A Chat with Sam Coward
It’s hard to catch my husband for more than 2 minutes at a time so we’re lucky we got this much out of him.
This weekend is your last chance to see Sam in what he says will be his final role on stage for a while. And he’s good. And I’m his biggest critic. You should see this production, it’s good; it’s Simon Denver’s staging of Sue Smith’s bold Australian play about a Pilbara community rocked by the unexpected death of their mate, Gus, played by Sam.
Tell us about Gus
Gus has a fairly fast decline from being enthusiastic and somewhat superficial about his role as the safety officer. He’s got an IQ of 133. And then all of a sudden we see his decline; he’s obviously been in the job too long and he sees the de-civilisation in the camp that brings him to breaking point. He resorts to drugs and alcohol, which leads him to doing something stupid. Perhaps if he weren’t depressed he wouldn’t have taken the risk, which ultimately led to his death. Did the drugs and alcohol make the risk possible?
How much has the environment contributed to the death of Gus?
Gus is a good man. You see him trying to fit in and he’s an Alpha but it’s not about intellect in that environment. It’s as superficial as “might has right” and it’s a Neolithic hierarchy. Placed in those extreme environmental conditions, combined with a lawless and loveless mental condition, basic instincts govern.
Are there any answers by the end of the play?
By the end we learn that relationships are all that matter but people are still going to be attracted to the bright lights and the promise of money. They’ll put themselves into shit conditions to make a lot of money fast. The resource boom FIFO jobs are traps. They sound like they’re a good thing for the family, they’re sold attractively but these jobs are just cheese in the trap. The alcohol, the drugs…
There must be people who find the lifestyle attractive. It’s empty, shallow, and it’s easy until you stop and think about it. It’s purely about the wants. There’s no love, there are just connections.
What’s it like to play a dead guy?
It’s funny. Because you’re one of the guys but you’re not performing as one of the guys. They’re all talking about me but I’m not there talking with them. I have a different relationship with them.
Tell us about working with SRT
The company is cavalier, crazy and raw. Whether the success of their shows is by accident or design we’ll never know. Simon says the success of a show is 99% casting and he’s right; that’s what we see him do.
There’s a high degree of trust in the SRT process, where actors in the fold are trusted and it’s more a baptism of fire for the newbies. Weaknesses are exposed, ridiculed, and laughed about until they’re not weaknesses anymore. It’s survival of the fittest. You can either work the way we work or you can’t. There’s no management and no handholding. Everybody knows what he or she is doing and they expect you to do the same. When you join SRT for a production it’s sink or swim.
So describe the rehearsal process…
BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh. You mean Bump In and Tech? That’s it. No, really, that’s it.
Is this an important play?
Yes, it’s very relevant; it takes an up close look at the impact of the FIFO phenomenon on Australian families. There’s so much perpetuated about the mining culture and this is a glimpse at the truth.
What’s this about a Boys’ Shed at Noosa Arts Theatre?
The Mens’ Sheds comprise men over 60 who hang out and build stuff. The proposal is to start up a boys’ arm of the Mens’ Shed to provide role models for the sons of FIFO fathers, as well as opportunities to learn and apply new practical skills. It’s an old school idea for a new generation of Lost Boys.
What about a Girls Shed?
Well, they’re everywhere…salons, stores, and coffee shops.
Righto… What’s next? The Pirate Show is ongoing, at least until the 22nd. What do you have on after that?
The Pirate Show is the first theatre restaurant concept the Sunshine Coast has seen for years so we hope to bring you a return season later in the year. We have some other concepts up our puffy pirate shirt sleeves too. Next Saturday 9th February the Sunshine Coast Theatre Alliance presents their annual Soiree, a night of fun and great food, and the season launches from our Alliance theatre members. Check out livetheatre.com.au for details on how to book and how to get involved at your local community theatre.
Following that, I’m involved behine-the-scenes with Noosa Arts Theatre’s West Side Story, directed by Synda Turnbull, and I’m directing opening and closing pieces for the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival and Floating Land. And you know XS has a heap of other projects, which we’ll reveal details about later in the year.
Book online for Strange Attractor
Book online for the Sunshine Coast Theatre Alliance Soiree
Find audition info for the Noosa Arts National One-Act Playwriting Competition and West Side Story here