Astroman by New Zealand writer, Albert Belz, is a heart-warming drama comedy set against a backdrop of BMX bikes, Michael Jackson, Gary Ablett, Donkey Kong and Friday night Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s back to the future to the 1980’s where things were a little simpler; where fashion was big, bold and oft wild, and where dreams were just as big.
Tahlee Fereday plays Natalie, a 16 year old who enjoys break dancing, breaking hearts and being a massive brat. “She can go from 0 – 10 in a matter of seconds, so watch out, ” says Fereday, who admires her tough love. “She gives her brothers hell but if anyone messes with them you will have to answer to her.”
Challengingly, Fereday also plays a much older character, Mrs Taylor, and admits that the biggest learning curve has been going from adolescent Natalie to the more mature Mrs Taylor, a woman in her 50’s. “This has been an exciting challenge exploring the different rhythms and physicality,” explains Fereday. “The most rewarding moment has been probably when we had our first audience and we could share what we had been working on. Seeing everyone laugh and enjoying themselves was pretty great.”
Astroman explores the highs and lows of growing up in Geelong, and centres around an unlikely friendship – an older Greek man and a young indigenous boy. The work is unashamedly nostalgic.
Says Fereday: “What I love about Astroman is that there is so much heart in the play. I think the audience will gravitate to the heart and feel the warmth even in the darkest moments. The audience fuels so much of the performance, as there is direct address all throughout the play. The play is such as high-energy piece and the audience’s energy will bounce back to us on stage and vice versa. This energy exchange can be hard to gage in rehearsals as we are rehearsing to empty seats but I have been enjoying the challenge. ”
The play is directed by MTC Associate Director Sarah Goodes (A Doll’s House, Part 2) and stars actor Elaine Crombie (Black Comedy).
For Fereday it has been great to be in a rehearsal room with these two powerhouse females. “They have both given me so much confidence in performing and taught me to play and not be apologetic – trust your instincts and run with it,” says Fereday. ” I look forward to the day where there is a balance of male and female directors, writers and creative working in main stage theatre.”
Fereday is a 2017 graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA). Before her studies she was based in Darwin, where she hosted The Breakfast Show with Tahlee on Larrakia Radio 94.5FM. The year has been a busy and productive one wherein Fereday has worked with creatives such as Andrew Bovell, Patricia Cornelius, Christos Tsiolkas, Melissa Reeves, Irine Vela and Susie Dee. She as also worked with companies such as, Malthouse Theatre, Arena Theatre Company and Australian Theatre for Young People with her most recent performance at fortyfivedownstairs in Fallen.
Since graduating, things have moved pretty quickly for Fereday with this marking her debut in a full-length MTC production. “When I found out I got the role I was pretty stoked,” she says. “I called my mum and cried – but I am a Pisces so what’s new? It was pretty overwhelming because I only just graduated from VCA last year but I was hungry to get stuck into working.”
Fereday shares that she has really enjoyed her time at MTC acknowledging that everyone is so hard working in playing their part to bring this story to life. “I have enjoyed the passion that everyone has in the building,” she says. “Walking in on day 1 and the workshop team already having the set in the room to play with was so great. Coming from indie theatre where the set is made out of 40 milk crates, having such an elaborate set really excited me.”
Fereday acknowledges that what got her into acting initially is the fact the she is the self described, “biggest show off of all time”. But what she loves about acting is the storytelling and the imagination both able to interpret and create the life for those stories. “An actor reads the words from a script and gets to use their imagination to create and discover a new world,” she says. “The actor uses every part of their being to do this, and at times it can make you vulnerable or exposed but that is all a part of the beauty of storytelling, especially in theatre. ”
Astroman is billed as the ultimate love letter to the 80’s. And just like Fereday’s future of great possibilities, Astroman is a salute to a time when great possibilities were possible.
October 27 – December 8