5 Questions with Tara Clark and Asalemo Tofete

Tara Clark


Asalemo Tofete: What are the pleasures and challenges you’ve found in performing this new work?
Tara Clark: The pleasures and the challenges have been one in the same. It’s a pretty huge cast of twelve, and I’ve never worked with any of the other actors before. That’s been a real treat. At the same time, it’s a cast of twelve and I think we’ve only all been in the same room on one or two occasions!

The play is about the power of stories, in the political sphere and in our personal lives. What stories do you fill your head with?
Pure filth, Asa. Nothing I could repeat in polite company. In seriousness though, I’m trying to read more novels this year and fewer plays. I recently finished We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. It’s absolutely harrowing. Notwithstanding, it’s an incredible read. I’ve seen the film and the novel still managed to surprise me. Highly recommended.  

What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage and why?
Question all my life choices until that moment, swallow my self-loathing and throw a few air punches. 

If you had the chance to play any role in any show, what would it be and why?
Asa! What are you doing to me? How long have we got?  My dream is to play Sylv in Berkoff’s East… because… because… Sylv’s speech of longing. Enough said. 

Lastly, this show is a dark comedy, other than yourself and me, who in the cast is the funniest person in real life?
Well, it’s certainly not me. I never get to the play the funny girl. Largely because most often girls aren’t written to be funny, but let me step down off my soap box to answer your question… Everyone is great to have a laugh with… but I would have to say that Will Bartolo is one who I laugh at the most. He’s laughs on legs. No pressure Will. 

Asalemo Tofete

Tara Clark: In a classic example of art imitating life, you play an actor known as The Player. How has The Player’s career trajectory differed from yours? Are there any similarities? 
Asalemo Tofete: There are similar circumstances that The Player and I share like trying to convince others that he’s good. Also the love of performing in front of crowds and the swapping of troupes depending on the situation. So very similar.  We both are pretty passionate about what we do, performing, sharing stories, sharing experiences. I think the only difference would be that in the end… well people will just have to come and see what happens to The Player in the end.

Did you always want to be an actor? If acting wasn’t an option, what would you be instead? 
I started off at university, training to become a teacher. A friend of mine suggested the Theatre course and, well, the rest is history. I guess if I hadn’t had the curiosity to try the theatre course I would have become an educator shaping the minds of our future geniuses (or that’s what I like to think I’d be doing).

Appropriation picks up where Hamlet leaves off. If you could write the sequel (or prequel) to any great story (play, novel or film) what would it be and how would it play out?
Ooooohhhhh! That’s a good one. If I were to stick to a Shakespeare play, I would probably like to write the sequel to Much Ado About Nothing… following Don John’s escape. Where DJ would gather an army and return to march on Messina where he would in the end be killed by the waiting woman Margaret who then marries the night watchman Verges and because everyone is dead becomes the Queen of Messina – of course, with a whole lot of twists and turns along the way.

What has been the highlight of working on Appropriation for you?
Working with this very talented cast. Everyone has their own particular skills set that they bring with them. Especially leading the music, as the #fakemusicguy, this cast has blown my mind, with what they’ve come up with. Also being a part of this new work gives me the chance to be the first to speak these words, the first person to bring The Player to life. That in itself is pretty exciting.

Please translate the following sentence into Shakespearean English: “Check out Appropriation, playing at Studio Blueprint from April 17th to 27th.
The year of our Lord two thousand nineteen,
The Fledgling troupe presents a tale for you,
A tale that fish would sooner fly than swim,
Appropriation is the name forsooth,
It playeth at the play house of Blueprint,
From seventeen to twenty seventh moon,
Of April it shall play. Come one come all.
Checketh us out, before we checketh out!

Tara Clark and Asalemo Tofete can be seen in Appropriation, by Paul Gilchrist.
Dates: 12 – 24 Apr, 2019
Venue: Studio Blueprint

5 Questions with Stephanie Somerville and Megan Wilding

Stephanie Somerville

Megan Wilding: What has been the best piece of advice you’ve ever heard?
Stephanie Somerville: Probably something Rick Brayford, the head of the Aboriginal acting course, at WAAPA told me before I went for my call back for the acting course. I was super, super nervous and he said to me “It’s your land, now go act those little white girls off the stage.” I find myself saying that to myself a lot; it grounds me, gives me confidence and makes me laugh.

Do you have a mantra you say to yourself before you go on stage?
“It’s your land, now go act those little white girls off the stage.”

What has been the most exciting thing about bringing A Little Piece Of Ash to life?
I’ve never gotten to work with a writer/director on a play before. It feels like such an enormous privilege to help a friend and someone who I admire so deeply tell her story.

Do you have a good warm-up song that you blast before a show?
I usually have a little playlist for each show I do, and I’ve got a few already for A Little Piece Of Ash. It’s a lot of country music, but ‘G.U.Y’ by Lady Gaga is always a great one to get the blood pumping.

Why should people come and see A Little Piece Of Ash?
It’s a deeply touching and hilarious play about the absurdity of life, death and how we deal with it. It’s written by an incredible new talent. It’s powerful, it’s truthful, it’s Aboriginal and it’s completely unapologetic.

Megan Wilding

Stephanie Somerville: What first made you want to start writing?
Megan Wilding: Ever since I was a little anxiety-riddled kid, I found it hard to express what I was feeling. I discovered at quiet a young age that I could explore things that that were going on around me that I didn’t really understand through writing and making stories. As I grew older and became more aware of the theatre industry, it was just a natural progression that my writing turned into plays and performance poetry. It’s nice to give my feelings to characters and let them explore the extreme. Writing A Little Piece Of Ash certainly helped me understand my feelings towards loss and love a lot more.

Why did you feel it was important for you to also direct A Little Piece Of Ash?
Can I say I’m a bit of a control freak? A Little Piece Of Ash is my first little trauma baby, and I wasn’t ready to give her away just yet; I wanted to see her take her first steps and start to walk. Also, I’ve wanted to pursue directing for a while and this presented itself as a really great opportunity to jump in. Hopefully from here some more opportunities will come along.

What’s one thing you wish people talked about more?
Everything. Treaty, trauma, and truth. But more importantly I wished more people listened when someone spoke. It’s scary how much talking is done to blocked ears.

What do you hope audiences will take away from the show?
That there’s no one way to grieve; that you can and should reach out if you need to; that love can be expressed across time and space.

How do you unwind after a long day of writer/actor/directoring…?
I’ve watched every season of RuPaul’s Drag Race at least 5 times. Honestly, that show with all feathers and fierceness helps me switch off every time. Or a nice, hot, eucalyptus bath.

Stephanie Somerville and Megan Wilding are collaborating on A Little Piece Of Ash.
Dates: 12 – 27 Apr, 2019
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

5 Questions with Zach Selmes and Caitlin Williams

Zach Selmes

Caitlin Williams: We might as well start out with the most obvious question – what’s your kink?
Zach Selmes: Such a Vanda question! Would it be such an actor thing of me to say “role-playing”?

You play two characters in this, the playwright Thomas and his character Kushemski. What drew you to these roles?
The greatest thing about acting is being given the opportunity to explore such a variety of characters, of lifestyles you’ll never lead, and play within that world for a while – a gentleman in the Austro-Hungarian empire, for example. I love this industry and if a show is meta, I’m interested! As an aspiring director, Thomas is an excellent example of the traps a creative with privilege can fall into if they aren’t thoughtful of their subject matter or choose to regard their colleagues as little more than puppets to do their bidding. He’s a great case-study on how NOT to negotiate with your actors.

You come from a musical theatre background, how does it feel working on straight theatre?
Two people alone onstage for ninety minutes is definitely a jump in the deep end. After majoring in musical theatre at uni, I played a lot of comedy roles in what were largely ensemble shows. More recently, I was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night but played the fool and musician in both and always had a joke or instrument to charm the audience onto my side. ‘Venus in Fur’ is the first show I’ve done without a single song and, while Thomas gets in some dry zingers, he is far from comic relief. It’s a refreshing learning experience to be playing the antagonistic straight man.

What do you think this play has to say about the complexity of power in relationships?
It certainly subverts the idea that power comes down to physical dominance. Indeed, while it explores the erotic side of power, the play is far more driven by the psychological nature of Thomas and Vanda’s relationship. From the moment Vanda storms the stage, Thomas has to fight to maintain his directorial power and as soon as you think you have a handle on the power struggle within his play, it becomes apparent that any power Vanda has is a result of Kushemski’s manipulation of her… until she manipulates Thomas right back and the lines between the plays blur! It’s a constant tug of war and the longer it goes on, the more gloriously frustrated everyone becomes.

With the #MeToo movement all over the media, how do you feel this play is relevant to the current moment, particularly surrounding the treatment of actors?
I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of some overwhelmingly conscientious casts, but I’ve only fairly recently been delving into plays. While I could only reference media reports with regard to straight theatre, I can say first hand that being a young man on the musical theatre side of the fence means a lot of unsolicited attention – typically from male creatives or networking figures – in situations where it is difficult for a performer to refuse the advances for fear of losing current or future work. As we see with #MeToo, it’s an industry-wide problem because of the unique ways our work environment relies on trust. Every show that I’ve worked on has had a co-ed dressing room (often closer in size to a closet) where you have to trust that your colleagues are being respectful of your privacy. Onstage, you become more intimate with people in ways you normally wouldn’t and have to trust that their focus is on what’s best for the scene and show, and not something more sinister. The industry and its workers are vulnerable to that trust being taken advantage of or broken which is why it’s incredibly important to be constantly aware of your other actors and their wellbeing. Having support systems in place like cast reps and being a part of your actor’s union (MEAA) gives power back to the majority of the industry who just want to be able to work and create safely.

Caitlin Williams

Zach Selmes: You’ve been involved in a lot of shows recently, what’s special about Venus In Fur?
Caitlin Williams: What’s special to me about Venus In Fur, is that it lets me play a role I rarely get to play — the young, sexy, confident, take-no-prisoners Vanda. I can’t tell you how many times in the last two years I’ve played an older role or a male character rewritten as a woman, so it’s nice to finally get back to playing someone age appropriate who’s so much fun.

As an emerging female creative working both onstage and behind the scenes, how relevant do you find this play to the theatre scene in Sydney?
I think what this play shows is that the audition room is such a fascinating, terrifying thing, where the power imbalance is profound and can, as we’ve seen in the international and Sydney theatre scene, be easily exploited. What Thomas expects out of Vanda is a level of perfection that’s impossible for any woman to reach, and I think that standard of perfection is still subconsciously expected of emerging female artists.

Performing a two-person text isn’t easy, especially when that text involves a play within a play. Is there a craft to bouncing back and forth between character mid-scene? Mid-sentence even?
For these roles I’ve been finding lot of the character changes come from my voice and accents. Vanda Jordan has your typical American accent, while Vanda Von Dunayev has this much more regal, old-school transatlantic accent. I’ve found that once I’ve gotten the accent switches down then I can bring in that characterisation and physicality that comes along with each change.

Were you always a theatre kid, or was there a specific moment that converted you?
I think it was a high school production of A Midsummer Nights Dream, where I went in determined to play Helena. I’d never spoken a word of Shakespeare out loud before but I went in, auditioned, and got the part. Being part of a cast, getting to explore a character and have fun on stage in a safe environment, really kicked off a love of theatre in me.

As your character Vanda so eloquently describes Venus In Fur “basically it’s S&M Porn”. What would you say to any hesitant theatre-goers who worry the show might lack depth?
This is a play that’s fun, sexy, and hilarious. But it also tackles issues that the entertainment industry has really had to come to terms with in the form of #MeToo. This play is about female empowerment and the complexities of power in relationships.

Zach Selmes and Caitlin Williams can be seen in Venus In Fur by David Ives.
Dates: 10 – 13 Apr, 2019
Venue: 107, Redfern

5 Questions with Chantelle Jamieson and Lauren Richardson

Chantelle Jamieson

Lauren Richardson: Chantelle, what do you love about AFL?
Chantelle Jamieson: Well I grew up in Melbs, so love of footy kind of just seeps into your skin. I’m a huge bombers supporter having grown up in Essendon. There’s nothing like turning up at Essendon station on game day decked out in your black and red, and finding hundreds of others wearing the same colours as you. They are your tribe. And growing up being one of the only black kids at my school (the others were my sisters), it was really important to feel like you belonged somewhere- we belonged as Essendon supporters.

This play deals with many themes and one of them is ambition. It seems like there are many things your character would’ve liked the opportunity to tackle but she hasn’t. Are there things you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t and what’s held you back?
My character Mel is a WAG married to footy player Vance Arrowsmith (played by Andrew Shaw) life should be good, but she is deeply unhappy with where she’s ended up and constantly looking for the root of where it went wrong. I find it heartbreaking. There are always shoulda-coulda-woulda-didn’t-don’t moments in everyone’s life, but I haven’t really felt those to the kind of level that Mel does. It would make life unbearable.

Having a game plan and being strategic is essential. So let’s get analytical. What are Chantelle’s strengths and weaknesses?
Strength: finding a way to answer a question that might get too personal without actually answering it.
Weakness: wanting to avoid answering those questions.

What did you dream of becoming when you were small?
Like most kids who aren’t psychopaths- I loved animals. So I wanted to become a vet. My mum warned me that that would involve cutting animals open. So I dropped that idea. Then I wanted to become a jockey because that would mean working with horses. Mum warned me that I’d have to whip the horses to make them run fast. So, I dropped that idea too. My mum issued no warnings about becoming an actor.

What are the parallels do you think between footy and theatre?
For the audience, it’s a communal experience, the atmosphere is never exactly the same at every show or at every game. You have to be there to feel it.

Lauren Richardson

Chantelle Jamieson: Fierce is the story of Suzie Flack’s journey as a woman in a men’s AFL team, what has been the most challenging part of (corny pun alert) tackling this role?
Lauren Richardson: Suzie Flack is a character that has muscled her way, elbows out, into an environment that doesn’t expect or welcome her. But she stands her ground. Without apology. And I think that’s a task women aren’t always encouraged in. So I guess for Lauren the actor, backing myself. Standing my ground. Not diminishing. That’s felt confronting in rehearsal… but also exciting.

I know you grew up in NSW, what was your AFL knowledge like, going into Fierce?
Nil. Nada. Zero. I knew who the giants were and who the swans were. And that the guys that played were generally pretty lean, athletic and attractive. But the game itself made no sense to someone who grew up with “proper football”, the one with the right shaped ball [ie soccer] the beautiful game as my Dad calls it. I looked at AFL and it made no sense. We’re in an oval?! People are coming from all directions?! The balls bouncing all over the shop?! It just seemed like anarchy. But I’m a total convert. I think Aussie Rules is bloody brilliant now.

Suzie Flack is a super athlete, how have you gone about physically preparing for this role?
Go hard or go home hahaha. Obviously I’m an actor not an athlete. That being said, I’ve entered into a pretty rigorous physical engagement with my body throughout rehearsals. I’ve learnt how to box, as that’s something my character does. And unexpectedly I’ve fallen in love with it and have lofty aspirations to get in the ring competitively now. We’ve been lucky enough to get cast personal training from Spectrum Fitness so just clocking hours at the gym. We also got to go behind the scenes and watch GWS women’s team during training sessions which has been invaluable. And then just kicking the footy in the park with the boys in the cast who are very skilled and who have been very patient, kind and generous with me, a total novice. Oh, and protein shakes.

You worked with Janine Watson as an actor in Sport for Jove’s Three Sisters, how have you found working with her as a director?
Working with Janine has been a dream. We met working together as actors and since then have been firm friends, but it’s been a delight to become collaborators and co conspirators on this project. I have so much admiration and respect for her as an artist and as a woman. And working together has been challenging and exciting and incredibly fulfilling. I’ve loved every moment.

What can audiences look forward with Fierce?
It’s an exceptional piece of writing. A new Australian play that defies easy categorisation. Every scene surprises. It’s funny, physically dynamic and incredibly moving. And plus there’s some Justin Bieber in there for good measure!!!

Chantelle Jamieson and Lauren Richardson can be seen in Fierce, by Jane E. Thompson.
Dates: 20 Mar – 13 Apr, 2018
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre

5 Questions with Suzann James and Jodine Muir

Suzann James

Jodine Muir: What was your first acting experience and what made you want to act as a career?
Suzann James: Ha ha! I was living in Hong Kong and was cast as an alter ego in Neil Simon’s They’re Playing Our Song. I was also the choreographer but I didn’t know how to read music, so the whole cast had to put up with my learned harmonies whilst learning the dance routines. I knew I wanted to perform after seeing and being thoroughly captivated by a live performance of Steel Magnolias. I figured I was overseas, nobody knew me, so I had a license to fail… or not. So I went for it!

You have been a great support to your actress daughter, in particular keeping it ‘realistic’ to the highs and lows of an acting career. Did you have any similar support when you took up acting or did you learn on the job?
Yeah, no. I learnt on the job. And then got myself into a performing arts academy. And my daughter has kind of done the same thing. She was cast in an international musical, got the bug and now goes to a performing arts school. I guess we’re a little backwards in moving forwards.

What were your first impressions of the play The Realistic Joneses, what inspired you to get involved and do you have a personal connection to its themes?
Easy, I loved the script. And I kept getting so much more out of it every time I read it. I loved the way Will Eno’s quirky characters deal and react so differently to life’s dilemmas. It’s great how he can take the most mundane or depressing of subjects and make them funny and surprising. Actually I do have a nephew that has a similar challenge to the Joneses’ dilemma, and from my experience there are definitely parallels in the ways that they cope.

Your character in The Realistic Joneses seems to be the only one grounded in reality and has been called the ‘straight one’ to the other characters who appear to be avoiding reality. Do you feel this is true of your character and what other discoveries have you made?
Yes, she is sensible and has taken on the role as the responsible one. In her marriage she carries the intellectual and emotional burden, but funnily, resorts to her own quiet little crazy way of venting.

Why do you think these two odd couples in The Realistic Joneses are drawn together?
I think they all, just quietly, need each other. Filling voids, buoying spirits, entertaining, that sort of thing. It makes me think that we work better as a community. Friendships are invaluable. Feeling uncomfortable can be liberating and some issues are too big to deal with on your own. The challenges they’re facing have given them a greater appreciation of life, for living in the moment and of nature and the world around them.

Jodine Muir

Suzann James: What makes you laugh about your character, Pony?
Jodine Muir: Yes she does make me laugh a lot! I was drawn to Pony because she seemed to be having the most fun, at the expense of others! She says and does what she wants, whatever suits her mood. She doesn’t seem to be able to cope with much in her adult life and relies on others to help keep her together.

Have you ever had crazy neighbours?
Yes a few, they certainly keep things interesting! Right now I live next door to an aged care facility. One gentleman doesn’t have any noise awareness and mostly shouts his words in a muffled kind of way. Oddly enough, he manages to have many ongoing and engaging conversations with the staff and other occupants but I can never understand a word he says. It’s usually what wakes me up early in the morning!

Are you sympathetic to sick people? Or do you prefer to avoid them?
Quite the opposite of my character Pony, I would say that I am very nurturing and caring… probably to the point of being annoying! However, like Pony, if it impedes on my ability to sleep then my patience will be tested!

Have you seen anything else by Will Eno?
No I haven’t but I had heard of him and had planned to read some of his plays. That was the first reason I applied for the auditions. As soon as I read the play, I was hooked. I found the quirky behaviour and awkward dialogue between the characters delicious!

What do you think somebody might write about Pony after she’s gone?
Oh I love this question! Well, I think that they might say: “She made a few mistakes along the way but her heart was always in the right place!” Or perhaps… “She managed to avoid life and has instead found peace”.

Suzann James and Jodine Muir can be seen in The Realistic Joneses by Will Eno.
Dates: 13 – 30 Mar, 2019
Venue: Limelight On Oxford

5 Questions with Nicole Pingon and Mike Ugo

Nicole Pingon

Mike Ugo: If you were about to embark on a journey on the deep blue seas, what two things would you take with you and why?
Nicole Pingon: A waterproof notebook and stationery set. I don’t think this has been invented yet, (at least not that I know of), but I’d love to be able to write and doodle, without worrying about the risk of losing them to the ocean!

Why do you think this story is relevant today?
The ideas Coleridge lamented back in 1798, like reciprocity with the natural world, guilt and existentialism frankly couldn’t be more relevant today, as we live in a time where things aren’t exactly looking bright for our future – socially, politically or environmentally. Not only have Coleridge’s ideas have persisted over time because we are still flawed humans, I think the reason this particular story continues to resonate with us, is due to its exploration of these big scary ideas through a philosophical and moral lens. It deals with fundamental human concerns in a way that feels magical and otherworldly, yet undeniably human and close to home. This story continues to remind us that like the natural world around us, we are creatures of this earth and perhaps don’t have as much control over the future as we may believe we do. Because without Mother Nature, where does that leave us? This is a question Coleridge asked, and a question we will continue to ask ourselves until – I suppose until something changes.  

Working on this production, how has it impacted you?
I’m a firm believer in the fact that we’re constantly learning and growing, and being a part of this production has absolutely been a testament to that! I’m continuously growing throughout this process, both as an artist and a human. I’m so grateful to create with some of the most wondrous, generous and talented creatives, and am constantly inspired by them. Every moment in the room has honestly been such a joy. The excitement I feel is a reminder of how much I love being on the floor, collaborating, discovering and creating. As a human, it’s really encouraged me to read further, watch more and helped me deepen my own worldview, particularly surrounding environmentalism and the language we use to discuss it. It’s also ignited a spark in me to continue exploring new ways to communicate big ideas through performance.

Little Eggs Collective in a sentence?
A collective of passionate, ambitious and diverse storytellers, creating new work and new modes of storytelling, who also happen to be the most wonderful eggs you will ever meet!

Which country would you like to visit that you haven’t been to and why?
I’d really love to visit Iceland some time soon! Not only is it absolutely beautiful, it’s a country that genuinely puts the environment at the forefront. I’d love to immerse myself in their sustainable way of living, and see how it all works. Otherwise Antarctica would be super cool, because Antarctica!

Mike Ugo

Nicole Pingon:What is your favourite bird?
Mike Ugo: Favourite bird would have to be an eagle. My surname actually means eagle of God in my native language (Igbo). Shoutout to my dad, he is late now but I always carry him with me in my heart everywhere I go.

Why do you think this story is important to share?
As a society we can often place significance on the wrong things, whether that be on social media, an excessive indulgence in material goods, celebrity gossip/culture, standards of beauty, the list goes on. These things tend to be glorified in society; but when someone is dying, suddenly all of that becomes trivial.

What type of life did I live?
How did I treat people?
Did I travel enough?
Did I get to experience all the jewels of this beautiful earth?

This story urges you to look within yourself and ask yourself what it means to be human because at the end of the day we all bleed the same. But not only that, realising that it is a gift just to breathe fresh air and that it’s really in all of our best interests to protect and preserve our environment.

What would you love to see in the future of the Sydney theatre scene?
Well as well as having a brother, I have two sisters. If you add my mother, that’s three women in the household (lol) and I would love to just see more female related stories. That would be cool to see. When women win, we all win!!! There’s more than enough room for everyone to shine, so us as men shouldn’t ever feel threatened in any way, shape or form.

What have you learnt/enjoyed about the process of creating this show?
Everything. This type of theatre-making is new to me so just being patient with the whole process. I won’t disclose any gems haha because that stays in the room, but I will say I’m forever indebted to Julia Robertson because she’s the first person to give me an opportunity in the Sydney independent theatre scene. She’s a real genuine soul and you want to be around people like that. I’m still early in my development in terms of acting so every rehearsal has been a gift. It has been challenging because I’ve never been in this type of environment before and the level of excellence amongst everyone is high. But the energy is amazing and everyone is so warm.

What does it mean to be a person of colour in the arts in Sydney?
Well, thank God for my parents raising me with love and affording me with so much. This is why I’ve always loved who I am and translating that positive energy into stories for younger generations is something I find invigorating.

Nicole Pingon and Mike Ugo can be seen in The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner.
Dates: 2 – 13 Apr, 2019
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

5 Questions with Kate Champion and Steve Rodgers

Kate Champion

Steve Rodgers: What’s the first memory you have of seeing live theatre?
Kate Champion: I was lucky enough to see Lindsey Kemp, the mime artist who taught Bowie, when I was pretty young. I remember there was nudity and men wearing frocks with powdered faces – they were moving but it wasn’t like any dance I’d ever seen and they were acting but it certainly wasn’t naturalism. It was exciting because it was outrageous and risky and different.

What works by others over the years have inspired you?
Hmmm – I always find this question difficult to answer because there are so many and afterwards I’ll end up thinking more about the ones I’ve left out. I find that work from genres other than the ones I work in have probably influenced me more. Music, film, comedy, visual arts, architecture, books…

You’ve been directing a heap of shows lately, Evie May a musical at Hayes Theatre, you’ve got Arthur Miller’s A View From A Bridge coming up at SASTC, what’s special about Every Brilliant Thing?
I am enjoying how different the shows I’ve been working on are – it really tests my skill set as a director. Every Brilliant Thing – as we wrote in the program notes – is almost not a play. It practically creates its own form which I love. Its form has come about as an honest and appropriate response to its subject matter. I come from a history of devising work from scratch. I recognise the skill with which Every Brilliant Thing has been devised and therefore appreciate its distilled and deceptive simplicity. To achieve what it does without the usual bells and whistles is its triumph.

What are the ingredients for a ‘brilliant’ rehearsal room?
I think having mutual respect in the room is vital. Giving everyone the ability to contribute their opinion yet at the same time asserting the necessary leadership that you, as directors, will make the final call. Talking about personal experiences around the subject matter of the play is vital. We’ve been writing our own list of Every Brilliant Thing every morning of rehearsal. Everyone who is in the room writes down ten brilliant things and then we read them out aloud. I think we’ve learnt more nuanced information about each other this way than we would have found out otherwise. It’s a ‘brilliant’ way to start the day. It’s also vital that everyone knows that they can be vulnerable in the room and will be supported. A combination of discipline and playfulness is imperative.

Why should people come to this play, now?
There seems to be a strong disconnect these days between a surface way of sharing and deep social isolation. Every Brilliant Thing brings us together as an audience literally face to face to share the personal account of a struggle with unstable mental health. This difficult subject matter is handled in a down to earth, tender, even lighthearted way which is ultimately beautifully life affirming. I think there’s a good chance it will still be relevant long into the future.

Steve Rodgers

Kate Champion: You’re both a writer and an actor – how do you think your acting experience influences your writing and visa versa?
Steve Rodgers: I think writing and acting inform each other in the sense that they’re both about making words live off the page. I guess obviously acting is more about playing the words, where as with playwriting you get the chance to create the words for someone else to play. But they talk to each other because they’re both beautiful imaginative leaps that require discipline.

How does Every Brilliant Thing differ from how you might approach other roles?
Every role I’ve ever done is about examining what I think I understand and know about the character in relation to my own experience, and what I don’t know or understand, and need to find out. This role is all about shedding your skin, without layering something else on top.

What’s it like going from the co-directing to the acting ‘head space’?
I understand the director has the final call, so as the co-director I think my job is to be a part of the discussion as another observer, offer another perspective, and in a small tight room like ours, try and make a few jokes. As an actor I’m also doing the same. It’s a discussion about personalising the work. I must admit watching Mulvers get up and do it each day is easier than getting up and doing it your self. I’m reminded how much acting personally costs.

Do you enjoy learning lines?
No… But when they’re learnt, I’m anyone’s.

What part of the process of creating/getting a show to the stage do you enjoy the most?
Rehearsals for me are sacred, where I’m always reminded I’m not alone in the world. People and stories… what else is there?

Kate Champion and Steve Rodgers are co-directing Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan.
Dates: 8 – 31 Mar, 2019
Venue: Belvoir St Theatre