Every now again an opportunity comes around that makes acclaimed actors jump. For popular Australian actor Peter Cousens, one such opportunity was working with director Stephen Colyer on Darlinghurtst Theatre’s production of The Paris Letter, which opens later this month.
The Paris Letter, written by acclaimed US writer Jon Robin Baitz (possibly best known in Australia as creator and producer of the hit TV series Brothers and Sisters, but whose current Broadway offering, Other Desert Cities, is a triumph by all accounts) is seeing its Australian debut as part of the 2012 Mardi Gras Festival.
Set in the much-stylised era of the 1960s New York and modern-day Paris, The Paris Letter is a story of a complex and certainly lethal affair between a successful businessman and a young male associate that tackles varying attitudes towards sexuality and desire. An incendiary play, the work is significant and compelling. Cousens will be joined on stage by a stellar cast including Caleb Alloway, Susie Lindeman and Nicholas Papademetriou.
Director Stephen Colyer, who as Resident Director has worked on such big-ticket musicals as Dirty Dancing, The Full Monty, The Rocky Horror Show and Cabaret, has a vast background in the Australian arts, from dance and choreography through to acting and directing. For Peter Cousens, who too has a long-established career in musical theatre performance (including Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon and Les Miserables), the chance to work with a peer was unmissable.
“I have always wanted to work with Stephen and The Paris Letter seemed like the perfect opportunity” Cousens says, and is clearly pleased to be working on a play with some very important messages.
“It is a poignant story about living a lie and the perception of gay relationships and this is what drew me to this production,” he explains. Peter’s role is that of a narrator protagonist; it is his perspective on life that we relive as he tries to justify his affair with a man, and how he deals with the demons that appear when living a lie.
It’s a thrilling role, a pivotal one, and Cousens has played a few pivotal roles before in his time. “Chris in Miss Saigon and Vince in Strange Bedfellows were my two favourite roles on stage,” he says.
Following The Paris Letter and the Mardi Gras Festival, Cousens will return to his work of developing a new Australian musical; Ginger Meggs will be presented on stage in a Sydney premiere later this year.
“It has been hard work to develop an iconic Australian figure into a musical,” Cousens confided, but the work sounds extremely rewarding.
With a strong variety in roles behind him — and ahead, too — one can only look forward to what is sure to be a compelling and revelatory performance in The Paris Letter.
The Paris Letter
Darlinghurst Theatre Company, 19 Greenknowe Ave Potts Point
Dates: 24 February – 25 March 2012
Opening night: 28 February
Performances: Tuesday – Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 5pm (NO SHOW 3 March)
Matinees Saturday 17 & 24 March 2012 at 3pm
Adult $38, Mardi Gras members $33, Concession $33, Senior $33, Groups 10+ $33
(02) 8556 9987