Xanthe Coward interviews Lindsay Farris about Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness and the NYTC.
TP: Can you tell us a bit about this amazing show and your role in it?
LF: Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness is an ‘amazing’ work in the very sense of the word. It is a play that really opens up the imagination through theatrically immersive storytelling in both naturalistic and surrealistic territories. To delve into those places of heightened narrative headfirst, as audiences and artistic collaborators, I think is something really spectacular, frequently hilarious and intensely thought provoking. I play Nicholas Ludd, the revolutionary new wave theatrical realist who acts as a counterpoint for much of the main narrative, whilst also acting as an enabler for scenes that depart into heightened theatricality.
TP: Brisbane audiences are very excited about the Romance Was Born-designed costumes, which are crucial to the show. Has the design of the costumes had an impact on the way you’ve approached character development or the telling of the tale? Did characters inform any of the costume designs?
LF: We were very fortunate that, pretty much since day one of rehearsals, we were given the opportunity to work with our costumes. Costuming is something that is usually left until well into the rehearsal process, or even a few days before opening, so it was a real gift to have their ideas since day dot. We had opportunities early on to engage with the design process as part of a workshop where we essentially let our imaginations run wild with the text and the worlds we might explore, and Romance Was Born and Renée Mulder have been incredible vessels for getting the play off the page and into the world. In such an imaginative piece of writing, any physical actualisation of those ideas as part of wardrobe, props, or set design makes the process really exciting in seeing those ideas realised by another collaborator’s vision. I think the artists and designers inform each other, but the base work always comes from the script.
TP: You’ve done so much now on screen, what is it about the theatre that keeps bringing you back to the stage?
LF: I don’t ever really feel like I left! I’ve been working professionally on stage for about eleven years now, starting with a tour of the UK with the NSW State Drama Company. My creative engine room came from the theatre. The experiment that is the rehearsal process allows the discovery and exploration of a world of ideas that are then refined and transformed into a communion with an audience. It’s a real gift to be part of a storytelling process on screen, but even more so when you’re there in person to do it on stage.
TP: Has the rehearsal process been particularly different or difficult in any way? Can you tell us about working with this cast and with Director, Sarah Goodes?
LF: As I mentioned, it’s been really great to have a lot of the design with us since the first day of rehearsals, which has been a nice change from the usual. I think our real challenge in the rehearsal period has just been to set free the myriad ideas that are explored in the amazing feats. I think that’s all a rehearsal process ever is: to release and refine story in ways that are accessible, challenging, thought-provoking and invigorating. Sarah and the cast are incredible, and every day I really look forward to being part of such an awesome group of collaborators. I think one of the most challenging components for me so far has been to try and learn the accordion for the show. I hadn’t picked one up before rehearsals started, and we had a moment that went something like: “I reckon this bit would sound great on the accordion,” so we got one!
TP: Artistic Director of La Boite, David Berthold, has said he finds this production “fantastically invigorating”. How do you think Brisbane audiences will respond?
LF: I think that this play asks that an audience open their hearts and minds to a world of imagination. It’s the sort of play that you experience and have an immediate relationship to. All of the people I know that have read it have felt invigorated in some way, and to see it in action with two exceptional theatre companies uniting is an opportunity to be in the theatre when it is at its least boring and most thought-provoking.
TP: You created the National Youth Theatre Company (NYTC) to nurture young performing arts talent and give them a head start in the industry. Can you tell us how the company is going and what immediate and long-term plans you have for it?
LF: NYTC is currently completing a documentary on young actors, as part of its most recent production season. It’s a pretty incredible project being filmed by Sunny Abberton (Bra Boys) that involves about 70 actors, over 150 staff, and a team of incredible creatives that brought our most recent production to life. NYTC regularly offer development opportunities for regional and metropolitan people under the age of 25, most of which are designed to develop skills set for acting, creating and producing their own works. We have spent a lot of time this year developing relationships with a number of companies in Los Angeles and India for co-productions and representation and development for our artists. We have been really fortunate in that NYTC has been incredibly well received by the theatrical, youth and education communities in seeking to develop emerging Australian artists. The next evolution of NYTC will see further expansion into QLD and the NT, as well as the development of some really exciting projects for cultural development in regional communities.
TP: What advice do you have for actors wanting to make it in our theatre and film industries?
LF: I think that the sheer drive to tell accessible stories, and to tell them well, intrinsically sums up making work happen in theatre and film. The drive to tell stories means that limitations in work opportunities are always secondary to the ability to create work and learn new ways to create stories. Sustenance in this industry comes from the journey as much as the arriving.
TP: What’s next for you?
LF: I have a book that is finally on the verge of completion called A young actor’s guide to becoming a Wanker. My editor called me the other week and asked for the next draft, so getting that submitted is my next project. Following that I have a production and development season with the National Youth Theatre Company, with a few other projects penciled in for the end of the year, so once they’ve wrapped maybe a little bit of a rest somewhere sunny?
Photos: Al Caeiro