Belinda Giblin: Who is Charmaine Bingwa?
Charmaine Bingwa: I am such an amalgam, but will try to be concise. I was born in Australia and am the youngest of the three children born to my Zimbabwean parents. I grew up in Perth and moved to Sydney on my own when I was 18. In terms of job titles, besides actor I have also turned my hand as director, producer, composer, singer, guitarist, writer, amongst other things. I’m a Scorpio, I don’t sleep very much, I prefer character over comfort, I pretty much always have a script or book in my hand, I like to lead by example, I don’t drink alcohol, I care too much, I love to sing, I value sincerity, I work stupid-hard and I am addicted to making those around me laugh.
Tell us a bit about your journey into the acting profession?
It was quite serendipitous really. I was studying music, I decided to take acting as an elective to help with public speaking. But I loved it and was almost immediately hooked. I got permission to do the acting course in addition to my music degree and here I am!
What is it that draws you to a particular role? What drew you to this particular play?
I like playing complex individuals. I believe that personality traits lie on a spectrum, where the same trait that helps someone, can also hurt or hinder them. For me, that is humanity. For me, that is where the gold lies in characterisation. For me, that is the crux of Doubt: A Parable. I love the investigative process of finding a character. I’ve always been fascinated by how things work; as a kid, I even used to pull apart computers and rebuild them just for shits and giggles.
And at risk of sounding otherworldly, I believe that roles choose me. Certain roles find me at critical junctures of my life when I need to learn or experience something on a deeper level. I also feel like roles gift me, more than I gift them. I’m fastidious in my preparation, so I come away learning so much more about history, people, moments in time, disorders, human nature, personality types or whatever it may be. For a nerd like me, that’s Christmas.
Doubt is set in the Bronx in 1964, if Mrs. Muller were to live under the Trump presidency, would she be a Republican or a Democrat? What would be her political agenda?
I think she would be a Democrat for sure. She would have loved that there had been a President Obama! All this woman wants is progress, and she is willing to put aside short-term well being in exchange for long-term advancement. For her, a Trump presidency would be a hard pill to swallow.
I think Ava DuVernay’s Academy award nominated documentary The 13th puts forward the hypothesis perfectly that the persecution of African American people just reappears in different permutations throughout history; slavery turned into convict leasing, which turned into lynchings and Jim Crow, which turned into the war on drugs and mass incarceration, which turned into police brutality and institutionalised racism. I think she would be heavily involved in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Actors prepare for their roles in different ways. Do you have a “process” that enables you to inhabit a role?
The preparation I do is always dictated by the role. For Mrs Muller I did extensive research as I felt in order to temper the words that come out of her mouth, the audience needs to feel her history. The answers lie in the generations that have gone before her – so backstory was key.
I just keep asking questions – what bible verses does she love, what were her formative years like, what is the one secret she is taking to the grave? I’m always fascinated by what I find. But my most important step is to throw all the technical work I’ve done away and just tell the truth, or tell their truth rather. The rest of my process is a secret!
Charmaine Bingwa: What made you first want to get into acting?
Belinda Giblin: Both my parents and siblings were involved in the Performing Arts in one way or another so I was surrounded by a lot of singing and dancing and acting from an early age. I’ve always had an instinctive need to perform, to put on that “mask” if you like, so the acting profession was a very natural choice for me.
Mind you, I did a few things before I got there, including an Arts degree and a short stint at NIDA. They threw me out of NIDA after one year. I was described as “laconic” and it was suggested that “trial and error” may be my better training! My first job was in the TV series Matlock… in black and white!
John Patrick Shanley says Doubt is the “age-old practise of the wise”. Do you agree and how is this evident in your life?
Absolutely. When I was 16 I thought I knew everything! Nothing had been tested too much at that age. But now, in my 60’s, I am more circumspect because, of course, life keeps changing, the goal posts get moved, nothing is certain and we never stop learning and growing. Therein lies the wisdom I guess. Pretty exciting!
If you and Sister Aloysius had a dinner party and could invite 2 guests each-who would you each bring and why? And yes, they all have to get along!
Oh dear! Well…. Sister Aloysius would invite the Pope of course because she would wish to get his opinion on the “Boys’ Club hierarchy” of the Roman Catholic church and have a few words to say to him about that! And because she is an educated woman and a great lover of words she would invite that famous 19th Century poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, to discuss his religious doubt-filled sonnets, particularly the one about “God’s Grandeur”. Please explain!
I would invite Germaine Greer and that fabulous camp American satirist, Randy Rainbow, to throw into the mix! Sister Aloysius would have a lot in common with Germaine Greer and Randy Rainbow would cheer Gerard up no end! The Pope would sit and smile benignly and fall asleep!
Is there a dream role you are still yet to play?
I’ve never hankered after roles that have been done before, to put my particular stamp on them. There will always be comparisons. I tend to favour something new, as long as the writing is wonderful! Oh what?….did Meryl Streep do Doubt? Why didn’t someone tell me?
We’ve seen you play so many amazingly crafted characters, but what are Belinda Giblin’s defining qualities?
Optimism; humour; resilience; curiosity; tenacity; self-determination; obsessiveness; dedication; compassion…what? Oh, I’m sorry… is that enough? OK.
Charmaine Bingwa and Belinda Giblin can be seen in Doubt: A Parable by John Patrick Shanley.
Dates: 10 May – 3 June, 2017
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre