Mockingbird Theatre Company Member Adam Ward features alongside Angelo De Cata in the explosive play, Kiss of the Spider Woman, by Argentine writer Manual Puig adapted from his best selling novel of the same name.
Also the subject of an Academy Award-winning film starring William Hurt and Raul Julia, and a hit Broadway musical, it is a phenomenal play for two actors. Ward, whose love for acting came at the age of 12, when he played the title role in Bugsy Malone with a youth amateur dramatics company based in his home town of Swindon, agrees: "I sat at the kitchen table for my first read of Kiss Of The Spiderwoman, scrolled down the opening page and saw, in little black print the two British actors names who had first performed this version of the play at The Bush Theatre in Shepherds Bush; London. I thought ‘Wow, Thank you, I’m here!’"
Ward plays Valentin, a macho and uncompromising urban guerrilla arrested for his revolutionary activities. His joy at winning the role was only matched by his joy at discovering the actor's name who first brought life to the character way back in 1985. "Playing in the role that I’d been cast was none other than Mark Rylance, whom I consider to be the greatest and most talented theatre actor in the world today. Now, if that doesn’t begin the tingles nothing will!"
"This insight sort of scuppered me, because as I began to read I imagined myself as Mark Rylance playing the role, ha ha yeah…… rather than just reading the play subjectively. I stopped and said ‘hi’ to my ego, re-read the play and was completely swept away."
Playing opposite Ward is multi talented actor Angelo De Cata playing Molina, a flamboyant homosexual who is found guilty of immoral behaviour. These unlikely cell mates form an equally unlikely friendship based on their mutual support for each other. The play traverses through the murkiness of troubled psyches but what lasts, at the very end, is an awakening of the innate humanity that traverses through us all. " The story of Kiss of the Spider Woman is one that I have long been drawn to, ever since I stumbled upon the film version with William Hurt and Raoul Julia as a young teen," says De Cata. " Even though at the time I didn’t understand the complexities of the characters, I have distinct memories of being captivated by the unlikely relationship between these two men in the oppressive confines of a prison cell. It is this relationship that still draws me to it today – that two people from strikingly different backgrounds could form such a deep, strong bond with one another. The constant search for meaningful human connection, in whatever environment we may find ourselves in, is I think the essence of what it means to be a human being and integral to the truth of this play."
Ward agrees and adds: "What an absolutely beautiful piece of writing. So many layers, so subtle in its execution and simple in matter. Who puts these two characters in a cell together? There are a lot of layers to Valentin. So much going on underneath, every time I pick up the play I see something new, something else in the text, between the lines. As an actor it offers me a wealth of possibilities, endless exploration!"
It is perhaps no surprise that Puig, an openly gay man, explores through Molina what it means to be gay in a less than supportive environment but, within that environment, Molina is unequivocally and inspirationally true to self. Says De Cata: "I am also drawn to the fact that Molina is an openly proud gay man in an oppressive society. It says so much about the strength of his character and his resilience in the face of such adversity. It is an inspiring quality. Molina remains true to himself, challenging people such as Valentin to see him, and accept him, for who he truly is. "
Both actors shared the same excitement for discovery during the rehearsal process. One of the main challenges that both daunted and exhilarated De Cata was breathing life into Manuel Puig’s beautifully written script. "So much is conveyed about the two characters through the carefully crafted dialogue. I can’t wait to explore the possibilities of the text through the rehearsal process. And there is so much of it!!!!!"
"I knew that I’d need to be ready for this undertaking – within myself, to be able to give this writing the respect it deserves," says Ward. "There’s something very noble about this play, and I hope that I can selflessly portray it for you."
Ward has worked extensively in the UK with his first job out of drama school coming in the shape of the BBC’s epic medical drama CASUALTY. He went on to perform with a theatre company called ESCAPE ARTISTS combining the skills of professional actors with the true grit of reformed convicted criminals and touring the play BLAGGER to young offenders institutes across the UK.
But Melbourne has been home for two years now and Ward has since featured in Broken Mirror’s ensemble work: Hamletmachine, Cornerboy’s production of the Michael Gow black comedy: Sweet Phoebe both at Revolt Art-Space as well as Mockingbird Theatre's production of The Laramie Project at Chapel Off Chapel last year. He has won numerous best male performance awards at Melbourne’s Crash Test Drama and been nominated for best actor at Short + Sweet 2012.
De Cata works successfully between musical theatre and straight plays with credits including: the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, Lawrence Jameson in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Charles Guiteau in Assassins (Directed by Chris Hughes), a role for which he received his first Music Theatre Guild of Victoria nomination. In 2005, De Cara won the Lyrebird Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Cliff Bradshaw in Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret while in 2011, his appearance as Billy Flynn for Williamstown Musical Theatre Company’s production of Chicago, saw him win the Music Theatre Guild of Victoria Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical.
In terms of plays, De Cata's credits include Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, Brick Pollitt in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Fr. Flynn in Doubt, Joe Pitt in Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, Robert Ross in The Judas Kiss, Nick in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Dan in Closer, for which he received a Lyrebird Award nomination for Best Actor in a Play.
These two actors are certain to set the stage on fire when they come together in Puig's beautiful and poetic script. A sentiment shared by De Cata: "The one thing that I treasure most about acting is the connection that is shared with other actors whilst on stage. This will be undoubtedly heightened in Kiss of the Spider Woman given that it is a two hander play. Adam and I have nowhere to hide. It is just the two of us making, sharing an intensity and vulnerability as we tell this extraordinary story. "
Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig and directed by Chris Baldock
When: Opening Night: Friday 6 September 2013 at 8pm
Saturday 7 September at 2pm and 8pm
Sunday 8 September at 5pm
Where: The Owl And The Pussycat
34 Swan Street, Richmond (opposite Richmond Station)