Gardner McKay, in his play 'Toyer', has created a psychopathic predator in the mould of Hannibal Lecter and Dexter Morgan.
We talk with star Marc Clement about the experience of again working with acclaimed Director Tony Knight and the process of getting inside the skin of such a horrific fictional creation.
You have regularly collaborated with director Tony Knight. Have you noticed the working relationship strengthening with every project?
Tony Knight is amazing to work with. He is a cut above the rest. Tony was head acting coach of NIDA for 22 years and has taught some world famous actors. Tony is very supportive and encourages bold choices and makes you think about every line. Pitch, pace and volume are regular notes from Tony. During the course, Tony gave me an amazing opportunity to play the role of Deeley in Harold Pinter's 'Old Times' at The Festival Centre which was one of the most satisfying performances I feel I have given. My business partner and girlfriend Stefanie Rossi who is also in Toyer also studied under Tony and also had the opportunity to work under him in 'Extremities' which was also a great success. We both have a lot of respect for Tony as a director and someone we can now call a close friend.
You play a particularly evil character. Stanislavski said that when playing an evil character, you should look for the good in them... Have you found that possible with such a psychopath?
Playing a psychopath is an interesting role and one that requires many levels to the character. Without giving away too much of my character's journey, it wasn't so much about finding the good in the character, but finding the reasons as to why he thinks he is doing a service to society and how he justifies it to himself. To quote Peter (my character): “If I am sane enough to know I'm insane, how can I be insane?
Have you conducted much research on psychopaths and narcissists to assist in your portrayal of this character?
Yes I did some research into psychopaths. There are so many layers to them but one can't rely on such information as you have to find your own reasons as an actor to make your choices valid. I played the lead role of Alfie on stage. He was a narcissist but I never watched the movies as I had to make him my own and put my spin on him. Watching others performances can cloud your own vision. I like to build a character from the ground up. So much of acting is what you do when you are not talking.
What messages do you think this play conveys regarding human morality?
The capacity for ethics is a necessary attribute of human nature, whereas moral codes are products of cultural evolution. Humans have a moral sense because their biological makeup determines the presence of three necessary conditions for ethical behavior: (i) the ability to anticipate the consequences of one's own actions; (ii) the ability to make value judgments; and (iii) the ability to choose between alternative courses of action. Peter toys between right and wrong; he knows when he has crossed the line and enjoys the thrill of control.
In this play, you are toying with your real life partner, Stefanie Rossi. How has that experience been working with her on this material?
I absolutely love working with my girlfriend on stage. We have our own production company, Leading Line Productions. We make promo videos and short films. I have written, directed, filmed and edited three short films this year. Stefanie Rossi has been the lead actress and produced them all. Stefanie is an amazing person and I am very fortunate to have met her and have her in my life. We have acted in a few comedies together, but this is the first drama. We have a lot of respect for each other. You have to trust your instincts as an actor and we work very well together. Stefanie is a graduate of AC Arts and is a fantastic actress who I feel privileged to work with. I believe we are so immersed in our roles that it doesn't feel like my girlfriend when we are in character, I wouldn't want to be acting with anyone else. It's a great life when you can do what you love with the one you love.