If one pursues acting in order to experience what it is like to be somebody entirely different, then the lovely James Monarski has struck gold. Bethany Simons spoke with the WAAPA graduate about his experience playing the violent Brett Sprague in Black Water Theatre’s debut production, The Boys.
We’d like to think that we’re above violence, but so often the daily news goes beyond the picket fence to shine a light that would prove otherwise. Gordon Graham’s incredible play, The Boys – believed to have been inspired by the real life murder of Anita Cobby in the 1980’s – tells the story of a lower-class Australian family torn apart by a heinous crime.
Approached by the founders of Black Water Theatre Productions, James Monarski admits that, though Brett is not a role in which he would normally be cast, he’s thankful for the opportunity to expand his repertoire.
“It has been the ultimate stretch for me, because it’s not me. Why not tackle something that really puts you outside your comfort zone? You just go there and give it your all. I love character transformation – it’s one of the wonderful things about acting. The industry wants to pigeon-hole you, and I guess I want to destroy that a bit.”
Studying both in Australia and New York City with renowned acting coach Larry Moss, has had a big impact on Monarski and his approach to breaking down a character.
“Larry teaches that it’s not about you, it comes back to the text and the story. You get more of a pay off emotionally in the story if you serve the text as best you can.”
[pull_left]It has been the ultimate stretch for me, because it’s not me. Why not tackle something that really puts you outside your comfort zone[/pull_left]
As difficult as it may be to comprehend what the characters in The Boys are capable of, Monarski maintains that one can never judge the person they are playing. When dealing with such shocking content, it seems important to search for the humanity, the moments that may allow us to relate or view the characters in a new light.
“There are a few moments where we’ve tried to keep it light at the beginning, to find that humour. The most wonderful thing is when people come up to us and say they were truly moved. I’ve had audiences say I’ve done it justice, which is the ultimate compliment.”
Directed by Peter Blackburn, the ensemble cast also features Ally Fowler, Laura Wheelwright, Dylan Watson, Lee Beckhurst, Sarah Grace and company co-founder, Brooke Aust. Though it’s called The Boys, Monarski says a large portion of the play centres on the lives of the women who love them. “The women have more of the story –they were treated so poorly because they were associated with the boys”.
During the eight-week rehearsal process, Monarski enjoyed exploring the family dynamic, in particular the relationship between the boys and their long-suffering mother, played by Ally Fowler. “By association, she has become like a surrogate mother to us boys. It’s such an interesting character. The hardest part was not to laugh because Ally is so funny – she has this amazing comedic timing.”
Though it’s no walk in the park, The Boys is indeed a very relevant story that needs to be heard. Due to popular demand, Black Water Theatre Productions have extended their season at Revolt Arts Space until Saturday 22 June.
After raising a production budget of just over $4.5k via an online crowdfunding campaign, Black Water Theatre Productions have chosen to donate ten percent of their box office proceeds to the White Ribbon Foundation to aid its campaign to stop violence against women.
THE BOYS – Blackwater Theatre Productions
Revolt Melbourne Artspace (12 Elizabeth Street, Kensington)
Wed 19, Thur 20 & Sat 22 June at 8pm
For info and tickets visit Revolt