Since graduating from NIDA in 2004, Monica Sayers has appeared on television in 'Last Man Standing', 'Love My Way' and 'All Saints.' Last year she performed in Wayne Tunk's phenomenally successful 'The Subtle Art of Flirting" at the Newtown Theatre and in Sidetrack Theatre's 'Grounds For Marriage' with Zoe Carides.

Simon Piening spoke to her about her latest role in the return season of Dead Caesar - The Chaser's War on Ancient Rome.

Monica Sayers I notice you studied at the Australian Theatre for Young People – were you always interested in performing?
Yes, from a very young age. Singing, dancing was a big part of my childhood.

How did you get started?
My parents were cabaret singers - doing the RSL club circuit and cruise ships for a good part of my childhood, so most often I'd get to see the shows and learn all the words to songs that were associated with an older generation. eg the Carpenters, Barbra Streisand, Kenny Rodgers, the Bee Gees, Dolly Parton, etc 

What was your first experience on stage?
My first experience was entering the PO Fairstar Cruise Showcase of all the kids on board the ship, singing and dancing to the Goodship Lolly Pop. I was the youngest in the group - 3 or 4 yrs old and I was really into the song, but my HUGE bow was falling out of my hair during the performance so I was completely upstaged! I still have this, recorded on video!

You graduated from NIDA in 2004 – you've worked consistently ever since. How important was it to get that qualification?
I guess at the beginning of the course I was very conscious of the fact that I would have that piece of paper, if I made it all the way thru to the end of the course - but now that I'm a few years out, I can see it's really life experiences that make you a richer person and that in turn makes you a better actor.

What did you gain most from your time at NIDA?
That no matter how hard you work or push yourself, you can only do your best, and you shouldn't feel guilty or bad that you're not superman! I am truly grateful for this lesson.

You’ve crossed frequently between television and theatre – do you have a preference for either?
I really enjoy theatre - that's my main thing! I guess because of my parents being in the showbiz industry too, the live element always had a magic quality for me. That's what I feed off - the fact that it could all be a huge success... or fall flat on our faces coz the execution was bad! Mind you, TV has its moments of greatness too.

What do you think are the main differences between the two?
I think the fact that in theatre, you as the actor are really creating it all in that one moment when you speak - it's not being shaped by an editor or a particular camera angle - you're IT! So if you stuff up, you've got no one to blame but yourself!

Dead CaesarCan you tell us a bit about Dead Caesar...
It's pretty much a musical spoof version of Shakespeare's famous tragedy - Julius Caesar. Throw in a few musical numbers, some Chaser politic satirical humour, lots of togas, and that sums up the show in a nutshell!

You're the only female in the production...
Yes - just me and 5 fellas! All crew are males too, except for my director Tamara Cook, who has helped balance it out. She and all the cast have been very welcoming, and awesome to work with. Rebecca Macey played my character back in the January production. I was lucky to be asked to join the cast, around about late May. I'm having a blast!

What's your character in Dead Caesar?
I play a few characters but my main one is Julius Caesar's wife - Calpurnia. As she sings in the song - 'Its a pain in the arse to be a politician's wife, you're a permanent handbag, a secondary life.' This is her life with Caesar and she's pretty much sick of it all, standing in his shadows.

So it's a musical role?
Yes I sing 1 solo number that is in the vein of Cabaret (the musical) and Shirley Bassey. Top hat and cane dance to boot! Bob Fosse eat your heart out!

The show has been expanded for the return season. How different is it to the earlier production?
Not that different. We have a very colourful set, thanks to Bruce McKinven. And Chris Taylor and Andrew Hansen wrote 2 more songs, but that's about it. The rest is the same. Only with more jokes this time round!

Most recently you’ve been “self-devising” (For the Love of Tat & Sek for Take Away Theatre) – is that something you are interested in doing more of in the future?
Yes I love brainstorming and working on new works, especially movement based physical theatre. That's definitely an area I'd like to delve into more. And also cabaret - I'd like to tell my family's stories, perhaps thru song or dance.

What else is on the horizon for you?
After the show I'll have a break before I pack up my house and start my adventure in London! I was booked to go on the 2nd of June, but it's now been postponed til the end of September.

Dead Caesar opens tonight and plays until July 28 - for more information »

Photo Credit: Centre Right - Alan Dukes and Monica Sayers in Dead Caesar. Photo - Heidrun Lohr

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