60 SECONDS WITH... TOBY TRUSLOVE
Actor Toby Truslove is back on stage with a new take on a classic Australian character.
Q Tell me about Bliss, your new play at Belvoir Theatre?
A The show’s about a guy named Harry Joy who has a heart attack and dies but wakes up after nine minutes convinced that he’s died and is now in hell. Everything he sees and that happens to him, he believes is hell — his family, work colleagues, everyone he knows, are actors in hell sent to torment him. But he starts to see life for the first time, the life that everyone else knows he’s going through but he’s been too blind to see. It takes his belief he’s dead to live. He starts to inspect his whole life and finds his wife having an affair, discovers all this stuff but says this is not real, this is hell tormenting him. He doesn’t realise they’re all his real family who haven’t been happy for years and he never noticed. It’s funny, moving and the Peter Carrey novel it’s based on was a precedent for the Australia of today.
Q Is he a complex character to play?
A He is, because it’s a novel of a guy who has to navigate this hell of his own devising until he finds a place he can cope. A lot of people have read Bliss. Some people have an idea of what the character will be and there is a fairly well known Australian film starring Barry Otto. But it’s quite fun to do. The show is madcap and surreal and a bit silly at the start. And there’s pathos in there as well, so you get to stretch yourself a bit. And there’s an amazing ensemble cast, so I’m very well supported. It’s running around the stage two hours being an idiot — it’s quite a lot of fun.
Q You’ve also done quite a bit of TV, what’s your best TV experience?
A At the moment it’s Utopia. It’s a great show and a lot of fun, there’s a great cast and a funny script. And a couple of years ago I filmed The Strange Calls with Barry Crocker. I played a hopeless cop and he was this mad old janitor and together we solved bizarre crimes. That was one of my favourite shows and Barry Crocker is such a legend. I’ve been pretty lucky, I’ve mostly done pretty quirky ABC comedies. I do the more serious stuff on stage.
Q Most memorable audition, good or bad?
A The worst one I can think of was in the States. I was meeting a casting agent for the first time, I’d gone in doing an American accent and I thought the character had a high pitched nasal voice. It was all going well, until I launched into this crazy voice and I got to the end and, God bless her, she just said, ‘What are you doing? That was terrible. Just do your voice, just an American accent. Drop your accent.’ Casting people were telling me to just drop my accent and do a normal one. So trying to explain to an American that to me they have an accent, and I’m not putting on an Australian accent, was trying.
Q What draws you to a role?
A I don’t know what it says about me but I tend to play sad clowns. People who are funny but a bit broken or hopeless. Harry Joy is comedic but ultimately still sad and tragic. I think for good comedy you need to know what’s not comedy, to make people laugh you need to know what’s sad. I think all great comedic performances have a little bit of sadness.
Q You grew up in Perth, what is it about the west coast that produces such great talent? A It’s the water, there’s a special additive. Everyone else gets fluoride we get sparkly magic dust. Perth, I think it’s the isolation, you can play in bands and do a lot of stuff without the rest of Australia looking at you. I guess the people who’ve left Perth and come east, it’s a pretty big move, a big mental shift. You have to be serious about it. So people who come across mean it and arrive with a bit of momentum.
Q How did you get into acting?
A I went to an all-boys high school and didn’t really know any actors. We played a lot of sport and punched each other at lunchtime. At uni I’d known I wanted to be an actor for a while and I don’t know where that came from. My parents read to me a lot so I had a crazy imagination. After walking out of a lecture for a poorly chosen subject I literally bumped into a friend who was doing theatre arts … she reminded me how much I’d loved theatre at school and walked me across campus and signed me up. I found all these people who were like me. It took a while to get there but I loved it from the first taste.
Q dream role you have your eye on?
A I’d like to one day play my own character that I’ve built from the ground up. Acting is always interpreting someone else’s work, it’s a dream to interpret my own thing and see what I would do with it. I’d also like to play a superhero. It could be fun just once but then I’d hang my cape up … there’s way too much push-ups.
Q How do you and partner Michala Banas juggle your schedules when you’re both working actors?
A In our lunatic line of work it’s mostly impossible to plan what you’ll be doing next year, even next week. We take each job as it comes, we try to travel with each other and, if we can’t, speak at least once a day. It important not to get too professional about missing each other — it should be hard. The moment it gets easy to spend time apart is the moment you have to be concerned.
Bliss is at the Belvoir Theatre until July 15.
Toby Truslove with partner Michala Banas and (left) as Harry Joy in Bliss. Picture: Julie Kiriacoudis