In the upcoming production of King of Bangor, an exciting new Australian play which explores the work and world of Steven King, Reville Smith plays the deranged and infamous Jack Torrence from The Shining. I had the chance to chat to him about the show and the journey he’s gone on; from being a kindergarten sensation (making the Herald Sun by singing) to battling with cancer and everything in between.
Reville Smith grew up in Caulfield, Melbourne and believes that for some people acting isn’t a choice but more of a way of life. “You have it in you” he says in a deep, gravelly, very Melbourne, very male voice. And Rev would know, appearing in his share of television shows, including Neighbours and Blue Heelers and films such as Till Human Voices Wake Us with Hugo Weaving and Helena Bonham Carter. Though he didn’t know who Carter was at the time and sat down after one of the takes and opened with the line “So… You’re from England”.
This kind of humour seems to typify Rev, who sees the brighter side of life. After being diagnosed with cancer in his throat and tongue his doctor gave him a 10% chance of recovery. However, after six months intensive chemotherapy Rev took it in his stride and managed to beat it. His mentality is to be thankful for what you’ve got and now jokes that he had a pretty good deal getting free parking in the city at the Peter Mac Cancer Centre; “My approach is gratitude – we’re lucky to be on this rock. In a lot of ways it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me”.
Smith’s first acting role came when he was in primary school. He played Dave Gray in the schools version of Blankety Blanks where he also used to duck out of class to build the sets. However, his favourite roles are the ones he played in Jesus Christ Superstar – in his opinion Lloyd Webber’s best – and David Metcalfe in Beyond Reasonable Doubt. In the latter show he portrayed a man dealing with cancer and the assisted suicide of his wife. These themes had a profound impact and hit very close to home; it took Rav over two months to recover.
Onto the show, Rev talks about King of Bangor as “Mr. King and his manifestations”. It explores his hallucinations and hallucinogens. Whatever the substance, alcohol or drugs, they are all coping mechanisms – as is the works of King himself. “His plots are documenting his anxieties on paper; look at Misery or Cujo.” Perhaps King doesn’t talk too much about his plots in the context of his real life “but ideas come from somewhere”. This show is written by Melbourne born playwright Lee Gambin and directed by Dione Joseph, who has trained and directed in New Zealand but now calls Australia home. Rev believes that this show is not like anything else at the moment; “it’s in a genre of its own”.
What has been the hardest part of the process? “Sitting and listening”, says Rev. He’s “learnt a lot from soaking up from other people” and has enjoyed the collection of ideas that are being presented. It’s a confronting and challenging script but Rev likes the fact that he gets to play the agitator. While it can be “tragic” to simply try and recreate or imitate another actor’s work, Rev still wants to pay homage to Jack Nicholson’s performance; make the audience associate with the character rather than an impersonation which just turns it turning into a “party trick”.
King of Bangor opens June 29 at Bella Union Trades Hall and promises to be “something new”. Rev compares the macabre intensity of it to the BBC show Wire in the Blood. It “grabs you by the balls and takes you for a ride. There’s not a dull moment. You’ll walk out the door and still be talking about. It’s not Muppet theatre.” While there is “a lot of stuff out there that just washes over you” King of Bangor instead challenges its audience and confronts them with the king of horror caught in his court and surrounded by his characters that play on his anxieties.
Finally, Rev has some words for aspiring actors out there:
“Close your eyes when you rehearse; listen and respond.”