- Simon Piening
Renowned Australian actor Tony Martin is returning to Melbourne after a six-year stint in the UK. His first production with the Melbourne Theatre Company, The Seed is set to ignite old family feuds and bittersweet reunions.
The Seed is your first production with the Melbourne Theatre Company. How are you enjoying the experience?
Yes this is my first with the MTC, I’m loving being here in Melbourne. I’ve spent lots of time in Melbourne before as I shot (1998 detective drama) The Interview down here and done other bits and pieces like TV guest spots and films here.
Where are you based these days?
I had been in the UK for the past six years and came back to NSW with my wife (Rachel Blake) Christmas 2010. We originally moved to my parents’ farm in NSW and have found it hard to leave. I’m still based up in the bush, it’s so quiet and peaceful there and so beautiful. I grew up on a farm, so it’s great to have it as a base.
Can you tell me a little bit about The Seed and your character, Danny?
Danny moved to Australia when he was 19 from Nottingham, where his Irish father lives and English mother (now dead) lived. When he moved to Australia he was called up to fight in the Vietnam War. When he returned he had a child, Rose.
In the play, Rose is about to turn 30 and her grandfather 80. Rose is a journalist and wants to write the story of her grandfathers’ life. Danny hasn’t seen his father in thirty years so it is a reuniting and igniting of old and new relationships. It’s a bit like family Christmas gatherings, different people and personalities get together and all those little things come out. It’s a very sharp and witty script, it’s like a drama/comedy celebration.
All three characters are born on the same day, the 5th of November, and we (the three actors) all thought this was a bit coincidental, but it turns out it’s quite common for family members to share the same birthday. I’d hate that, I want all the attention on me!
The Seed is writer Kate Mulvany’s semi-autobiographical piece based on her own experience. Does knowing this make you more careful or respectful when interpreting Mulvany’s script?
Bits and pieces are fictional, we had Kate on board for the first week. She’s great, very open and having her there was great for research as we could ask her any questions we wanted about the characters. She said to us that this was a story she had written but we were to make it our own.
Danny is a traumatized Vietnam veteran. Were you able to draw from any of your own personal experience of that time in history?
I was a teenager at the time of the Vietnam War. The year I was coming in to it (old enough to be conscripted) was the year they stopped it. Whether I would’ve gone into the ballot and gone to Vietnam I don’t know. Everyone was worried about it at the time. People were doing runners and there were a lot of protests. There was lots of propaganda on TV and disagreements between families. The exact details at the time are little out of my range but it was all over the news, it was a pretty fiery time. To be honest I didn’t really get involved, I was more interested in country farming.
The story’s not really about the war, it’s more of a backdrop to the intermingling of different personalities. The story isn’t bogged down by politics but just like any family gathering, political views come out and Rose is stuck being the mediator between Danny and her grandfather.
You’re perhaps best know for your roles on Australian Television programs, E-Street, and as Neddy Smith on Blue Murder. You’ve also appeared in films both locally and abroad. Do you prefer working on a film/TV set or working in the live (dangerous) environment of the stage?
I love the stage – that was my background. I did a lot of plays before I got into TV or film. As I get older and lazier I prefer TV because you can re-do a scene and not have to come into work everyday even though you may be a lead character.
With live theatre, doing eight shows a week can be a lot. It may not sound like much but when you get off the stage you’re on such a high and yet completely exhausted at the same time. There’s also so much effort put into the rehearsals and you’re always thinking about how you can make this scene better or how the audience reacted to something you did the night before.
I love theatre because of the immediacy of having a live audience right in front of you. That immediate reaction and being able to take the audience on a journey with you is like having a group of people in your lounge room, and you’re telling them all a story.
As a prominent Australian actor, you have an extensive body of work. What would be your advice to aspiring actors across the country?
I’ve always said if you have a passion for something that passion will draw you. It will drive you and give you the momentum to keep going. With acting you’ve really got to love it. If you’re going to do it, pursue it because you love it or it will eat you up. That will be the thing that will drive you on because that love will help you deal with the all the disappointments along the way.
Melbourne Theatre Company presents
by Kate Mulvany
Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio
Dates: 17 February – 4 April 2012
Tickets: from $56 (Under 30s just $33)
Bookings: The MTC Theatre Box Office 03 8688 0800 | mtc.com.au
Top right – Tony Martin and Sara Gleeson in rehearsal for The Seed. Photo – Pam Kleemann