Critically-acclaimed work 'Hotel Sorrento' is being presented at Redland Performing Arts Centre, starring some of Australia's most respected actors.
Director Denny Lawrence will bring to life the much-loved story about a family brought to the brink in a quiet seaside town in September for one show only.
Here, veteran actor Dennis Coard known for 'Australia Day' and 'Home And Away' answers some questions about the show and his role as Wal.
This is perhaps Hannie Rayson's best-known work. What's it like to be part of a show so highly regarded among theatre-lovers?
I am delighted to be a part of Hannie Rayson’s ‘Hotel Sorrento’ (produced by Christine Harris and directed by Denny Lawrence). The wonderful actors who join me on stage are Joanne Booth, Ruth Caro, Kim Denman, Saxon Gray, Dion Mills, Jenny Seedsman and Mike Smith. It’s brilliant. The play was written in 1990 and there have been over 50 productions of it, so it’s really joining the ranks of iconic Australian plays. I actually first saw the play 25 years ago in Melbourne on one of HIT Productions' tours of the play. I loved the character of Wal but I was way too young to play a dad then, but time has passed and now I’m the perfect age for the character. So you could say my playing this role has been 25 years in the making!
Why do you think 'Hotel Sorrento' has lived such a long and successful life as a production?
The play has so many different layers to it and it’s very funny in parts and moving in other places. So many aspects are also as relevant today as when it was first written. It looks at why people feel the need to go overseas to become successful and also the rich culture that Australia has. At the heart of the play is family of course and the deep dark secret that made the sisters go their separate ways ten years before. Now that they have all come back home, they have to deal with the skeletons in the closet and the play really brings out the different memory people have of the same events. Everyone loves a bit of family drama and conflict, so that aspect of the play will certainly never go out of fashion! Obviously some parts of the play are also a bit nostalgic – news certainly travels quicker these days and people don’t tend to write letters, so things have changed a lot and also not at all since the play was written.
What are you doing to bring Wal (your character) to life in this show?
Hannie wrote the character so well it’s such a pleasure to play Wal. He’s a real ‘knock about’ bloke and a good dad, but probably not the best husband! This isn’t on purpose; he just doesn’t understand his wife’s views and needs quite as much as he could. I try to bring all these aspects of his character out during my performance.
Image © Cathy Ronalds
You've got an impressive history in the acting world. How does the story of 'Hotel Sorrento' compare to some of your past work?
As well as my TV work on the likes of 'Home & Away' I’ve been very lucky to have previously toured in three other plays with HIT Productions, including 'Australia Day' and 'Let The Sunshine'. I really applaud HIT productions for focusing on Australian plays and I always love touring on their productions. I get the chance to travel to places in Australia that I haven’t been to before and this will be my first trip to Cleveland so I’m really looking forward to that.
You've said you're excited about giving this show 'new energy'. What do you mean, and how will you do this?
I really try to put my own stamp on every character I play and bring them to life with heaps of energy. Wal is such an affable and likeable character, with great humour, so I’m really enjoying bringing him to life in my own way in this latest production of the play.
Can you relate to any particular plot points or character traits?
Well I don’t have sisters but I do have brothers and we certainly have different memories of the same incident on occasion. Everyone always thinks that their perspective is the true perspective of an event, so I can really relate to that aspect of the plot.
As a cast member, what are your goals? What do you hope to have achieved by the end of the show's run at RPAC?
As a cast member I don’t want to get in the way of the story, I want to tell the story. We all also work so well together in this production to tell the same story that was so brilliantly written by Hannie nearly 30 years ago. I really encourage everyone to come and enjoy this play. It’s an Aussie classic that is as relevant today as when it was originally written. It’s got a fantastic cast of eight, so it’s a big effort to get the play around to so many venues and we hope that everyone grabs this opportunity. We also come out at the end of the show to do a meet and greet so I’m really looking forward to performing and then meeting some of the audience after the show.