Ac­tor Toby Truslove is back on stage with a new take on a clas­sic Aus­tralian char­ac­ter.

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Best Weekend - - NEWS - In­ter­view by NAOMI WHITE

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

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