5 Questions with Jasper Lee Lindsay and Nicholas Sinclair

Jasper Lee Lindsay

Nicholas Sinclair: What has been the hardest part of this role?
Jasper Lee Lindsay: I was really worried at first when I thought about the ‘social commentary’ aspect of the play, especially as it’s all very relevant in today’s society and I didn’t want to be the one to take a wrong turn and make people feel sour after the play. But atmosphere of the whole production is filled with such heart and care that I was able to settle in to the play and let go of the worry.

What are the similarities and differences between you and your character?
There are quite a few similarities, but the one I like the most is that we both like to think we’re the wittiest guy in the room, which is funny because Reid actually says his witty things out loud while I just sorta whisper them to myself and pat myself on the back for being so darn clever.

What is the best advice you have been given in regards to acting?
Best advice: “Listen”. I know it’s kind of a boring answer, but it’s how I keep myself happy in performance. Receiving what an actor is giving me in a scene and responding to it in the moment, whilst keeping it all in balance with all the technical work, is great for keeping me active and connected on stage.

What is your dream role?
Every role. *pats self on back*

Why do you think this play is relevant in today’s society?
I think this play is very much about the modern context and how things that used to be considered “taboo” are having more light shone on them today. Nothing is really off-limits to talk about anymore and whether it’s for better or worse, it might just be necessary.

Nicholas Sinclair

Jasper Lee Lindsay: How has it been taking on the role of someone struggling with gender identity?
Nicholas Sinclair: I’m not going to lie, it has been a challenge. As someone who has been lucky enough to have a very easy life in regards to coming out and accepting my sexuality, it was difficult to put myself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t have that same luxury. I feel the hardest part of this character is not making every choice or decision simple or easy to answer.

How does the Post family compare to your real family?
They are completely different! My grandparents aren’t racists and homophobes but like all families we do have our fights just like the Post family. We are really supportive of each other! I think the biggest similarity is that we love Chinese food.

Has playing a teenager brought back any painfully embarrassing memories from your high school days?
Oh god… I guess? I feel I look better in a school uniform now than when I actually went to school. I remember one day when someone put a stink bomb in my bag at lunch time, that was pretty awful. I think my mind may have blocked any embarrassing moments because I’m really struggling to think of some right now.

This play is kind of a roller-coaster of emotions. How do you think the audience will feel at the end of the play?
I hope that they feel the same freedom that we as the characters feel. I want people to walk away with questions and excitement!

What’s your favourite use of the word ‘bitch’?
I think my favourite would have to be: “Whatever, bitch.” Mainly for when someone is trying to prove you wrong and you don’t have time for them anymore… and you also know that you’re wrong.

Jasper Lee Lindsay and Nicholas Sinclair can be seen in Bitch by Wayne Tunks.
Dates: 31 May – 17 June, 2017
Venue: The Depot Theatre

5 Questions with Karina Bracken and Jace Pickard

Karina Bracken

Karina Bracken

Jace Pickard: Why should people come and see Flame Trees?
Karina Bracken: For the uncommon, yet most excellent, combination of free parking AND being a champion of independent theatre.

When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
When I was 11 years old (also intuited by Psychic Elizabeth years later).

What are your interests outside of acting?
Conducting extensive independent studies on Chocolate Cafes, daydreaming, discreetly changing the ringtone on other people’s mobile phones (always amusing when people realise that that quacking duck is actually an incoming call – everyone should try it), tap dancing, talking to myself with a different accent (currently it’s Indian with an English influence) and recycling.

You are playing a police officer in Flame Trees, would you want to be one in real life?
No.

There’s been a lot of talk about diversity in the arts, what’s your take?
Oh man! Why would you ask me this? It’s because I’m black, isn’t it?!

What I can say is that I am grateful for those people involved in the casting process who are not attached to a particular type or look, but are open to the idea that a character could be portrayed by a variety of physical appearances.

And I guess my thinking is influenced by my own family which has a little diversity of its own going on – my Indian born cousin is married to a Japanese woman, my brother’s wife is Polish, my Indian born mother has fair skin (and has been asked if she’s Italian) and my sister (who is the same colour as me) gave birth to a fair haired, blue eyed boy.

Also, I really dig the idea of subverting audience expectations. I personally would love for the opportunity to play a character with an Irish accent and not have it explained.

Jace Pickard

Jace Pickard

Karina Bracken: What is Flame Trees all about?
Jace Pickard: Ten years ago, a girl named Tess confesses to lighting a bush fire in her home town that killed her best friend and sent her to prison. Cut to the present day and Tess has now returned to redeem herself and make peace with those she has betrayed and left behind including her brother, her Aunty and her ex-boyfriend.

What makes you laugh?
Oh God, I laugh at most things. Even when no one has even said anything, I may just burst out laughing because I’ll be thinking of something in my head. I swear the cast think I’m insane. I can safely say that if you quote something from The Simpsons, I’ll be on the floor in laughter. I think when it comes to doing gritty drama like this production, you need to have comedy in the room and not take everything so seriously or you will just crash and burn. I am so thankful that I can have a laugh with this cast. There is so much positive energy in that room, you could never feel drained or upset when leaving a rehearsal.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I’m hoping in ten years to be doing various projects nationally and internationally within the industry. Acting is very much my passion and I love doing it but I also love to write and produce. I have produced two feature films now (Lead Me Astray and Remember Redfield) and have recently finished writing a feature I hope to put into production early next year. Heck, I might even direct this time around. I have a great team behind me and we will continue to make films and entertain an audience. I’m sure within ten years time, you’ll be able to find those films (and hopefully many more) on DVD shelves or on Netflix/Stan/Presto etc. Honestly, I just hope I am still doing what I love and that is working in this amazing industry.

What is like working with the cast of Flame Trees?
What I love about working on a project is how much of a family you become with your cast and crew over the few months you spend together: Isabel Dickson (Tess) and I bonded over the fact that we both went to the same acting school when we were at callbacks and when I was auditioning with her, I knew she had the part. She is very professional and natural and it has been amazing working with her. Karina Bracken (Monica) is my other partner in crime. Both Tess and Monica play a big part in Andy’s story and it has been so much fun to work off one another in tackling very dramatic scene. There was one scene that both Karina and I did recently where all I wanted to do was run up and hug her because it was so intense. Rebecca Clay (Val) leaves me in awe every time I watch her do a scene. When working on group scenes where all the cast are together, she just gives me so much to work with when our characters are playing off one another. I am so jealous I don’t have a one on one scene with her because she is astonishing. I love pouring Ryan Bown (Matt) a fake beer every time we do a scene and I do love all my scenes with Ryan. Matt is Andy’s bro and it is so easy to treat Ryan like a brother on stage and off because he is so easygoing and lovely. Simeon Yialeloglou is our brilliant director who is so on the ball with staging this entire production. What I love about Simeon is that you can clearly see he has put the work in to making something beautiful and I really hope we are doing a great job at helping him achieve his vision.

I have saved the best for last: Wayne Tunks, the writer and producer of Flame Trees, who is also playing Nathan, Tess’s older brother. I had seen casting calls for Wayne’s previous shows in the past and I had very much wanted to work with him so I was very stoked when I landed the role of Andy in his production. He is such a nice and inspiring person to work alongside and I swear to God, you need to try his cakes. They are mouth-watering. We recently did a scene where Nathan hugs Andy and I am not supposed to respond to it, which took all my might not to hug him back because man, he gives the best hugs! Haha.

I don’t have one bad thing to say about these group of people. I am very honoured to be working with such amazing talent.

Tell us a joke… I like really dumb jokes.
I read these ones online recently: How do fish get high? Seaweed. A man was hit in the face by a can of Coke. Lucky it was a soft drink. How can you get four suits for a dollar? Buy a deck of cards.

Karina Bracken and Jace Pickard are appearing in Flame Trees by Wayne Tunks.
Dates: 15 June – 2 July, 2016
Venue: The Depot Theatre

Review: Flame Trees (Tunks Productions)

tunksVenue: The Depot Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Jun 15 – Jul 2, 2016
Playwright: Wayne Tunks
Director: Simeon Yialeloglou
Cast: Ryan Bown, Karina Bracken, Rebecca Clay, Isabel Dickson, Jace Pickard, Wayne Tunks
Image by Isobel Markus-Dunworth

Theatre review (of a preview performance)
Wayne Tunks’ Flame Trees is a lot like soap opera. Its characters are highly emotional, and all their families get entangled in the melodrama, which involve moral conflict, infidelity and bushfires. Unlike the most popular tv shows of the genre however, we do not have years of history with the personalities of Flame Trees, and consequently, their grievances are of little concern to us. Causing further alienation is the lack of authenticity that comes from the play’s desperation to arrive at heightened emotion without first engaging us appropriately with the high stakes that it sets up for itself. The script is unoriginal, and hollow where it attempts to induce passion, but is thankfully fast-paced in getting to its conclusion.

Staging of the work is appropriately cheesy, with every creative decision going with the conventional and obvious. Actors put on unnatural voices and indulge in extravagant eruptions of passion and anger, in service of a narrative that is devoid of depth and often unbearably silly. The cast shows conviction nevertheless, and is fairly well-rehearsed, with Rebecca Clay leaving a good impression by finding nuance in her role despite its inherent incoherences.

Emotion must emerge from meaning, and it is a storyteller’s responsibility to locate resonance with the audience. A work can achieve a lot with its surfaces, but without truth at its foundation, big gestures on the exterior will only appear pretentious and absurd. Going to the theatre is a sacred event for communities to share and connect. Commerce will no doubt be a part of its equation, but it must never be the overriding factor, or our participation will only leave us empty and resentful. Theatre is not the idiot box, and the audience deserves much better.

www.tunks.com.au

Review: The Girlie Show (Tunks Productions / The Old 505 Theatre)

tunksVenue: The Old 505 Theatre (Newtown NSW), Feb 18 – 22, 2014
Playwright: Wayne Tunks
Director: Wayne Tunks
Cast: Campbell Briggs, Thomas G Burt, Adam Carr, Mat Glessing, Prudence Holloway, Chantel Leseberg, Jack Marsden, Jacinta Moses, Tasha O’Brien, Billie Scott, Wayne Tunks
Image by Isobel Markus-Dunworth

Theatre review
The play takes place in the early 90’s, following the coming-of-age stories of five young Sydneysiders. It all begins when they meet at the front of a queue for tickets to a Madonna concert, and united by their common passion for the pop star, the group becomes fast friends. We then trace each individual’s growth in the few months leading up to the event, and witness them overcoming challenges, supported by the new-found friendships, and the strength of character inspired by their fearless leader (the “creamy smooth pop icon goddess”, Madonna). This sounds tongue-in-cheek, but Wayne Tunks’ The Girlie Show is an earnest tribute with a somewhat middle-of-the-road approach; not cool enough, but not cheesey enough either. Its familiar narratives feel authentic, and although put together with little sophistication, the production’s honest sentimentality does provide moments of poignancy.

The show is kept buoyant by strong performances from the likes of Billie Scott, energetic but with a dorky style of humour that works well within its context of zealous fandom. Along with effective comic timing, Scott’s ability to portray genuine emotionality brings a charming pathos to some of the more melodramatic scenes. Also memorable is Jacinta Moses in a range of maternal roles, simultaneously sensitive and strong, Moses is powerful in her scenes, showcasing excellent conviction and versatility.

Most of the play is about the gay and lesbian coming out experience, and harks back to a time when stories of this nature were prevalent and indeed, all the rage. The Girlie Show takes on that tradition, and even though it does not extend beyond the predictable scope of the genre, there is little doubt that there remains a need for these narratives to be made. In looking back at our youth, we can find the purity that is perhaps lost from today, and it is that purity that must be recalled in order that we may live in compassion, if we allow it to thaw out what was scared and cold.

www.tunks.com.au

5 Questions with Prudence Holloway and Billie Scott

Prudence Holloway

Prudence Holloway

Billie Scott: What drew you to ‘The Girlie Show’?
Prudence Holloway: Definitely the subject matter, my character (Natalie) goes through such a universal journey to find out how much she’s willing to compromise her integrity for her dreams.

Do you believe there is still an element of homophobia in the performing arts?
Yes, I do think there is but the more characters like these that are portrayed on the stage and screen the more we widen the breadth of representation of sexuality out there to relate to.

How has working with this cast been?
The cast have been great; it’s been so much fun working on such an ensemble piece and getting re-obsessed with Madonna together. Also, who doesn’t love an opportunity to rock out in 90’s fashion!

In terms of the show, what has been the biggest challenge?
I got the opportunity to co-write a song for my character to sing in the show, which is something I’d never done before or thought I would be able to do. I’m also accompanying myself on guitar, which is a new thing for me, so not shaking whilst
playing is the biggest challenge.

Which three people (dead or alive) would you invite to a dinner party?
Bette Midler, Madonna (obviously) and Wayne Tunks(the director), because he would probably kill me if I didn’t.

Billie Scott

Billie Scott

Prudence Holloway: Why do you think people should see this show?
The universal feelings of rebellion and acceptance in our formative years most definitely but there is something quite fun in looking at those who we idolize while growing up and impact they have on us.

Favourite Madonna song and why.
Like A Prayer. No question. It’s one of my motivation songs, whether going to an audition, out, gym, whatever it is Like A Prayer will take you there.

Do you think we still have a problem with homophobia and accepting diversity in today’s society?
I definitely think we still have a problem, massively. However I believe the focus has changed, people are too concerned with calling out political correctness to see the actual harmful issues.

What do you do to relax?
To relax I watch films. I’m a massive film fanatic and nothing relaxes me more than cinema. That or I can be found sipping on a Prosecco in a linen shirt somewhere.

This show deals will some sensitive issues surrounding coming out. What advice would you give to someone struggling with that?
That’s a hard question to answer I think because every story is different. However I’ll say that I think unfortunately we live in a society that places so much judgement and expectation on who you are so early, based purely off ones nature or behaviour,
particularly on young effeminate males. So my advice would be to wait until you can make a decision yourself and try not to listen to how other people perceive your sexuality.

Prudence Holloway and Billie Scott can be seen in The Girlie Show by Wayne Tunks, part of Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2016 Festival.
Dates: 8 – 20 February, 2016
Venue: The Old 505 Theatre (Newtown)

Review: Everything I Know I Learnt From Madonna (Tunks Productions / Sydney Independent Theatre Company)

rsz_1899685_623939144321658_1856255859_oVenue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Feb 18 – 22, 2014
Playwright: Wayne Tunks
Director: Fiona Hallenan-Barker
Actor: Wayne Tunks
Image by Katy Green Loughrey

Theatre review
Madonna, the pop star, means many things to many people. Like many brassy women in the public eye, she is regarded by gay communities as an icon. An outspoken proponent of the gay movement since the early 1990s, it is understandable that her place with LGBT people has endured the years. In this one-man play by Wayne Tunks, he talks about his obsession with Madonna in the introduction, then goes on to share with us his stories of coming out and relationships with various men, liberally quoting lyrics by his hero at every available opportunity. His script is an interesting one. It is almost as if Tunks is unable to verbalise his thoughts and feelings without the aide of Madonna songs, so her words keep appearing in his monologue, sometimes seamlessly, sometimes a little forced, but it is no doubt that his admiration is beyond skin deep, and that her work actually provides a space of solace. It looks a lot like religion.

Tunks is an actor full of vigour. He appears on stage and is determined to seize your attention, and for the entirey of his performance, we pay close attention to his stories. It helps that Tunks’ voice is commanding and versatile. It is naturalistic acting but there is definitely not a hint of mumbling, everything is said loud and clear, which is fortunate as the bareness of the staging and minimal direction of the near two hour work, leave nothing else for Tunks and his audience to hold on to.

The show overflows with earnestness. For a seemingly shallow premise of pop star fandom, it contains no irony and very little frivolity. We are presented love stories with a string of men, Sean, Warren, Guy, Jesus, and (presumably) Brahim. They are not particularly colourful events, in fact, slightly mundane. There isn’t really a set up of context, just a man keen to share with a captive crowd, and we are inspired by his fighting spirit that never gets dampened by failed relationships. He keeps getting back in business as though nothing’s better than more because ultimately, what can you lose?

“You’re never gonna see me standin’ still, I’m never gonna stop ’till I get my fill” (Over And Over, Madonna 1984).

www.tunks.com.au

5 Questions with Wayne Tunks

waynetunksWhat is your favourite swear word?
I do love the F word, it is useful for so many things. And as a writer I love to give the C word to women, for me it sounds best when said angrily by a woman.

What are you wearing?
I’m about to head to a Hawaiian themed birthday party so wearing a very dodgy shirt that could burst into flames if I go near an open fire.

What is love?
A great 90’s song by Haddaway and also the theme of my new show. In fact one of the Madonna lyric quotes I use near the front of the show is, “I’m going to tell you about love”.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
James And the Giant Peach that I directed at Christmas featuring 24 students aged 8 – 12 years. I give it 5 wines.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Well the Melbourne audiences seemed to enjoy it for Midsumma at La Mama. And most of the show is set in Sydney, it’s going to be great to come home with this show!

Wayne Tunks stars in Everything I Know I Learnt From Madonna, part of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2014 season.
Show dates: 18 – 22 Feb, 2014
Show venue: The Old Fitzroy Hotel