5 Questions with Jeremi Campese and Ruby O’Kelly

Jeremi Campese

Ruby O’Kelly: What was your initial reaction to Moth after reading it for the first time?
Jeremi Campese: Above everything, I was in shock… I had no idea what to expect when I began. I remember laughing more than I expected, and being completely stunned at other times. The story starts moving so quickly and before I knew it, I’d read the final scene. That’s when I realised you need to be focused from the ‘go’, because the story challenges you both thematically and narratively. To get under Sebastian’s journey, you need to be really zeroed-in… there are so many recurring ideas and lines that hold him together!

What do you love most about Declan Greene’s writing?
It’s very easy to tell a typical story of 15-year-old high school students in a less-serious, downplayed manner. But Declan takes these characters and runs with them so earnestly and brilliantly! They are immature but their story has such mature and intense subject matter. He builds and develops them with such care that we as actors have so much to play with and think about. The way Declan conveys the history of their friendship in such a short amount of time means that he plays with the audience’s heartstrings with ease. The language is also so familiar: it’s hilarious when a playwright nails Millennial vernacular.

Since working on Moth, a play that explores some very heavy themes including mental illness and bullying… do you now see the world a little differently?
Hugely. A lot of reflection has gone on since we started rehearsing about my school life, the way I saw kids treated, sometimes how I treated them myself. With Sebastian, what shook me the most was how quickly his world unravels: the whole story takes place over less than 3 days. Things can escalate, and they can escalate dangerously and quickly. Claryssa learns that the hard way, and so do the audience.

Was there anyone in your own high school experience that inspired your characterisation of Sebastian? It’s very good.
Thank you!! Yeah, there are certainly parallels I saw that I had to draw on. Primarily with his mannerisms and overall physicality I have a few friends in mind. So in terms of those ideas, I can’t really take credit for them – I’m just mimicking. But looking into Sebastian’s psychotic experiences, I was mainly left to my own research: as his experiences start becoming more and more abnormal (without giving too much away), I was drawn further away from my comfort zone.

Moth is your second show at ATYP in 2017. How is this experience different to your last play Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore?
Oedipus was a fast learning curve in terms of stage discipline, having to constantly embody new characters. In Moth, we have to do the same, but when we ‘play’ other characters, it is less clean: it’s more mockery. This has its own difficulty, because I’m having to constantly think about Seb’s attitude towards those characters, not just my own. And that’s the key difference, this show has made me to dive deeply into one individual’s experiences (as any great show does). They are both remarkable plays in their own rights, and I’m just so grateful to ATYP for giving me the opportunities. I can’t wait to get this one in front of an audience!

Ruby O’Kelly

Jeremi Campese: What’s the most difficult part about playing a high school student in Moth?
Ruby O’Kelly: Hormones in high school are all over the chop and playing with the fear of not being understood through making horrible decisions has been a great challenge. It’s funny though, as soon as our designer Tyler Hawkins gave me a school uniform skirt to wear in rehearsals, I put it on and I relived the awkwardness and weight of the material and had a rush of nostalgic insecurity. High school seems like a long time ago but the emotional trauma of being a teenager can stick with you forever.

Claryssa is a girl who, deep down, is insecure, but she covers it a lot, sometimes with mockery. How do you look for the balance between landing the humour and truth? You get it so right!
Daww thanks buddy. Declan Greene’s writing lends a huge hand to this balance by giving Claryssa a huge emotional journey. I guess what makes Claryssa funny is that half the time she’s mocking Sebastian, teachers, (everybody), she’s not trying to be funny. She genuinely thinks everyone is a fuckhead and what comes out of her mouth is so ridiculous it gets a laugh!

How do you want audiences to react to the show? Particularly ATYP’s younger audiences.
I hope the reaction from this play is reflection.. I don’t want to give away too much!! Working on Moth has made me want to be a better person. Moth has also given me a greater understanding of the consequence for actions made in high school.

The play pivots on Seb and Claryssa’s relationship. How would you define it in 3 words?
HA… and what a relationship they have… Today I’ll go with savage, hopeless and hilarious.

Rachel Chant works very collaboratively, so we’ve had a gratefully large role in shaping the play thus far. How have you found working with her? And most importantly, how long did it take to learn your lines????? Kidding…
Rachel has been an absolute dream to work with. Her incredible mind, generosity and empathy as a director creates the best environment for Jeremi and I to truly play. Rachel incorporates a lot of improvisation before we get scenes off the ground and often uses the creative impulses and physical discoveries we actors make to inspire some of her direction. She is a very cool lady.

Jeremi Campese and Ruby O’Kelly can be seen in Moth by Declan Greene.
Dates: 6 – 16 Sep, 2017
Venue: ATYP

Review: Moth (Millstone Productions)

Venue: ATYP (Walsh Bay NSW), Sep 6 – 16, 2017
Playwright: Declan Greene
Director: Rachel Chant
Cast: Jeremi Campese, Ruby O’Kelly
Image by Rupert Reid

Theatre review
Sebastian has been coughing up blood. He is being bullied at school, and we observe that at home, things are not faring much better. Computer games and a close friend Claryssa, however, keep his spirits up. Declan Greene’s two-hander Moth, features a pair of teenage outsiders trying to figure things out in a hostile environment, with little more than each other for support. The work begins with familiar scenes of schoolyard mischief, but becomes increasingly surreal, along with the escalation of Sebastian’s mental illness.

The play gives expression to dark sides of today’s youth with an impressive honesty, but leaves us to manage an understanding of how this has come to be, and how we are able to find improvements and solutions for the ones we are wholly responsible for. Greene’s sharp focus on the phenomena of youth disenfranchisement within our communities, is edgy and unquestionably disturbing, but also tremendously intriguing, and in parts very entertaining indeed. Moth‘s reluctance to explain itself makes us work harder, and hence, fall deeper into the theatrical quandary that it presents.

Director Rachel Chant does spectacularly in having us experience both the mesmeric and repulsive qualities of Claryssa and Sebastian’s story. The show is urgently energetic, and even though it struggles to retain coherence when the plot turns resolutely obtuse, our attention is always pulled back into its tumultuously evolving narrative, by Chant’s extraordinary flair for manufacturing poignancy. Remarkably well designed, the production’s visuals and sounds are a real pleasure. Todd Fuller’s animated projections and Alexander Berlage’s lights add rich and exciting dimensions to the staging, while Chrysoulla Markoulli’s music and Tom Hogan’s sound design impact upon our consciousness with circumspect precision.

Actors Jeremi Campese and Ruby O’Kelly are flawless in the piece. Campese’s potent charisma proves irresistible, and instrumental in how we regard Sebastian’s very upsetting downward spiral. He is a captivating presence, with the uncanny ability to take us through fluctuating spells of drama and comedy seamlessly, sometimes simultaneously. O’Kelly is meticulous in her exacting depiction of Claryssa, with intelligently construed gestures and utterances, offering us a beautifully nuanced study of the troubled teen. These kids worry us. We understand their dependence, and we can see in their eyes, the most accurate image of the world that we become.

www.millstoneproductions.com