We continue Garath’s Marate/Sade in-rehearsal interview series. Marat/Sade opened last week.

* October 4th – open dress rehearsal for Marat/Sade.

One of our leads – Annette van Roden (Marat), is very sick and can barely speak. We need the rehearsal, but don’t want to aggravate Annette’s condition, so it is proposed that we go ahead, sans audience, but with our dramaturg, Helen Tonkin, reading Marat’s lines, and Annette just going through the motions. It’s an odd strategy, but it works, and provides us with much needed practice.

Afterward I took the opportunity to interview a few of the cast: Gregory Dias (inmate & understudy for Duperret), and Leilani Loau (Roux).

G.C: Gregory, Leilani, what is your cultural background?

G.D: Sri Lankan.

L.L: I was born and raised in New Zealand and, in order of appearance, am of Samoan, English, Irish, French Jewish (perhaps German but some things may never be known for sure), and Chinese extraction.

G.C: What is your theatre background?

G.D: I toured with a theatre company in 2015, doing plays in schools across the eastern coast of Australia, but most of my acting experience comes from film, TV, commercials and role play!

L.L: I am comparatively new to theatre, having only commenced my acting journey proper three years ago (at the tender age of mumble-mumble), most of which time I’ve spent focusing on learning my craft and firming up my foundation, so i’m in the process of building my theatre background as we speak. Aside from two student plays, a couple of Short & Sweets, this is only my third full-length play.

G.C: Do you find it hard to get cast in interesting roles in the Sydney theatre (or film/TV) scene?

G.D: I’ve always wanted to believe that my abilities, experience and “character Type” (not cultural background) that decide whether I am cast or not, but I have noticed over the last few years, that I wasn’t getting sent for (major) roles that other people in my age range were going for, with far less experience than me, It wasn’t even about “Getting” the job it was about being allowed the opportunity to audition for it that was getting to me.
I also did notice that many unpaid gigs were requesting a certain cultural type which Cultural background would have no bearing on the story or other characters, and I would only be seen or requested if it said “Ethnically diverse” or “Indian Looking” and their ethnicity was important to the character, usually they were named Raj or Singhe too, we do have Anglo names as well 🙂 I would like to be seen for jobs without it being a specific request for someone of a diverse background, I just want to be the character – That, for me, is what the Diversity debate boils down to, when you stop seeing “ethnic faces” on screen and just see “faces” then you will know that we’ve made it. I should point out that Casting Directors are way ahead of the game with this, they bring me in regardless of the description, but they don’t get the final say, unfortunately.

L.L: No. It goes without saying, but i’ll say it anyway, if a role is mine it’s mine, if not, not. This year I’ve played a New York cop, a universally hated bitch-from-hell stepmother, and now i’m Jacques Roux. i couldn’t be happier with how things are unfolding for me in the theatre scene.

As for any interesting film and TV roles, none as yet but i don’t consider that to be because it’s hard – timing is everything.

I have, however, recently shot a scene in what promises to be a wonderful web series, Pinhead, by Grouch Productions (still in production), playing the mum of the lead. It was a huge amount of fun and I was very grateful to have been cast in the role, never mind we are of obviously-different cultural backgrounds. Yay for breadth of vision and acknowledgement of the way some things really are in the world!

G.C: How did you hear about Marat/Sade, and what attracted you to the project?

G.D: I was doing some role play work with Annette (Marat) and Barry, and Annette told me Barry needed people in the ensemble, and I said yes before hearing what the play was about, I had no reason to say no, but I trusted Annette and I thought Barry was pretty alright.

L.L: The fabulous Annette van Roden (Marat), who I met through our mutual acting coach, Anthony Brandon Wong, posted on Facebook about it. I booked my audition time without knowing much about the play, aside from a quick read of it and having done only a small amount of research. I just said that aloud, didn’t I? I’ve been very keen to be able to do something with the New Theatre and Barry French was looking for a cast of thousands (almost), so it was a no-brainer.

G.C: What was your reaction to the director’s interpretation of the play, in terms of the setting and the contemporary political context?

L.L: I’m crazy about the director’s interpretation of the play, its setting and the contemporary political context. It couldn’t be more relevant and alive. Barry had me read Roux at the audition, which was something I hadn’t anticipated – something about “Roux is a man and I am a woman.” Walking out of there that day, though, I thought, “OMG! I would LOVE to play that role.” Male or female, at the end of the day, Roux is a human with something to say that ought be said, something broken hearts everywhere are screaming out to have said and, most importantly, heard.

G.D: I thought it was a great idea. It’s something we need right now. There are some powerful scenes in there and I love that he didn’t shy away from any of it. Seeing it in action, I couldn’t imagine the play any other way.

G.C: What has been the most enjoyable or rewarding aspect of the rehearsal process? What have been the biggest challenges?

L.L: It’s been wonderful to work with such a fabulously talented, committed (literally and figuratively in this case), open-hearted team on such a beautiful project. The biggest challenge, as ever, is overcoming the fear that I won’t be able to bring everything that is required – it’s about freedom, always.

G.D: I’ve loved it all including the challenges but its always the personal experience that matters the most to me. The cast and Crew are the best thing about this play, they are incredibly dedicated and professional, no Divas no Egos, you can talk to anyone, which I haven’t always experienced on set 🙂 I just sit back and watch the magic unfold so its been very easy to work on this.

Barry has spoiled me as a director, he informs and gives feedback but steps out of the way so you can then bring it to life which is great because I’m super stubborn and bull headed, if I believe in something I stick to it no matter what :). This has been such a rich process. I have no formal training and little stage experience so working with someone as experienced, well trained, and talented as Barry, means that I can learn a lot of technical things like how to move, how to open my body etc to fit the medium of stage.

G.C: Thanks guys. See you on stage tomorrow.