Artistic Indulgence Time

To state that life imitates art is to state a cliché. But clichés are so because they exist in truth, and there is no more truth at this moment than the fact that life does indeed imitate art. And vice versa.

It’s odd. Every serious (as opposed to comedic) role I have had since graduating has at that point in my life had some corresponding relevance to my non-actorly life. Or else, the role has provided me the opportunity to work through some shit that’s been going on in said life. That’s not to say that I actively indulge myself in using the theatre as a cheap psychologist (I have one of them already), and I certainly do not advocate the practice, but there is something to be said – as an intuitive actor – for using the stuff that’s going on in one’s outside life to inform one’s onstage performance. Acting Class 101, I know, but sometimes we have to be reminded of the obvious.

I’m certainly finding that at the moment. I’m currently performing in an Adelaide Fringe show called Awake, written by my artistic comrade-in-arms Fleur. There was a lot of hoopla surrounding the circumstances in me getting this role, but trusting that things always work out the way they must in this funny ol’ Universe, here I am, acting in this role which has some uncanny correlations to my outside existence.

Ellen in Awake, with Justin Batchelor Photo by Sarah Walker

Ellen in Awake, with Justin Batchelor
Photo by Sarah Walker

You remember the ex I told you about in a former post? Well, he’s pretty much a musical genius in my mind. He would protest that claim, but for a 24 year old, he has a huge amount of musical knowledge and skill, and has the potential for career brilliance in the years to come. Now, I grew up in a very musical family, and I consider myself a musician – far less than I am an actor, but a musician nonetheless. I have two older brothers, both musicians for a living, and both highly skilled in their professions. One brother, Hiran, is one of those ridiculous people who can pick up an instrument and pretty much work out how to play it within five minutes. He and Karl, my eldest brother, live and breathe music, far more than I. Much like the ex.

Thus, although I’m a pretty darn good actor, I’ve always felt a little below par as a muso. In comparison to these virtuosi in my life anyway. And who am I playing in this Awake play? The wife of a brilliant composer and musician. The wife who met her husband at a music conservatorium. The wife who considered herself a musician until she was overwhelmed by the magnificence of her husband’s talent. And all she wants is for him to see her, mediocre talent and all, and to think she’s something special. She wants him to remember her. So yeah. Art imitates life. And my life, connected as it is to everything in this glorious and complex Universe is doing a very good job at allowing me to see that my human weakness makes for a very interesting exploration of my characters. It also allows me to have a little bit of a cry for my human failings, ’cause I’m allowed occasionally to do that.

Thanks art. You rock.

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In Memoriam

Being an actor means being vulnerable. I think so, anyway. I don’t believe I could do what I do on the stage if I hadn’t lived, really lived. That isn’t to say that if a person hasn’t rolled around in the muck of life they can’t be a convincing actor; some people just have the gift of telling stories. I like to think of acting as representing life as honestly as possible. My dear mentor and teacher Peter Oyston once said to me that nothing we do on stage as actors is ‘real’. It’s all contrived, but to be in the moment when we’re on stage, to utterly believe in that moment is the best chance we have of producing an authentic representation of life.

Peter passed away two weeks ago, which has driven me into a long series of moments of reflection. He was the first person in my life to sit me down and say, “you can act. And you should.” I’ve been acting all my life: when I was in the sex industry (bombshell alert!), I was acting. At school, at Uni, I was acting. We all ‘act’ at various points in our lives, but Peter gave me permission to act for a living, and he helped me to see that my experiences in life were only going to inform my process. He accepted me with no judgment. He saw the shitty things I went through in my younger years as a boon to my craft. To be unapologetically poetic, he set me free. And I thank him for that.

Peter in 2009. Photo by Phoebe Taylor

Peter in 2009.
Photo by Phoebe Taylor

Earlier this year, another theatre-maker friend and I wrote and produced a play called “Skinhouse” which Peter came to see. It was a play based around my experiences in the sex industry and how my friend – who I lived with for a time – and I coped with these experiences. I was standing outside after the performance talking with Peter and a reviewer, and I said of Peter, “this is the man who taught me how to act.” Peter smiled and said, “you already knew, Princess. I merely helped you to see that you could do it.”

How true.

Of cats and chocolate

Photography by Phoebe Taylor

Photography by Phoebe Taylor

You shouldn’t feed chocolate to cats. It’s bad for their hearts and teeth. I don’t know this from experience, just simple common sense. Also, leaving chocolate in a hot car for 5 hours reduces it to goop. Tasty, tasty goop, but goop nonetheless.

These are my two favourite things at the moment: my cats, and chocolate. I’m supposed to be learning lines for my next show – A Reading List for the Outback Housewife – but what I am doing is playing with my fluff-ball princess powder puff cat named Persephone, and eating chocolate that’s been left in a hot car for 5 hours.

You see, Mallory – that’s my character – is a bitch. A 38-year-old dyed in the wool Catholic who lives in 1940s outback Australia and who hates sex. I’m finding it difficult to relate to her. It’s also the third insane bitch character I’ve played this year, which leads me to believe that I play nasty and mad very well. You gotta do what you’re good at.

Mallory  "A Reading List for the Outback Housewife" Written and directed by Christopher Bryant Photography by Sarah Walker

Mallory
“A Reading List for the Outback Housewife”
Written and directed by Christopher Bryant
Photography by Sarah Walker

I have a story, dear reader. A few chapters have already been scripted and performed to the world via the awesome world of theatre, and yet there is still more. There is my story, and there are other stories that are waiting to be told and vented all over anyone who cares to listen. If you will permit me, in the weeks, months, even years to come, I would like to vent on you.

Tastefully.

With chocolate.