INSIDE CRACK – Acting Out Of Place

An Interview With Tasmanian Actor Robert Maxwell

By Alex Morris @Nemiwai

Thirty-year-old Tasmanian actor Robert Maxwell has never been to This Is Not Art (TiNA) or Crack Theatre Festival before – he visited Newcastle only once when he was 18 and passing through on a surfing trip. But this year he will be traveling up with a brand new work as part of Crack Theatre Festival’s Setting the Stages initiative. When we spoke with him via Skype, he was in New York City conducting interviews for his upcoming performance.

Rob will be the sole actor in the performance, and he’s excited to be using verbatim theatre techniques to create the work – a documentary-style of performance where the script uses the exact words said by interviewees.

“It’s a type of theatre-making where the text is generated from the interviews with people. It has to be curated so it still tells a good story. It’s a challenge to learn an audio script, but then it’s also really cool for me as a theatre maker,” Rob said. “It allows the story to be told stripping away the chance of the actor to reinterpret.”

Rob’s currently completely wrapped up in his acting career, but he wasn’t always so sure what he wanted to do. He grew up on a sheep farm in rural Tasmania and while he regularly performed in school plays, he never thought acting would be his full-time job. He went to University in Melbourne where he studied Criminology and Political science and then went to Japan where he taught English and acted in short films.

“I decided to move back to Melbourne to really give acting a shot,” he said from his experience in Japan. “I auditioned for VCA, didn’t get in. Pretty disheartened, I decided to take my own, be the master of my own destiny, moved to NYC for acting school, [and] enrolled in the Atlantic Acting School’s six week summer intensive program.”

That experience was not nearly long enough, so he stayed in New York pursuing acting for another five years. Eventually he decided he wanted to return to Tasmania and work on his career from there.

He went from New York back to Melbourne where he was picked up by an agent. He then moved home and got to work.

His current project for Crack Theatre Festival involves himself, Maeve MacGregor who runs Loud Mouth Theatre Company in Tasmania, and a Texan playwright named Holly Gibson who also resides in Tasmania. It is aptly named HOME.

“The theme of our show surrounds the universal concept of home displacement, cultural backgrounds and the meaning of distance,” Rob said of the show, which is currently in development.

Rob and Maeve are enthusiastic about everything happening in Tassie’s theatre community, but they felt in order for their piece to reach its full potential it needed to be developed ‘off shore’ in front of fresh eyes. The pair creating the show wants HOME to be in working order by the time it gets to Crack Theatre Festival, though they know it won’t be finished.

“Come October, our show will be in the second half of the development phase, and we are really looking forward to receiving feedback and workshopping ideas with other theatre-makers from around the country. Our ultimate goal after development is to produce the show in Tasmania,” Rob said. “We reckon the creative environment that the Festival offers will fuel our fire to create more of our own work and give us the best chance of establishing a focused path towards the realisation of this specific production.”

He’s hoping Home will reawaken the necessity for human connection – for example, addressing turning away asylum seekers in Australia and racial tensions in America. He wants to bring different concepts of ‘home’ all together.

“We’re hoping to instill in our audience a feeling of reconnecting with the human spirit,” Rob said.

You will find HOME at The Crack House, Newcastle CBD, on the 3rd of October at 8:15 PM.