5 Questions with Sam O’Sullivan and Whitney Richards

Sam O’Sullivan

Whitney Richards: What was the seedling from Doubt that started this whole process?
Sam O’Sullivan: In the preface of Doubt, John Patrick Shanley, wrote about the feeling of doubt having negative, weak connotations, however he views it as a sign of strength. He wrote that doubt is the first step towards change and the ability to grow. If we’re too stuck in our ways, too certain of our world, we lose our capacity for empathy and risk isolating ourselves from our fellow humans. I loved this idea and it influenced my entire reading of Shanley’s play. From this, I knew I wanted to write something about doubt as strength.

Are you surprised with how the original idea has evolved into the final product?
Yes and no. My brief from Redline was always to take an element of the play – whatever spoke to me – and run with it. And Doubt is such a rich piece of writing, that there were a lot of directions I could have run. So I’m not too surprised that we have ended up where we are, but in saying that, I think I’ve always been conscious that we are on the same night as Doubt. We want to have a play that will interest the audiences who are coming to see Shanley’s play.

Do you think it’s a happy accident that the team is mostly WA migrants? How has that influenced the production?
It is a happy accident because, with the exception of my relationship with you (Whitney), none of us really knew each other before we started working on this play. But we definitely all bonded very quickly and I think Perth had something to do with that.

What has been different about this quick response process to how you usually work?
I always work for quite sporadic, intense periods and then shove scripts away in a drawer to ferment for a few months while I go something else. This time around, I haven’t been able walk away for too long, so to compensate I think I’ve been a lot more collaborative with the cast and production team to fast track some of the creative decisions.

As a writer/actor, what is it like to step back and hand your work over to other actors? Basically… do you love us?
It’s awful. I’ve never seen a bigger bunch of numpties make something so simple look so difficult. 🙂 But yes, I love you.

Whitney Richards

Sam O’Sullivan: What’s the best and worst thing about travelling alone?
Well, I’ve done this one a lot lately. Although it’s always been paired with touring a show which is really bloody stressful alone. You’re not sharing the workload of scheduling and plans which can be a bugger but also you get to do what you want when you want. At times I’ve felt a little vulnerable. Like I had to be hyper aware of personal safety. I did have my heart broken whilst overseas and that really sucked.

My travel self is my best self. I feel more alive and keen to push myself to try new things. When you travel alone you are without metaphorical baggage. No job title, no relationships. You become more present. You are forced to make friends. And fast track these relationships because you know your have limited time. People see you for who you are which I’ve found to be a confidence boost. I come home feeling more comfortable in my own skin. I do have moments of sadness when something at home triggers a memory from my travels; a song or a person or a show and I have no-one to rekindle the memory with.

What can your siblings do that still drive you nuts?
Actually, I’ve always completely admired my older sisters. They’re intelligent, fiery and hilarious women and mums. There’s a bit of an age gap between us so they never drove me nuts in the way my nieces and nephews do to each other. Such a power play there. It’s fascinating to watch the love and the hate. The care for each other and then the violence! Just like the characters in The Wind In The Underground. It’s been fun playing siblings that grew up together because my sisters and I didn’t get to do that. I’m younger than my sisters so I reckon I was probably the irritating one. I do remember visiting my sister when I had turned 18 and her saying to me “You’re so different. I can have a conversation with you now.”

Whats a private joke that only you and your siblings would find funny?
It might be a WA thing or an us thing…but we’ve always enjoyed the word “jobby”. Its means poo. Yep.

How has rehearsing The Wind In The Underground been different to other plays?
It’s always thrilling to be involved in new works. You get to witness and be a part of the changes that make it a stronger and stronger story. I love hearing from writers about the impetus for the story and characters. It was odd watching Doubt the other night and remembering that The Wind In The Underground is a response to that. It’s such a different world. I think people seeing the double will have an excellent night at the theatre.

The 40 minute slot is something I’ve never done before. The story has to be simpler than a 1hr+ show to have a satisfying beginning middle and end. Claire is an interesting person to explore. She doesn’t say a whole lot so finding a way to thread her emotional journey together continues to be an interesting process for me. She’s stuck in an place I found myself in a few years ago (pre-travel) so that’s been familiar territory.

I hadn’t worked with anyone on our team before, so it’s been a bloody delight getting to know these hilarious humans. We feel like a real family.

Whats your favourite thing about the Old Fitz?
I spend my nights ushering at Belvoir St and Sydney Theatre Company so when I have a night off, I usually try to spend it away from the theatre. I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t see everything at the Old Fitz. I’ve really enjoyed my time there though. Firstly, the space itself is really great. The 60ish seater is truly my favourite. It’s perfect for really hearing and connecting with an audience. You’re much closer to the feedback loop. It reminds me of the beautiful Blue Room theatre in Perth. I’m enjoying the vom entrance very much too.

It seems like Redline have a great connection with the patrons of the pub, the people who run it and the theatre community. So from someone coming in with fresh eyes, that seems to be a beautiful functioning thing. I’m looking forward to our season and hope to see more shows there in the future.

Whitney Richards appears in The Wind In The Underground by Sam O’Sullivan.
Dates: 23 May – 3 June, 2017
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre

Review: Binary Stars And Best Lives (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Mar 28 – Apr 8, 2017
Playwright: Samantha Hill
Director: Michael Abercromby
Cast: Katie Beckett, Nathalie Murray, Jenae O’Connor, Amelia Tranter

Theatre review
A gun shot is fired, sending chills down our spines. A woman appears, disoriented, a time-traveller perhaps, or someone from a parallel universe, but more probably, she is just released from prison for shooting her husband some years back. Babe is an astrophysicist, with a keen interest in realms other than the immediate reality. Having given up her own dreams to become trophy wife to a television celebrity, she loses her sense of self, and we find her grasping at straws to justify her existence.

Samantha Hill’s Binary Stars And Best Lives is theatrical, ambitious and complicated, but its cacophony of rich ideas struggle to communicate with clarity. It seems to have a lot to say, including issues about Aboriginality, feminism and materialism, all worthy of exploration, that might be better dealt with if greater attention was put into creating a more cohesive narrative.

Babe is an elusive character, who actor Katie Beckett embraces with conviction, especially in sections of heightened drama and emotion. Amelia Tranter impresses in dual comedic roles, both memorable for different, and absurd, reasons. Nathalie Murray and Jenae O’Connor add further vibrancy and fun to a show that is otherwise more than a little confusing.

We need to have concurrent truths in order that life can be bearable. Whether complementary or conflicting, the different ways we form an understanding of how things happen, must allow some plasticity, or all our days would only be harsh and cruel. Even when Babe is made to face the consequences of her irrefutable actions, her mind provides explanations that she can live with. We all see the world differently, but how we co-exist is the perennial challenge.

www.oldfitztheatre.com

Review: Are We Awake (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Feb 28 – Mar 11, 2017
Playwright: Charles O’Grady
Director: Sean Hawkins
Cast: Aleks Mikić, Daniel Monks

Theatre review
We think that an ideal romance is made of two perfect halves, where no one entity is more reliant on the relationship than the other. In Charles O’Grady’s Are We Awake, Hypnos lives with an increasingly severe disability, and while his lover Endymion has no problems taking on the role of carer, things come to a head when he is offered a job in a different city. The story is concerned with the nature of the unions that we forge, exploring what it means to be in love, when a person is unable to be self-sufficient. There is great sensitivity in O’Grady’s writing, with remarkable depth in his imagining of characters for this sentimental, and very angsty, two-hander.

Sean Hawkins does excellent work directing the piece, giving beautiful variation to texture and tension for this otherwise straightforward single-setting play. He overcomes the challenge of the writing’s big, rambling speeches by keeping delivery of dialogue pacy, but offers balance with charming sequences of momentary silences. In the role of Hypnos is Daniel Monks, impressive in his precise articulation of a very wide range of emotion, for a sensational performance that feels wholly convincing. Equally engaging is Aleks Mikić, whose creation moves us with an admirable psychological accuracy in his depiction of Endymion’s internal struggles. The couple’s fabulous chemistry is the strongest feature of the show, and we are hopelessly captivated.

Few of us will find happily ever after with that one true love, but we all defy the fairy tales of childhood, every day of our lives. Even with the tremendous challenges that Hypnos has to bear, he can only look ahead and keep moving. We are taught that marriage is the most necessary of loves, but the truth is that good people will always have someone to lean on, no matter how we categorise our human connections. Some of us may need more help than others, but all our hearts have the capacity to be as big as our companions require. Even though it will not look the way we had dreamed it, love exists and it is all around.

www.oldfitztheatre.com