THE BIG ASK MARTIN DINGLE-WALL
UNDERBELLY: A Tale of Two Cities has offered Martin Dingle-Wall the role of a lifetime.
Dingle-Wall plays Melbourne standover man Les Kane, who was described as the most violent criminal in Australia.
It’s been said his wife Judi (played by Kate Ritchie) was a good woman married to a bad man. Her life was shattered in 1978, when she and Les arrived home after a night out.
Judi walked to the kitchen and Les went to the bathroom to clean his teeth. Three gunmen burst in and forced Judi and her children to the floor. Les was machine-gunned to death and his body dragged to the boot of his car. Neither he nor the car were found. How do you get your head around a character like Les Kane? I received a vast amount of material from producers, then started to build this mosaic— the family tree and the food chain and where they all sat. People referred to Les in sweeping statements, such as the most violent man and so on. That’s when it dawned on me that it was a sheer pleasure, what I’d been given (script). It was the freedom of taking boundaries away and seeing where your own natural adrenalin and interpretation take you. It was almost like a freestyle improvisation. Do you think Les was a victim of his upbringing? Both (brother Brian and Les) were born into crime. If he was assessed today it would be bipolar, pathological— anybody who has no impulse or desire to stand in front of their emotions and steer them, but just be dragged across a field of broken glass by them. I think the most fascinating part about him was that he was a family man. As far as I was concerned, he was motivated to protect his own, but he had no concept of a reasonable boundary. He viewed his behaviour as his birthright and that is what is so terrifying. You have to understand that these guys had big personalities. My first hurdle was, if this guy was this bad and terrifying . . . there had to be something about him that would engage the heart of a good woman. How does Judi deal with his violence? Judi’s priorities at the start of the show have shifted. She knows the thunder is coming. You can feel the ground rattling, the stampede is hurtling towards them. She has all but abandoned trying to control Les. She knows the road he’s on and to her it’s all about (protecting) the children. How do you think Les and Brian Kane adapted to the changing landscape of crime— the emphasis shifting from illegal gambling and so forth to hard drugs? Les’s problem is he was incapable of adapting. One of their strengths was that Brian knew he had Les on a leash and that Les was a pit bull. That worked in their favour, but only to a point because Brian also knew if he and Les kept going like this, it couldn’t end well. Les was so blinded by pride, protecting his own stash. Brian was the brains, the strategist, he conceived everything. There had to be some normality in Les. But then there would be those moments, after that 13th drink, he was that kind of guy who’d cross over. Not just being susceptible to violence, but starting to sniff it out. Do you think there’s merit in the theory that most villains don’t see themselves as villains, but as people who are misunderstood? Mate, you will never get anyone to follow you as an actor unless you find out first and foremost what it is you like about the character (you’re playing). Even with psychopaths, there has to be a glitch in there somewhere that people can relate to. It’s been said everyone’s personality is like a keyboard. The way you identify yourself is by three or four keys. That’s your sound. We have access to all the sounds, it’s just a matter of which keys you use to identify your personality.