COMEDY AND CHEMISTRY
More than three years after they last shared a screen (and a fictional child) in the fifth season of Offspring, Deborah Mailman and John Waters are reunited in Three Summers, the new Aussie movie comedy written and directed by expat Brit Ben Elton.
What is it that has these two on a collision course?
“Well I don’t know,” says Waters, a twinkle in his eye, “there’s just a little something happenin’.”
“There must be a bit of chemistry going on!” whoops Mailman.
“We’re ready for the next thing we get cast in together,” Waters continues. “We have a great rapport, it’s just nice and easy.”
Adds Mailman: “What was great was knowing that John and I have worked for so long together, there was going to be a familiarity and comfort with each other, so we could just hit the ground running.”
“It was great for me,” says Waters, “because I just missed Deb. Not being involved in season six of
Offspring, I missed out.”
Oh yes, they killed Darcy Proudman off in season six, didn’t they?
“Yeah,” Waters chuckles, “bastards.”
Years may have passed and the setting may be different — Three Summers takes place at a West Australian folk music festival, where romance is sparked and attitudes challenged over three consecutive years — but Mailman and Waters have picked up right where they left off.
Just as Cherie and Darcy got it on in Offspring, there’s something simmering between
Three Summers’ Pam and Eamon, albeit tempered by the fact that he’s an alcoholic musician and she’s an AA counsellor.
“Eamon and Pam have a history,” begins Mailman. “She’s reformed, become AA, and is very much hovering around Eamon to try and convince him that he should be coming to these meetings.”
Waters: “She’s waiting for a chance to get at him. Usually with alcoholics, they’re ready to start a serious attempt at recovery when they’re at a low ebb. So Eamon hits rock bottom during the course of these three festivals and becomes ready, as it were. There’s obviously a nice attraction between Eamon and Pam, anyway.” Mailman: “Yeah, there’s a great banter between them. Pam knows all the tricks, she calls out Eamon’s bulls---, pretty much.” “And he appreciates that,” says Waters. “Ultimately, when you’re a bulls---ter, you don’t respect the people who accept your bulls---; but when somebody comes back at you, you go, ‘Ooh, I like her!’”
Elton took great pride in recruiting “Australia’s top A-list of comic and dramatic actors” for his film, surrounding young stars Rebecca Breeds and Robert Sheehan with national treasures, including Michael Caton, Magda Szubanski and Kelton Pell.
Waters and Mailman definitely fit the bill, but baulk at the nametag. “National treasure?” asks Waters. “Makes us feel old,” says Mailman, breaking into laughter. However, both were quick to sign up when Elton came calling. “Happily, I’d met Ben a few times socially,” Waters says. “When he was out in Australia doing Stark (in the early 1990s) with Jacqui McKenzie, we stayed at the Como Hotel in Melbourne and we’d meet up in the evenings and chat away at the bar. Then I ran into him in London at the Groucho Club some years later. “Then this call came. I love Ben’s writing and always have done. I first saw him as a stand-up artist but then of course Black Adder and The Young Ones came around.” Like those classic British comedy series, Elton’s script for Three Summers is a verbose delight.
“I love the fact that somebody writes a literate script like that. That really appeals to me,” says Waters.
“Every character is eloquent in their own way — whether they say a lot or a little.”
“He elevates dialogue,” Mailman agrees. “There’s a great rhythm, intelligence and eloquence to the way these characters speak.”
By bringing disparate strands of Australian society together under the festival big-top — from indigenous performers to recent immigrants — Elton uses Three Summers to dig under the skin of the nation.
“There’s a really good underbelly of truth around the attitudes (Australians have),” says Mailmain. “It’s a microcosm of a much bigger whole.”
“He doesn’t set the bar low,” Waters marvels, “he’s set himself to put a lot of stuff in here. I think he’s touched on some things that need saying about Australia today, he really has. And it’s nice to be able to say them in this way, with a touch of humour.”
“THERE’S A GREAT RHYTHM, INTELLIGENCE AND ELOQUENCE TO THE WAY THESE CHARACTERS SPEAK”
SEE THREE SUMMERS opens tomorrow
DEB MAILMAN ON SCREEN WITH JOHN WATERS