A MOODY STAGE VERSION OF THE CLASSIC OUTLAW TALE HEADS TO THE GOLD COAST
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.”
Kevin Spink, Steven Rooke and Anthony Standish in the stage show