Benedict Hardie is an actor, writer and director and Associate Artist with Melbourne's award winning Hayloft Project. This month he debut's with the Melbourne Theatre Company, playing the role of Tom in Daniel Keene's Life Without Me.

Benedict spoke to Australian Stage's Paul Andrew.

Benedict HardieWho what when and/or where first inspired you to become an actor. Tell me about this?
I don't think there was a stroke of lightning, it's just the thing that makes the most sense for me to do, somehow. I have energy to give to acting and theatre. Seeing acting not as role-play but rather as a gift you give may have been a turning point for me somewhere.

It's also a great way to meet chicks.

Where did you study, and what are you most grateful for during this time of study?
Acting? At VCA. I also studied Economic and Social Science at Sydney University.

I am grateful for the selfishness that study affords you.

Or forgiveness perhaps.

I am also grateful for being able to spend time around other artists, pedagogically and as peers. I have been taught by artists who are also some of the most beautiful people I've ever met.

You are an Associate Artist with the Hayloft Project. Tell me about this role, how this project began, the recent past, and what’s happening now?
The Hayloft Project was started by Simon Stone, whom I knew through VCA, and Simon invited a group of us to join him in the company. We are a group of artists who love theatre and make it. I have been involved as a director, writer, actor, producer, set builder, film-maker, administrator, programmer, and shadow in the corner.

We're currently having a great run with Thyestes at The Malthouse, and I'm also working on a new adaptation of a Maxim Gorky text that we're calling The Nest, to be seen at The Northcote Town Hall in December.

This is your MTC debut, how does this feel right now and how did you go in the audition/s?
This feels lovely right now. I am working with a phenomenal and inspiring group of people, on a new play by a playwright I've long admired and now have the pleasure to know, and I'll be performing a full season in a beautiful new theatre. I am also getting paid to do this, baffling though that fact is.

The opportunity to audition was quite unexpected as I don't have much of a "profile". I seized the opportunity by bribing the director with cash.

Only way to do it.

Tell me something funny that happened during rehearsals?
Everything Brian Lipson does is hilarious and wonderful.

And Kerry Walker.

And the others, yep, they're all funny too. Mind you, we have (inexplicably) a lot of cakes and sugary things in rehearsal so the giggles may be chemical.

How would you describe the play Life Without Me in seven words?
hotel lost

Tell me a little about Tom’s back story, his life before the play begins?
The circumstances are: Tom is married to Ellen, they've been together since they were kids, and they've come from interstate to this hotel. This is all anyone (including me) needs to know. And that he pushed her off the swings once.

What are you loving about this character Tom?
Character is an elusive notion in Daniel Keene's writing. If you come with the agenda of playing his scenes in a certain way, you'll swiftly kill them. What I love is Daniel's repeated refusal to allow us as an audience to feel we really know a person. But really we do know them. But we don't really.

Like in life.

You know?

And what are you loving about Daniel Keene’s newest play?
It's beguiling. There's a rabbit hole thing with a dolly zoom thing going on. You could sit back and take it at its broadest as a farce, but if you sit forward I think you'll find it beautifully difficult to be with.

It sounds quite philosophical in it’s premise, what are your thoughts on this?
Every good playwright makes the mistake of writing a philosphical play sooner or later.

Early in his writing life Keene was inspired by Samuel Beckett’s plays, are there any Beckett nuances in Life Without Me, and if so, can you tell me about these?
Daniel's writing indicates a deep feeling for rhythm and cadence. His text does more than divulge a story and depict characters, there are unpredictable sensate impacts - akin to those in poetry and music - moving through his words. It sounds very real and feels very "other". I think that is why people cry Beckett.

What has been your most memorable acting role so far?
I lip-synched The Monster Mash at school assembly in first grade.

Most memorable and inspiring theatre experience recently?
I'm particularly proud of The Hayloft Project's Thyestes. There are many things I love about theatre held within it like a flame. And it points towards exciting new places.

What does the future hold for you?
I plan to write and devise a lot of plays, direct a few, and be an actor when people will let me.

What do you feel is most urgent right now, as storytelling goes?
Stories that, relatively speaking, help us know less and feel more.

Life Without Me plays at the MTC Sumner Theatre, as part of the 2010 Melbourne International Arts Festival - October 9 until Nov 21, 2010. Further details»

Life Without Me rehearsal photos by Pam Kleeman

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