5 Questions with Brooke Rayner and Stephanie Somerville

Brooke Rayner

Stephanie Somerville: What’s your favourite pre-show pump up song?
Brooke Rayner: “Joyful Joyful” from Sister Act. Gospel choir and Lauren Hill’s voice – amazing. I remember dancing to it at one of those area spectacular school shows, maybe it’s the muscle memory but makes me want to laugh and cry.

What show have you seen in the last twelve months that’s really stuck with you?
Blackie Blackie Brown. Who doesn’t want a kick ass political comedy about an Indigenous Superhero and too many wig changes to count!? I was screaming in my seat. It was like watching a comic book open and come to life. In the words of the Hot Brown Honeys “Moisturize and Decolonise”.

What made you want to be an actor?
I think having access to theatre in high school and watching these amazing transformations happen and then having the opportunity to do it myself. Once I realised I could explore and feel out someone else’s story there were endless possibilities like … Why be one thing when you can be everything else?

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Tripe. I love tripe. It’s cow’s stomach. But specifically Dim Sum style. It appears spiky but is quite soft and chewy, a lot of people reel at it. I ate it for years not knowing what it was. There’s some kind of irony in eating stomach.

What’s something that you and your character have in common that surprised you?
I think Bianca and I share a similar way of communicating. It’s knowing what you want to say but everything coming out of your mouth is disjointed, three different versions of saying the same point at once. Word vomit and then back tracking to try and fix what you’ve said. I’ve always been told I have terrible sentence structure.

Stephanie Somerville

Brooke Rayner: If you were an animal what would you want to be and why?
Stephanie Somerville: I’d like to be a big, fat, cat that belongs to some little old lady who feeds it fresh tuna and lazes around in the sun all day. Because honestly wouldn’t that be the life?

If you could eat one meal every day for the rest of your life what would it be?
Hot chippies with lots of salt.

What excites you about getting to know a character?
I get excited about that moment when you fall in love with a character. Sometimes it’s love at first sight when you read a script, but sometimes it takes a bit of digging. I think it’s the things that surprise you about a character that make you fall in love with them, and I always get excited about that.

What do you want to see when you go to the theatre?
That depends on what I’m going to see! But hopefully a good show? I like to see something that makes me think in a way I’ve never thought, jabs me in my heart, or a story I’ve never heard. I also really like to see kick-ass POC actors doing incredible work, and it’s something I don’t see enough.

What grabbed your attention about Slaughterhouse?
When I first read the script I felt like I was reading a good crime novel and I was trying to piece together this great mystery. I’m really looking forward to our audience having that same experience. What grabbed me though was how intelligently Felicia writes these intricate and complex characters, there’s just so much to excavate. She’s really very good, hey? And how lucky are we to be working with her words!

Brooke Rayner and Stephanie Somerville can be seen in Slaughterhouse by Anchuli Felicia King.
Dates: 16 Oct – 2 Nov, 2019
Venue: Belvoir St Theatre

5 Questions with Sonya Kerr and Madeleine Withington

Sonya Kerr

Madeleine Withington: What are you loving right now? Why?
Sonya Kerr: So many things!! Rewatching old favourite shows, trying out new recipes, working on The Angry Brigade with such an awesome cast! Haha. I’m a busy person so right now I’m actually really loving spending the small amount of time I have free hanging out with my husband.

What will always make you belly laugh? 
Monty Python. I grew up watching them and no matter how many times I’ve watched Flying Circus or any of the films I still laugh like it’s the first time. The Two Ronnies also makes me laugh ridiculously hard.

Has doing this play changed or shifted your beliefs/philosophies in any way?
I don’t think it’s changed my beliefs but it has certainly made me see how anarchy can be attractive. When you feel like the system is built against you, it certainly seems like smashing against that system is the only option. I’m a big believer in the power of protest and of the people, so I think if I was around in the 70s in London I definitely would have been a supporter of The Brigade.

Does anger come easily to you?
Not really. I get disappointed, especially in relation to politics. Irritation comes easily. Lots of things irritate me, but true anger? It takes a lot for me to get really angry. I honestly can’t remember that last time I was angry. I think I’d be a member of the Mildly Irritated Brigade.

Does violence solve anything?
That’s such a hard question! While I do believe that violence begets violence, situations occur when violence is the only effective response. From something as simple as self defence to something as complex as a world war, I think the best I can say is that we should avoid violence whenever we can and exercise restraint whenever we cannot. 

Madeleine Withington

Sonya Kerr: What makes you angry?
Madeleine Withington: So many things. I get angry a bit too easily, I feel. There are things that are worth my anger and there are things that aren’t. I’m still learning to tell the difference. Injustice gets me, when people are disrepectful, if someone does something to hurt someone I love. I get angry at the media, and the politicians, and Australia in general, very often. Capitalism. That gets me furious. The kyriarchy. That’s a bit general, but it is probably best not to turn this into a dissertation. I got mad at the Angry Birds 2 film recently. I haven’t seen it. Just that it exists. See? Still learning. There’s so many things, I honestly don’t know if I can go into them all. 

Do you believe in the power of protesting?
Yes I do. Even outside of creating change at a structural level, I think it can be very important in showing people that they aren’t alone. At the climate strike that was the feeling I had. After months and months of crumbling internally, to show up to thousands of people demanding change together, it definitely made me teary. It was weirdly nourishing? And definitely made me eager for more action on a personal level, rather than encouraging complacency. I think in that sense particularly, protest can be crucial.

What do you hope audiences will get from The Angry Brigade?
Hope and fury. Momentum. An impulse to examine their convictions? Questions for themselves. I really hope that people come away feeling a little bit uncomfortable, like there is something in the corner of their vision they don’t really want to look at, and that they then work up the courage to look at it directly. Does that make sense? If someone came out and said they weren’t sure how to feel, I’d be happy with that I think.

What brings you joy?
Again, so many things! I guess that’s a good balance? Working, I love working. I feel very joyful onstage. My partner. Drinking coffee with my partner on the weekend in our flat. My friends. My friends are incredible. Playing pool badly and having a beer and talking absolute nonsense. Writing. Being underwater, I love being underwater. Animals, any animals at all, they’re all hilarious, except for moths, not a fan of moths. Terry Pratchett books. Music. My family. Showers. Oh god, hot showers. Shower oranges. If you know, you know. I have reasonably simple joys I guess.

You play the role of Anna in The Angry Brigade. Do you identify with anything in her personality or politics? 
Yes, quite a lot actually. It was her who initially drew me to the play. She is going through this very human thing of trying to align her ideas of what should be, with what “the soft animal” of her body wants. I think if you are someone who is at all given to introspection, that that is a very recognisable feeling. She also keeps questioning what “real” is, trying to keep her ideas free of influence. I mean that’s fighting a losing battle, but again, relatable. Also, destroy capitalism. The system is broken. I think Anna would be on board with that.

Sonya Kerr and Madeleine Withington can be seen in The Angry Brigade, by James Graham.
Dates: 1 Oct – 2 Nov, 2019
Venue: New Theatre

5 Questions with Caitlin Burley and Michelle Ny

Caitlin Burley

Michelle Ny: How similar were you to your character when you were in high school?
Caitlin Burley: Fairly similar to be honest. High school is a wild ride, and I tried a few different hats, some closer to Steph than others. I definitely shared her optimism and her desire to believe that people, especially those in charge, are honest and concerned about everyone’s best interest. And I am aware of the disillusionment that this can bring.

What was the naughtiest thing you ever did when you were a teenager?
I was pretty tame. Naughtiest thing I ever did in high school was probably just lying about going to the movies, and instead drinking in parks, ovals, backyards or on the streets. But
that phase was short lived, and never more than a few mouthfuls…

How would you cope with dealing with the blackouts in this world?
Well it would change our world drastically. It wouldn’t just be an ‘inconvenience’. Blackouts that plunge entire cities into darkness are catastrophic and do happen. There was a 25 hour blackout in New York in 1977 that resulted in a huge spike of crime and looting and more than 1000 intentional fires. Our world would be more dangerous. We would all be more vulnerable. I
would feel more powerless and night-time would be scarier. But I hope I would emerge with a survival plan, re-tweak my lifestyle and build a community so that we could survive off the grid
when needed, have an incredible emergency kit that I would never leave home without, torch, whistle, pepper spray, nuts and build a huge network of like-minded people with friends and family.
At night, I would always be ready to run, but to be honest, I seldom wear heels or tight skirts for that reason anyway.

How do think this play appeals to other young women?
It centres on two young women who take the narrative, that so often places women as victims, into their own hands and in the darkness imagine and negotiate a better future. It also breaks down heaps of stereotypes and divides that don’t serve us and that’s appealing. I think people will find it empowering and hopeful see it as a rallying call to stick together and rewrite the way forward. We will make mistakes, but we will get there together. I hope this play will play a small part getting us there.

Would you rather have an 8 hour blackout every week or a month long blackout every 12 months? And why.
Definitely an 8 hour blackout every week. Overall it’s much less time and I think that if our society were to face a month long blackout anarchy would break loose. We do have some back-ups in place; hospitals are supposed to have backup power for 96 hours, there is fuel in storage tanks, but a lot of these require electricity to access. If we all knew that come Sunday we would have 8 hours without electricity we could prepare ourselves, with resources and safety. It might actually force us all to slow down and interact with one another more. And surely it would mean being closer to hitting our carbon budgets. A month would be hard to recover from. Our society is dependent on electricity at every level, and unfortunately we are a selfish species. But I think conscience makes us kinder. Come see the show!

Michelle Ny

Caitlin Burley: In this play, you give a lot of (often unsolicited) free-advice. What is a piece of advice you would give to your 16 year old school girl self?
Michelle Ny: Hey 16 year old, Michelle. I’m sorry but there will be things in your life which are monumentally shit so I can’t say life will be better. BUT, you will grow up and be able to handle things with more emotional maturity and grow with each new obstacle that is thrown at you. So keep feeling things at 1000% (even if this is overwhelming) and keep being weird. x

Tell us about a real-life blackout you’ve experienced.
This isn’t an ~actual~ blackout but once when I was a kid, my parents left for a little while and my brother and I psyched ourselves into fear so we turned off all the lights and sat in
silence in chairs with our back towards the entrance of the room. Then when we heard people coming home we hid underneath the dining table but of course, it was just my family arriving!

What is one of your favourite moments in the play?
This is probably a favourite moment in rehearsals but, because the play has references to the UK, we had to change small references to become Australian, and we have gone through a big debate on what biscuit brand to use. Tim Tams, Tic Tocs, Honey Jumbles, Chit Chats, Coles brand chocolate chip cookies, Chocolate Thins, Gingernuts, Mint Slice, Digestives, Oreos etc… I like cookies.

This play deals with violence against women, is there anything in the play that you find empowering?
The women in this play are not victims and I think they are never portrayed as victims. A lot of awful things happen in their lives but both Bell and Steph take ownership of their issues and seek to find ways to tackle them. I think it’s interesting to see young women who are traditionally vulnerable act on their own means to break the trope of ‘damsel in distress.’

What were you like at school? Did you have a fake ID?
I was pretty high energy and annoying when I was at school but I was also kind of an ~”emo”~. A lot of walking around the corridors with extremely loud teen punk music blasting through my headphones. In my last year of high school we didn’t have to wear a uniform, so I exercised that privilege by skipping almost every chemistry class and lying somewhere on the waterfront. And I only borrowed my sisters ID once to get into a venue which was hosting our wrap party for a web series I was in. Other than that, I was pretty good and the first time I went clubbing was on my 18th birthday!

Caitlin Burley and Michelle Ny can be seen in A Girl In School Uniform (Walks Into A Bar), by Lulu Raczka.
Dates: 20 Sep – 5 Oct, 2019
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

5 Questions with Tariro Mavondo and Jayna Patel

Tariro Mavondo

Jayna Patel: Do you have any pre-show rituals or routines?
Tariro Mavondo: Yes I do. My rituals usually differ depending on what the role I’m playing requires, for instance if it is a highly physical role I will do an intensive physical as well as vocal warm up. I always do a 15-30 min movement yogic sequence to get me into my body and out of my head as well as a set of personal affirmations and 10-15 min breathing meditation. A ritual for a while now has been to brush my teeth before every show to cleanse the day and enter the theatrical space of imagination, possibilities and wonder. I’m partial to candles, dim lights and soft music in my dressing room  and maybe one or two hard hitting tracks too.

If you were to recast the play with celebrities, who would you cast as who?
In line with Adena’s casting because I think she nailed it I would cast Frances McDormand in the principal role of Titus, Vanessa Williams as Tamora, Danai Gurira as Aaron, Peter Dinklage as Saturninus, Travis Fimmel as Bassianus/Marcus double, and I’d still cast Jayna, Tony and Grace because y’all stars in my eyes!

If you had the chance to have dinner with William Shakespeare, what would you ask him?
I’m interested in the theory of Emilia Bassano a black woman who was one of the first professional females writer’s in Elizabethan England having wrote his plays and the theory of her being the dark lady he refer to in his sonnets so I’d probably ask him about that. I’d also put on my best hip hop artists and ask him if he digs it because my guess is he’d be really into it!

Your purple hair for this show is so bold and beautiful! Is there anything you wouldn’t do to your hair for a show?
Thank you! Yeah I’m loving the vibrancy and vitality of wearing purple hair. I have done many things to my hair for the screen and stage there really isn’t anything I wouldn’t do I don’t think. Although my preference is keep it as natural looking as possible and not wear wigs that are closer to European hair if the character doesn’t require that. Black hair has a complete politic of its own and reclaiming the nappy kinky coil look when I can is important to me.

What’s your favourite kind of pie? (excluding Chiron & Demetrius flavour)
I don’t eat very much meat so I’d probably pick a sweet dessert pie – anything with apple. Apple and rhubarb or blueberry. Apple pie is probably my favourite winter dessert I’m also largely dairy free but cream on my apple pie is a must, haha definitely my guilty pleasure!

Jayna Patel

Tariro Mavondo: What has been your favourite part of making Titus Andronicus? And why? 
Jayna Patel: I love Adena’s style of theatre making because it is a collaborative process, and as a young person who often has no say in what goes on to the stage (and sometimes in life!) it’s really refreshing and empowering to have been able to contribute.

You often wear cool political t-shirts and musical theatre t-shirts, what’s your favourite? And why? 
My favourite t-shirt says ‘anti-colonial, anti- capitalist, for climate justice’ because I’m a climate activist who’s frankly quite scared for the future of the planet given the current environmental and political situation – I love being able to express my views & send an important message using what I wear! 

What drew you to wanting to work on Titus?
It’s a pretty funny story actually. Before I was sent this offer I had no idea what Titus Andronicus was, in fact I wasn’t too fond of any Shakespeare at the time! But my mum came to me and said “oh hey, there’s this Shakespeare play thing going on, and they want a 15 year old to audition, do you wanna give it a go?” and i said “sure why not!” So I hear that I actually got in and I’m stoked, and then my dad says “isn’t that Shakespeare’s most violent play?” and the excitement began there…

As your first main stage gig at the Opera House how are you feeling? And how are you managing the school load as well?
The first day we got into the venue, I was buzzing with excitement/nerves and I haven’t stopped! I cannot wait to hit the stage with this amazing team of artist and creatives. And as for school work… uh, let’s just say hopefully none of my teachers are reading this article!

Catch Tariro Mavondo and Jayna Patel in Titus Andronicus, by William Shakespeare.
Dates: 27 Aug – 22 Sep, 2019
Venue: Sydney Opera House

5 Questions with Idam Sondhi and Nicole Wineberg

Idam Sondhi

Nicole Wineberg: You play 4 characters, 3 of which are puppets… what’s that like?
Idam Sondhi: It’s both a great challenge and rewarding playing several characters. 3 of which are puppets – it’s something I’ve never done. However, the nature of the play and the amount of time we got to improvise and try different things out was very liberating. The time allowed me to get comfortable in the skin and souls of our fabric friends.

Why is U.B.U relevant to today’s audiences?
U.B.U touches upon some extremely important issues which effect each individual on this planet. Our environment is sacred and a home we often take for granted. U.B.U deals with the repercussions of neglect which are caused by human tendencies such as greed, power and money. We need to have more self awareness and work at getting better and sharing vital knowledge to the future generation at restoring what’s broken about our environment. It takes each and everyone one of us to make a change and take care of the planet.

Is U.B.U just potty humour or is there something in there for the more discerning of tastes?
U.B.U is for everyone! It allows us to self-reflect and does it in a tasteful way (even though all the flavours might not taste good). It’s theatre you’ve never seen before!

What’s your favourite character and line in the play?
I love all the characters so much! Especially because we explored each one individually! But Bob and Bill (the royal twins) have a special place in my heart – played wonderfully by Shane and Rachel. My favourite line is “grotty, snotty, spottibots!” You will only know what that means if you come and watch the play!

Could you please sum up our version of U.B.U in 5 words?
Grotesque, truthful, hilarious, experiential, memorable!

Nicole Wineberg

Idam Sondhi: Tell us a bit about your character.
She’s a princess who has never faced anything resembling hardship who then is thrust into a horrible situation by Ubu and his followers. She also has a really good wig. The Sansa Stark of white privilege! 

What was it like being part on an ensemble cast like this?
Exciting, entertaining, terrifying and educational, all rolled into one spicy burrito. It was invigorating working with a group of people who were so willing to look foolish and grotesque for the sake of storytelling and humour.

What should people take away from the messages in U.B.U?
a) Take climate change seriously and do something about it! It doesn’t matter how little or insignificant it is, just make a start and commit to making a change!
b) There’s a fart joke to suit every taste!

What was your most memorable moment during the rehearsal process?
It was actually the audition process! We were stunned with the sheer amount of talent and weirdness Sydney actors have! The stuff we saw will haunt us till the day we die, that’s for sure!

If you could eat any dish every day for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
A medley of deep fried potato: your standard hand-cut chip, crinkle-cut and shoestring fries, gems and wedges. Delish. If you have to ask why, you’re an idiot.

Catch Idam Sondhi and Nicole Wineberg in U.B.U A Cautionary Tale Of Catastrophe, by Richard Hilliar.
Dates: 10 – 21 Sep, 2019
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

5 Questions with Tommy Misa and Annie Stafford

Tommy Misa

Annie Stafford: If you were to be trapped in a room with someone, who would it be? (And you can’t say me.)
Tommy Misa: I spend a lot of time alone and tend to figure things out solo so I would prefer to have a doggo with me! Humans are unreliable.

Betty Breaks Out deals with stereotypes and breaking forth from those roles, what stereotype or role are you currently enjoying breaking out of?
In my own life I am very comfortable in my self. In my acting I am enjoying breaking free of the stereotypes of what masculinity can look like, it comes in so many different expressions and different genders and finding ways to show what exists outside of what society deems “masculine” is freeing and sexy!

Who were the heroes and heroines of your childhood?
Growing up I didn’t see many queer or brown characters on screen or stage so my heroes were those I knew. My mother, my grandmothers and all the strong women who taught me what I know… oh and Queen Latifah.

Through watching silent Films for research and inspiration, what are the top 3 things you’ve taken away that you want to implement into your performance?
1. Physicality was so camp and melo-dramatic! I’m here for that.
2. Show, Don’t tell – We are told this so often but when you have no dialogue you really have to bring it back to basics.
3. The way men/women navigated power dynamics of characters depending on gender, I want to flip all that shit on its head.

Have you ever met someone (famous or not) that you had a perceived idea of what they would be like due to their roles or public persona, and have them either confirm your idea of them or completely dash it? Without naming names. Or name names.
Yes – I had seen you all up in my socials all booked and blessed and I was all like “Who is Annie Stafford she seems so together and friendly” turns out you’re both those things plus more and share my same love of boiled eggs.

Annie Stafford

Tommy Misa: Annie, your grandmother was an actor in the 40s/50s, what has changed since then for women in the industry and what things still need to change?
A voice. On and off the stage I would say. My grandmother was an incredibly headstrong woman, and no doubt would have brought that to any stage, but not all female roles were written as such. Women characters were more often than not merely facilitators of the male characters story, the beautiful detailing around the edges of the pages of their life. I believe we have a long way to go in regards to accurate but also interesting representation (of everyone) for I feel we are still suck in a stereotypical idea of what and how we represent.

Betty is a strong and spirited character who voices struggles of that era. What are some of her obstacles that you resonate with?
Betty is bold and ambitious and I think both those traits even now are tough to navigate which feels absolutely ridiculous. Boldness being seen as entitled , rude or aggressive instead of strong, assertive or impressive (I just rhymed and I’m totally okay with that). Ambition being seen as cold, harsh and selfish, instead of brave, determined and inspired. And so in fear of being seen as dominating or pushy, Betty (and myself from time to time) squash this radiating drive that gives us purpose and a sense of fulfilment just to remain approachable, likeable, accepted. Well to hell with that Betty ol gal. Ambition is hot!

If Betty had a song from the 00’s what would it be?
Oooo Poker Face by Lady Gaga. And yes that was in the 00’s. 2008!!!!!!

What are you most excited about audiences seeing in Betty Breaks Out that may be new to audiences?
The fact that we’ve picked up form and thrown it at a wall. And I’m going to leave it there…

What have you enjoyed/struggled with in the rehearsal process?
I’ve really enjoyed the physical work we’ve been doing. As a wise legend once said “Show, Don’t Tell” – Tommy Misa 2019, and I think we’ve found a lot of freedom and inspiration in that. Also having the playwright, Liz Hobart, in the room has been a dream and Ellen Wiltshire (our director) with her divine energy, has given us so much room to play. Struggle… nope. Its been a dream. You’ve been a dream Tommy, especially with your boiled eggs.

Catch Tommy Misa and Annie Stafford in Betty Breaks Out, by Liz Hobart.
Dates: 27 Aug – 7 Sep, 2019
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

5 Questions with Jess-Belle Keogh and Bardiya McKinnon

Jess-Belle Keogh

Bardiya McKinnon:What is your biggest pet peeve?
Jess-Belle Keogh: This is a great question, which one do I choose? Okay so, I’m a good walker, I’m quick, even when I’m lost, so people taking up the entire pavement and having no spatial awareness grinds my gears. On a larger scale, I’m very passionate about women’s rights, so violations of those rights does an angry Jessie make (frequently vocal about it, proud of that fact, thanks very much).

What is it like working opposite only one other actor?
So the last two plays I did had at least 3-4 other actors in the room. This work has made me really check in with my own practice. It’s made me more passionate about current events. Ultimately, all of this fills me with enormous joy—it’s taught me to be more present and say “yes!” I don’t know, man– I like working with you too, I guess.

How do you put up with me?
Darling, thanks for checking in. To be frank with you, I’ve resorted to extensive periods of monastic silence in community gardens. It’s a spiritual overhaul. How the hell do you put up with me? God, you poor thing.

Friendship is the ongoing theme in An Intervention, how do your real world experiences feed this role?
The women I’ve surrounded myself with consistently operate with authenticity. The group consists of two sets of twins, and me. We’re all very different. They’re good people who keep me honest, and I love them a great deal. They’re my ride-or-dies, it isn’t shallow territory. We aren’t afraid to show each other love or say “hey, you’re being an asshole.” Wouldn’t trade them for anything. They’re my family. Likewise, I’ve got some incredible friends from a myriad of places who I love to the moon and back, like yourself. So that’s my approach to friendship. Does that answer your question?

What do you think the biggest message of this show is?
Look, not to sound woo-woo, but life has a funny way of making us feel like we’re alone in all of this. The world is in turmoil, after all, and we’re lonelier than ever watching atrocity after atrocity on our smartphones. Or, we’re Instagram distracted in other ways and unaware. We’re rendered inactive all of a sudden; self-conscious voyeurs. Don’t fall for it: apathy or cool indifference is a waste of your time. Be passionate about the big stuff. Do something. Lean into looking silly. Fail gloriously. Risk buggering it all up. But show up, look around, do something. Even if it’s scary or inconvenient or doesn’t suit your Instagram aesthetic. Show up for each other and for life. People are there to meet you. You aren’t alone and damn the thing that makes you feel that way. Lean in. I promise you won’t regret it.

Bardiya McKinnon

Jess-Belle Keogh: Bardiya, I think you’re great. Sorry, that wasn’t a question. Right. Bardiya, what do you like about Mike Bartlett’s An Intervention?
Bardiya McKinnon: I love the simplicity of it all. This show does everything in its power to draw audiences into the relationship between these two best friends. It strips away props, set, bells and whistles to focus on the beautiful space between these two “best” friends. In doing so it creates a very real, honest and genuine portrayal of life and 2 damaged people standing up for what they believe is right. I love it for that.

An Intervention involves spirited debate about socio-political matters on a global scale. We go head to head about these issues, often in bombastic ways. What cause do you feel strongly about at the moment?
This is a tough question to answer because I have never really been one for specific “causes”. I believe in the values that what I was brought up with – that all people no matter their skin colour, orientation, gender or belief system are entitled to love whoever they want, work in whichever field they so choose and believe in whatever cause they choose to as long as it doesn’t impede or harm anyone else. I know that sounds like a cop out answer but my belief system is completely inclusive and I’m sick of hearing about person/s or groups who use their power as a way of regulating how people should exist in their own skin.

We’ve been friends since 2017 (I know, don’t lose it). Perhaps tell the people about how we met? And who is Erin Taylor?
Holy crap 2017…so much has happened in my life since then. You and I met under circumstances that mirror our current situation quite closely. We worked on a show at the Old 505 in 2017, the Outhouse theatre company production of BU21 by Stuart Slade directed by our incredible director Erin Taylor. That show was an absolute highlight for me and every single member of that team was so so wonderful. After working with our wonderful director Erin Taylor on that show I knew exactly who should helm An Intervention once I had read it. Her voice and ability to tap into the fine human details that are easy to miss really make this production really special.

What have you seen recently that literally (or figuratively) knocked your socks off?
Apart from you crushing it in this show? Yeah, have you seen the wonderful promo video we made for this show where we asked a bunch of people in the street about certain events that affected their relationships. It’s super beautiful and super honest and captures our show really well. Now apart from that shameless plug my real answer is: That video of the raccoon dipping the fairy floss into a puddle… love that shit.

Right, let’s do the damn thing. Five words to describe the show— aaaaand go!:
Defiant, Flawed with Love and Wine. (I know that’s 6 but “and” is barely a word…)

Catch Jess-Belle Keogh and Bardiya McKinnon in An Intervention by Mike Bartlett.
Dates: 20 – 31 Aug, 2019
Venue: Old 505 Theatre

5 Questions with Sam O’Sullivan and Eloise Snape

Sam O’Sullivan

Eloise Snape: In Wink you play the titular character, who is a cat. Seeing as you are slightly obsessed with your own cat, Terry, have you enjoyed observing his behaviour and what has been the most interesting part of your research for this role?
Sam O’Sullivan: First of all, great use of the word “titular”. Second, as you know, I always enjoy observing, photographing, playing with, talking about and hanging out with Terry. I think the best thing about him, and cats in general, is that despite their small stature, they have the attitudes and the instincts of larger cats. When we say someone has the heart of a lion, we mean that they’re brave, determined and loyal. Well, Terry actually has the heart of a lion, its just unfortunate that the rest of him is a British Short Hair.

Jen Silverman has an incredibly unique voice. As a fellow writer, what’s your favourite thing about the way she tells this story and why do you think she is an important contemporary voice?
This play is funny. So right away, you know that Silverman knows what she’s doing. What I love about Wink is the way the humour in the play evolves to carry her message. Things that initially feel like a gag or just plain weirdness over time become incredibly potent metaphors. This play is about a lot of things, but for me what resonates and what makes it important is that it interrogates our ideas and preconceptions about what is “normal” and how unhealthy it can be to cling to those ideas. There is a lot of talk about how civilised people should behave in Wink, but ultimately, for the characters to survive they need to destroy that way of thinking.

You’ve worked with Anthony Skuse and Graeme McRae before, many moons ago in Punk Rock. What has been the most enjoyable thing about working together again, now you are all kinda old?
Way harsh, Tai. This is my forth time working with Skusie (previously Punk Rock, Constellations and Platonov) and third with Graeme (Punk Rock and Platonov). Practically speaking, the more you work with people, the more you develop a short hand which means you can get more work done. You can trust each other to be direct with feedback if something isn’t working and you know nothing’s personal. At the end of the day, we’re all friends, we all respect each other’s work and we’re just trying to make the best show possible. With Skusie, I always feel like we’re exploring and discovering the play together. He has an incredible amount of experience and knowledge but on day one of rehearsals I always feel like where starting from the same spot and that we’re collaborating. Once you’ve started from that place, later when you’re alone on stage, you feel like your director has got your back. Graeme just really likes his job. And that enthusiasm is infectious, especially when it’s backed up by someone who’s done the work and is raising the standard in rehearsals every day. All plays need a Graeme.

Wink explores a very unhappy marriage. What lessons have you learnt from Gregor and Sofie’s failed relationship to ensure the same things won’t happen in your own?
Two things: tolerance and patience. Your partner will never be as perfect as you and the sooner you accept that the happier you’ll be. However, the question now is, which one of us is the imperfect one and which one is being patient? Perhaps that’s something you need to answer for yourself. I’ll wait…

You are a movie buff and have your own movie club which is just you and the cat watching movies. What’s your all time favourite movie and why?
For the record, Movie Club is open to everyone. Terry and I are just more committed than the rest of you. I always find questions about a favourite movie difficult because honestly, I just like movies. They’re my happy place. I don’t like absolutely everything, but I like a lot of stuff, even “bad” movies. My go-to answer for this question is usually Trainspotting because it’s the first movie that I remember having a profound effect on me. I would have been about twelve when I saw it and I think at the time it redefined a lot of what I thought cinema had to be. The narration, the structure, a guy diving into a toilet to retrieve his suppositories. I grew up watching things like Star Wars and Back to the Future and I love those films but Trainspotting broke so many conventions that it opened up a whole new world of storytelling for me.

Eloise Snape

Sam O’Sullivan: Why do you watch so much reality television? Is it because you hate art?
Ok first of all, I am very picky with my reality TV viewing. I would call myself a Survivor fan, but I’m not nek level. I was recently invited into the Survivor Super Fan Facebook group and those people are FANS. I am a rookie floating around in there. I also enjoy The Bachelor for the pure lobotomy. When I truly want to switch my brain off and literally dribble, mouth open in front of the television, I watch The Bach. It’s also highly amusing. Everyone has their thing, yours is video games, mine is shit television.

In Wink, your character is struggling with a selfish and uncommunicative partner. How did you prepare for this, given that your real partner is so generous?
As surprising as this may sound, I have dated other people before you, Sam O’Sullivan.

Your character’s cat also goes missing. In a Sophie’s Choice type situation where you had to pick between me and our cat, Terry, honestly, who would you pick and why?
Tricky question. The best thing about cats is they love you unconditionally as long as you can provide them with a quality can of cat food. You on the other hand require more than cat food to keep happy. BUT, Terry doesn’t bring ME food. You are very generous with your feeding of me and you aren’t a shabby cook either. So I choose you. Sorry Terrence.

Wink could be interpreted in a number of different ways. In just three words, what is Jen Silverman’s play actually about?
Identity. Desire. Transformation.

You’ve acted in and produced a lot of Sydney theatre. Is there a production that holds a special place in your heart?
This is super tricky. I have done a lot of independent theatre and the nature of indie productions is that people work above and beyond to create something special and because everyone ends up doing multiple jobs you really all become a family. Also the run never feels long enough – so it’s always hard to say goodbye at the end. But Amy Herzog’s play, 4000 Miles, also directed by Skusie, which I did back in 2013 is the first show I produced and acted in after drama school and it was with my bestie, Stephen Multari. That was why we started MopHead and the show toured around Australia and the rest is history.

Catch Sam O’Sullivan and Eloise Snape in Wink by Jen Silverman.
Dates: 2 – 24 Aug, 2019
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

5 Questions with Emily Dash and Dean Nash

Emily Dash

Dean Nash: What’s your favourite line of dialogue in Freefall and why?
Emily Dash: “I’m not your inspiration, I’m a fucking incineration”. I think this line sums up the vibrant character of Megan in a lot of ways. It very deliberately references the concept of “inspiration porn” and pushes against that, because that was something important to me. But it also shows her humour, her spirit, the way she doesn’t take anything – even conversations about death – too seriously.

What inspired you to write Freefall?
It was, of course, an opportunity to represent diverse issues and voices. Initially I was really interested in the dynamic between two people who are very different but love each other deeply, because I think it resonates with a lot of people. Love is beautiful, and challenging, but by no means simple – and nor is grief. Freefall is not a true story, but it’s a very real story – and it’s a testament to hope, to honour a great many experiences and various people who are close to my heart.

Describe your perfect Sunday.
My perfect Sunday would involve coffee and brunch with close friends, and then a relaxing indulgent day – walking my dog Bailey, reading, writing, watching TV and listening to music, doing a cryptic crossword with my mum. To finish it off would be dinner and a few drinks with my family – my parents, my brother Campbell, my sister Steph and her husband Simon – while we debate the answers to this week’s quiz in the Good Weekend.

If you could collaborate with any artist alive or dead who would it be.
Honestly? Sheridan Harbridge, or Daniel Monks.

What inspires you?
Strong, resilient people (especially women) being authentically themselves and having the courage to chase their dreams, who respect themselves, who value their relationships, build people up and strive to make a difference in the world.

Dean Nash

Emily Dash: Why do you think theatre is important?
Dean Nash: I’ve always seen the art of storytelling as an incredibly effective catalyst for positive change. Theatre entertains but it also challenges perceptions, poses questions, incites empathy, and informs; I think that is really important.

What makes a good scene partner?
Acting is reacting! I love working with actors that I know are going to make bold choices that I am going to be able to play off, and who in turn are going to catch whatever ball I throw to them. In Freefall I’m blessed to be working alongside a whole cast of beautifully honest and emotionally intelligent actors and I cannot wait for people to see this show.

What’s going to surprise people about Freefall?
I don’t think people will be prepared for the spectrum of emotions they will feel over the course of this show. Freefall is definitely a rollercoaster!

What songs do you think Shane would pick to represent each of the characters?
Megan – Walk On the Wild Side by Lou Reed
Millie – Paranoid Android by Radiohead
Carmen – Cigarettes Will Kill You by Ben Lee
Eleni – I’ll Be There For You by The Rembrandts
Shane – You’ve Got A Friend In Me by Randy Newman

A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he says and why is he here?
“The ice caps are melting and I want to taco’bout it!” The Mariachi penguin is on a crusade to bring awareness to the climate crisis!

Catch Emily Dash and Dean Nash in Freefall by Emily Dash, part of the “3x3x2 Festival of New Works”.
Dates: 14 – 24 Aug, 2019
Venue: PACT Centre for Emerging Artists

5 Questions with Mathew Lee and Annie Stafford

Mathew Lee

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.

Annie Stafford

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