Andy Simpson: Violence is an important part of Mauritius. It colours our characters’ motivations and experiences. Have you ever found yourself in an unexpectedly violent situation?
Emma Louise: Wow, what a question to start with! Yes, I guess I have been witness to various violent situations. One which immediately springs to mind was when a person I was just getting to know had just walked a friend of his down the road from my place in Darlinghurst at the time to get a cab or something. The next thing I know I hear these awful loud guttural sounds coming from that same direction down the street. I run out to my balcony to see what’s going on, and coming up the road I see both my new friend and another huge shirtless guy circling each other, weaving in and out between parked cars and making these noises I can only describe as animalistic. It certainly wasn’t English! Both already had blood staining their faces and arms, so I knew punches had already been thrown. It honestly looked like they were going to kill each other, despite being complete strangers who had never crossed paths before. I (oh so heroically) ran into my flatmate’s room screaming for his help, and he then saves the day… going outside, placing himself in the middle of these two burly men intent on destroying each other, and calmly talking the shirtless stranger down while firmly instructing my new acquaintance to get into the house. All while I stood watching on in horror on the balcony. Ah the random, weird, unexpected violent things that can happen at 3.30am on a Friday night in Darlo! Happy to report that I never saw the big shirtless guy again, and am also no longer in the company of the other violent acquaintance. The lovely hero flatmate however, (another actor incidentally, who uses words instead of fists) will always be in my life. That’s definitely the kind of company I prefer to keep!
Serena Williams was pregnant while competing at The Australian Open this year. Is it a challenge to act when you are pregnant?
Ha! A little I guess, especially as you grow bigger with each passing month – making it a harder thing to physically disguise. I will be 7 months along when this show is up, so am extra aware of my physicality… having to watch that I’m not standing like a pregnant lady, or letting the tell tale waddle slip in anywhere. Even the way you get up and down from a chair can be tricky at times. So much to monitor! But basically I’m just aiming to keep myself as rested as possible when not rehearsing/performing, as well as stretching and seeing a physio to help keep everything as limber as possible. A woman being pregnant is not a disability after all… we can do pretty much most things we would usually do – perhaps just being a bit more mindful, that’s all.
Mauritius is an intense play. Full of emotion and pain. Do you prefer this sort of work or are you a comedy gal?
Ooooh, I really like both! I’ve been super lucky I think to have had the opportunity to work across many genres. I learnt back at drama school that I had the ability to effectively tap into painful emotions – helping me dig into roles like Madame de Tourvel (Les Liaisons Dangereuses), Paulina (The Winter’s Tale) or Olive (Summer Of The Seventeenth Doll). But I’ve also discovered through training and practise that I have a bit of a knack for making people laugh as well – enjoying roles like Edith (The Women), Daria (We’ll Always Have Wagga) or Mum (Vernon God Little). I would hate to have to pick just one or the other to do for the rest of my life, and here’s hoping I never have to!
Have you acted in other cities around Australia, or even overseas? How does the Sydney theatre scene compare?
I actually started out acting in Canberra – back before I went to Uni, and we used to joke that the only way anyone from Canberra would get to set foot on the Canberra Theatre stage was to leave Canberra and be employed by an interstate company. There really wasn’t much around at that time, however from what I’ve read now it seems that the Canberra Theatre scene has grown somewhat, and even has an acting school of it’s own which is great. I then went to study in QLD, so have performed in both Toowoomba and Brisbane, though it has been years since being there so I can’t really give it an accurate comparison to the Sydney scene I’m afraid. Other cities I’ve performed in include Melbourne and Adelaide – which is so great to perform in at Festival time. There is such a buzz and sense of artist camaraderie at the Adelaide Fringe which I wish could bottle and bring to Sydney to have all year round!
What do you prefer, rehearsal or performance?
Ooooh, that’s another hard one. Ultimately performance if I had to pick one, as by then I’ve done all of the work and can enjoy just giving myself over to the character each night and watching how their story affects different audiences. But playing with other actors in a rehearsal room is pure joy also! I love meeting new actors whom I’ve not worked with. I love hearing words off the page for the first time. I love making ridiculous mistakes throughout the rehearsal process all in the pursuit of truth and telling a good story. I love being so frustrated that a scene is not working, and having a breakthrough moment where it all becomes clear. God I probably sound like a bit of a wanker, but I really do love what we do!
Emma Louise: What is Mauritius all about, and why did this play appeal to you?
At a basic level Mauritius is about stamps. Extraordinarily valuable stamps. Although saying that is a bit like saying Indiana Jones is about archaeology or Animal Farm is about farm animals. The play is about five desperate people who will go to extreme lengths to get what they want. They steal, lie, fight and intimidate, all for “two tiny slips of paper”. Mauritius has wonderful characters and pacy, muscular dialogue. I love American drama like this. It is evocative of the plays of David Mamet and Martin Scorcese’s New York movies. Truly exciting work.
Are you, or have you ever been a stamp collector? Or avid collector of anything for that matter?
I collected stamps as a child although I had completely forgotten about it until I was cast in the play. It was almost like a suppressed memory that popped back into my head. I’ve since found that my parents still have my collection in their home, safe and sound and exactly as I left it. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with it when I next visit them next year.
If you were writing a personal ad for your character (Philip), how would it read?
Companion wanted for lost man. Must love embarrassing silences and glib comebacks. Passion for retrospection and bitter recrimination a definite plus but not a deal breaker if you’re willing to put out. A willingness to excuse long, unexplained absences and poor timekeeping would be appreciated.
How did you get this role?
Sure Foot put on auditions. There was a small problem with getting me the audition material but two hours is enough notice I reckon. Two hours to get my twins dressed, my daughter and son to Saturday morning sport (different sports of course) grab a coffee (vital), drive to Newtown, find parking, find the theatre, read the three scenes, shake hands and smile. I auditioned. I was the least bad option. Typical audition really.
What is your favourite thing to do when you’re not busy playing with us in a rehearsal room?
Softball. Playing softball. Practising playing softball. Talking about softball. And coffee.
Catch Emma Louise and Andy Simpson in Mauritius, by Theresa Rebeck.
Dates: 12 – 29 July, 2017
Venue: New Theatre