to understand why they acted the way they did. Then I looked into the research. For the Lennie Lawson story, there were helpful articles about the Lennie Lawson attack on SCEGGS that gave me some clues into Headmistress Jean Turnbull’s character and choices. There’s also plenty of content on June Dally Watkins around to give a guideline into her personality. How they behaved with Lennie Lawson is how I imagine I would have in those circumstances. (I might not have been as hardcore heroic as Jean Turnbull, though I’d like to think so.)

Louisa Collins is more difficult. She’s enigmatic. Playwright Gina Schien loaned me her copy of The Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington. It’s a brilliant collection of primary research with many contradictions in observations about how Louisa behaved, so I’ve found it challenging to make any decisions about her. She constantly surprises me. I’m making the best choices I can, so I just hope that I represent her as truthfully and compassionately as possible.

What’s the difference that you find in playing imaginary characters compared to actual women of history?
Playing real women of history brings with it a great amount of responsibility to represent them and their actions truthfully and accurately. History is decided by others so maybe it’s impossible to ever really do this, but I still try. Fictional characters are a lot more freeing and I care a lot less about what others’ think of my interpretation. If people don’t like my choices, I can’t do much about it and can’t worry about it.

Why act?
I bloody wish I knew. It’s like being on drugs. The creative highs are amazing. The lows – the poverty, rejection, artistic failure, bad reviews, objectification, inability to plan life – all suck immensely. Honestly, if I could get my creative kicks some other way, I bloody would.

What is your dream role and why?
I just like to be doing something, chasing something, acting in pursuit of that something. Give me a role in which I have a job to do. Preferably in a great ensemble piece with amazing dialogue. My favourite plays and shows are the ones where there are at least five people talking. I love to contribute to a symphony of fantastic dialogue in an electric scene where everyone is fighting for something (e.g. an episode of The West Wing, or Tracy Lette’s August: Osage County). My creative north star is probably Allison Janney playing CJ Cregg in The West Wing.

Chris Miller and Jacqui Robson are appearing in Deadhouse: Tales Of Sydney Morgue.
Dates: 24 April – 19 May, 2018
Venue: The Rocks Discovery Museum