Red Stitch’s first show for 2013 is 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog. It explores the relationship between a grandson who can’t face his life and a grandmother who struggles to remember hers and starts Julia Blake and Red Stitch ensemble members Ngaire Dawn and Tim Ross.
Before moving to Melbourne, Tim Ross did stand-up comedy in his home town of Adelaide and performed in shows for the Adelaide Theatre Guild. Then he came to the Victorian College of the Arts to do Drama. Tim made his MTC in Hamlet; has been seen on tv in Neighbours, Rush, Underbelly and Mrs Biggs; and his Red Stitch shows include On Ego, Oh Well Never Mind Bye, Howie the Rookie and The Kitchen Sink. He chats to Anne-Marie Peard about his grandparents, Pav and what to do when an audience member vomits.
What three words best describe your show?
Grandma, whadayacallit, freedom.
What do you love most about this show?
The relationship and dynamic between the characters, especially with Leo and his Grandma, Vera. I could sit in that world for days on end
There’s something about the way Amy Herzog writes – it’s so real and close to home. She based some of the characters on those in her own life and they therefore have an incredible history and depth to them. Nothing is forced; it’s very natural and subtle, yet still manages to pack a huge amount of punch. It’s real and full of life.
What is one of your favourite shows you’ve seen at Red Stitch?
The Aliens by Annie Baker. Made me laugh, made me cry. I still think about that one from time to time.
What do you love about working with Red Stitch?
It’s intimate, raw; it’s in your face. I also love the fact that we can take on roles we wouldn’t necessarily be cast in. You can afford to take risks, which challenges you and allows you to grow as an actor.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced preparing for this show?
Diving in to the headspace of my character, Leo. It’s a dark and messy place and it’s hard to create what he’s been through. He is keeping his emotions bottled up inside and it can be quite discomforting when you feel it. It sounds like a load of wank but it can alter who you are as a person and that can sometimes be distressing. It’s important to wind down after a big day of rehearsals.
What was your reaction when you first read this play?
I’ve got to play this role. I’ve always been close to my grandparents. When I was younger I used to drive up on my own to stay with them. Now that is no longer an option, this was a chance to relive that experience in a different light.
Who would you love to see in the audience one night?
Is there anyone you don’t want to see in the audience?
My grandparents. That would be f**king scary.
When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
I remember when I was very young my sister had a friend over who was really upset about something. I put on a Janis Joplin song and mimed the lyrics to her in a microphone. The feeling it gave me when her tears dissolved in to those of laughter was one I knew I wanted to explore. Since then I’ve always had a thing for moving people and activating their emotions. There’s an unexplainable satisfaction about bringing someone into the world you are creating and convincing them that it’s real.
Do you believe in any theatre superstitions? What are they?
Not at all. If Macbeth had a theme song I would whistle it in the theatre.
What’s some great theatre advice you’ve used? Who was it from?
“Sometimes, you’ve just got to put your blinkers on and not worry about what anyone else thinks.” Kim Gyngell.
What’s something else red that you like?
Mars. You’ll have to take my word for it that I’ve been there.
What punishment is fit for audience members who don’t turn their phones off during a performance?
A curse: Any phone they own will continue to ring 24/7. Full volume. Theme song from Mash.
What role/character do you really want to play one day?
I’d like to give King Lear a go when I’m 80.
You have one trip in the TARDIS; what performance do you see?
The Big Bang. Does that count? How do I claim my prize?
What director has taught you the most?
Simon Phillips taught me that nothing needs to be taken too seriously. Even if it’s Hamlet at the MTC.
What’s your favourite cake?
I’m not really a dessert/cake-man but my arm is pretty easily twisted if there’s a decent looking Pavlova on the table. And I mean decent. I’d also try any cake that Charlize Theron was climbing out of.
In your wildest dreams, who would you love to work with on a show?
Sir Ian McKellen. I think he would have some advice worth listening to.
Do you read your reviews?
Only the 5 star ones. So, very rarely.
What’s something odd that you’ve seen an audience member do during a show?
Vomit over about six chairs. That was at Red Stitch, so needless to say we stopped that one. I generally prefer written reviews.
Convince a stubborn north-sider to head over the river to St Kilda.
The chairs have all been steam-cleaned and sprayed with “new car” scent.
Tell us about your fellow cast and director?
Director Mark Pritchard will be one to watch out for. He’s got a great eye and is incredibly sharp. He’s not bad at directing either.
Julia Blake is one of the most dedicated actors I’ve had the privilege of working with. An absolute inspiration’ full of beans and full of stories. We clicked instantly and she actually feels like my grandmother. It will be a sad day when this production ends.
Red Stitch Theatre
6 February – 9 March (not Monday or Tuesday)