KELLY GANG

A MOODY STAGE VER­SION OF THE CLAS­SIC OUT­LAW TALE HEADS TO THE GOLD COAST

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - Kelly, The Arts Cen­tre Gold Coast, to­mor­row and Satur­day.

ROSE SADLEIR & JODIE MUNRO O’BRIEN

Steven Rooke be­lieves the best way to tap into your char­ac­ter’s psy­che is by see­ing them in a pos­i­tive light and un­der­stand­ing what they be­lieve in.

That’s why the Aus­tralian ac­tor had to im­merse him­self in Ned Kelly’s story be­fore he took on the ti­tle role in new play Kelly.

“I didn’t know a whole lot about the story be­fore but (the role) gave me the mo­ti­va­tion to study it,” says Rooke.

“It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing story – you couldn’t write it (make it up) – there’s so much treach­ery and lies, peo­ple look­ing af­ter their own best in­ter­ests. It’s an un­be­liev­able saga.”

Queens­land play­wright Matthew Ryan’s spin on the leg­endary out­law tale is based on the idea that Ned Kelly’s brother Dan didn’t die in the Glen­rowan shootout in 1880.

“A num­ber of men later in their lives claimed to be Dan Kelly,” says Rooke.

Pro­duced by Queens­land Theatre Com­pany, Kelly opens on the Gold Coast stage to­mor­row be­fore tour­ing na­tion­ally.

Di­rected by Todd MacDon­ald, the play is set in Ned Kelly’s cell the night be­fore his ex­e­cu­tion.

“In our ver­sion, Dan Kelly sneaks into the cell dis­guised as a priest,” says Rooke.

“He is seek­ing a bless­ing from Ned af­ter he de­parted Glen­rowan with­out res­cu­ing his brother. (The meet­ing) doesn’t go as well as it should, and in­side the cell we see flash­backs and re-en­act­ments.”

While the play has a dark premise, Rooke says it’s also very funny in places.

“Matt Ryan is known for his com­edy more than his drama,” he says.

“He gives the play real mo­ments of light­ness and hu­mour. It’s a roller-coaster ride – it’s fierce, emo­tional, hi­lar­i­ous and fast-paced.”

Kevin Spink and An­thony Standish round out the cast and Rooke says the trio of ac­tors have been good friends for num­ber of years.

Kelly made its world de­but in 2012 but Ryan has since stream­lined el­e­ments, and Rooke says it has “a whole new spark to it”.

Af­ter the orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion, Rooke, 35, was living in Syd­ney and work­ing as a bar­tender.

He says a man with a gun and an­other with a sledge­ham­mer en­tered the pub at closing time and de­manded staff empty the safe.

That’s the mo­ment Rooke, who now lives at As­p­ley, on Bris­bane’s north­side, de­cided to move back to Queens­land.

He grew up in Noosa, where he stum­bled into act­ing at the age of 14, thanks to a friend.

Rooke headed to Syd­ney af­ter grad­u­at­ing from a drama de­gree at Queens­land Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy in 2000, and landed tele­vi­sion roles on pro­grams such as All Saints, Beast­mas­ter, Home and Away and Al­ways Greener.

Film and tele­vi­sion com­mer­cial roles fol­lowed, as did regular theatre op­por­tu­ni­ties.

A few years later, he re­turned to Bris­bane and re­fo­cused his ca­reer on his first love of theatre.

The fresh de­ter­mi­na­tion landed him plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing a chance to work with his child­hood hero, Ben El­ton, in a re­vised ver­sion of his play Gasp! and roles in the pro­duc­tion of the film The Chron­i­cles of Nar­nia: Voy­age of the Dawn Treader.

“As a child, I read ev­ery­thing Ben El­ton wrote. I de­voured ev­ery one of his books, plus Black­ad­der and the Young Ones,” Rooke says.

He says he is re­ally ex­cited to be per­form­ing in a fa­mous Ho­bart theatre with the Kelly tour.

“We’re go­ing to Ho­bart and we get to per­form in the Theatre Royal, where Lau­rence Olivier per­formed,” Rooke says.

“That sort of thing is just as big a high­light as the celebrity stuff – just the his­tory of it and the amount of Aus­tralian theatre roy­alty that have been there is amaz­ing.”

Pic­ture: RICHARD GOSLING

Kevin Spink, Steven Rooke and An­thony Standish in the stage show

Kelly.

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