A Quick Chat With Nicholas Hope

AFI Award-winning actor Nicholas Hope has written Five Properties of Chainmale, five variations of the theme of contemporary masculinity. He’s also directing it for Griffin Independent. We caught up with the celebrated writer and performer, asking him 20 questions about his career, masculinity, and overseeing his own work on stage.

How would you describe your job to the world?

Very fulfilling when it happens, but it doesn’t happen often enough. At the best of times you lose yourself in the act of storytelling and become part of a bigger whole. That’s quite a wonderful thing.

Nicholas Hope. Photo by Stephen Macdonald.
Nicholas Hope. Photo by Stephen Macdonald.

What inspired you to become a writer?

Reading.

What does your writing process generally look like? (Do you have a process?)

Someone sitting in a cafe staring at the table, then staring at whatever else is around to stare at. Process wise, I usually start from observations or experiences I have had and how they have affected me in retrospect, and extrapolate from there.

What would be your perfect day off?

I am currently working on my writing and directing, but I am by and large a freelance actor. Most of my days are days off. The perfect one would be paid. (That is a serious response).

What’s your best party trick?

I can wriggle my ears – one at a time.

What do you think – for you – is the most rewarding thing about working in film?

It’s the aspect of working in a huge community machine. To have a good time you have to get on with everyone, from the runners to the caterers to the other actors to the crew and director. And you have to trust: you have no idea what the end product will be like, and you need to believe the director does.

How about television?

Much the same as film. It’s a faster process but the ethos is very similar.

And theatre?

The rehearsal process: the piece takes form and shape as you progress. Theatre is a marathon that develops slowly; film and TV (for actors) is a series of sprints.

What do you think is the most challenging thing about working in the Australian theatre industry?

Getting a job.

Whose advice do you always take?

Always? No….

What are you reading at the moment?

A Distant Mirror, by Barbara Tuchman

You made your directing debut in 2013 – what do you think is the most important thing you learned from that debut?

To be decisive.

Alan Lovell, Jeremy Water, Dominic McDonald, about to appear in Five Properties of Chainmale. Photo by Richard Farland.
Alan Lovell, Jeremy Water, Dominic McDonald, about to appear in Five Properties of Chainmale. Photo by Richard Farland.

You’re directing Five Properties of Chainmale, which you also wrote.  Are there specific challenges for working on bringing your own writing to life, or is it more liberating than anything else to be the one in charge?

I suspect I will be able to best answer that once the play is running in front of an audience. The challenge I am faced with daily is whether the subtleties I see as the writer will play effectively to an audience. I also wonder if I am hampered or freed by having an intimate knowledge of what each character is doing or attempting.

Five Properties of Chainmale is all about contemporary masculinity “with not a bromance in sight.” How do you feel about the term “bromance”?

I dislike the term ‘bromance’, but I bow to the experience of the Griffin Independent team in publicising the show as widely as possible.

How do you feel about Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs)?

I am not familiar with them so can’t really comment.

What about the male mind did you think needs excavating for a play?

All those aspects of conventional conditioning we take for granted. The need to win, to consume, to gain status, to continually self-justify. To define ourselves in terms of power in various forms.

Who would enjoy this play?

Anyone with a sense of self-irony, and anyone who’s lived with a man.

What’s your best story from the play’s rehearsal room? 

Nicholas Hope is directing his play Five Properties of Chainmale at Griffin. Photo by Richard Farland.
Nicholas Hope is directing his play Five Properties of Chainmale at Griffin. Photo by Richard Farland.

The first time Jeremy Waters and Dominic MacDonald had to walk on ice. It doesn’t translate to the page, but the whole room was in stitches.

What drew you to the Griffin Independent program?

Griffin are effectively Australia’s premier New Writing theatre. Their Independent program is a generous one; and it’s competitive to get into. Getting in means the writing has, in one way, passed muster. It also means the play is likely to gain an audience: it will be seen. The staff are great, the audience is sympathetic, the venue is challenging and intimate. I can’t think of a reason NOT to be drawn to it.

Where and when can people see Five Properties of Chainmale?

Our first preview is on April 15th; we open on April 17th and play through to May 9th at The Stables Theatre, Craigend Street, Kings Cross. Hope to see you there…

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and is the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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