You have known each other for a long time! Could you tell me about the first time you worked together?
Julian: My goodness! It was 1987 and Paul was in one of Hilary [Bell’s] shows, Hula Dreams, which was a short lived Sydney Fringe Festival.
Paul: Julian came up to me after the show and said very complimentary things about me, mainly that I was a strong male performer.
Julian: Yep, I patronised you! I was desperate for any man who could vaguely act.
Paul: I remember that. And I had a big white hat on. I was playing the patron saint of surfing.
Julian: Actually I think it was a turban. And Paul Lum and Lucy Bell were in it along with something called the shaggin’ wagon…
Paul: I also played the part of a Greek grandmother. Not much has really changed in my career!
Julian: Well, the dresses are better.
Paul: Yes, they are!
Julian: Then for Griffin we did Grace Among the Christians together, rehearsing at an Arts squat in Glebe. It was eventually burnt down by the Glebe residents for blocking their view of the harbour.
Paul: That’s right! We’d do these trust exercises with Julian in the pitch black. The floor was disgusting! I’d never seen anything like it in my Catholic life. There were holes in the roof with rats running around.
Julian: And it was at Griffin, a late night show when Peter Kingston was running it.
Paul: That’s right. I played a character called Jonathan Christian who kept his balls in a cup and we were all dressed like demented Christians and Anne Quick would chant, recite prayers and give out flyers. I haven’t performed at Griffin since!
Angela’s Kitchen is a very personal piece. How have you approached the rehearsal process?
Julian: Procedurally I think , we’ve done it bit by bit and very carefully.
Paul: We keep reading and editing and refining as we go. We’ve given it a shape and now we are into the nitty gritty and finding new directions to take.
Julian: The script itself evolved out of transcripts of Paul in workshops which were then edited. It was also edited by Hilary Bell so all three of us, myself, Paul and Hilary have all had a hand in shaping it.
The focus of the piece is, of course, Angela. Paul, can you tell me what she was like?
Paul: She was an incredibly warm and giving person, she liked to laugh and was incredibly hard working. But she balanced the hard work with enjoying herself by going to bingo and to the Maltese club to talk to other Maltese people – she loved her language and always missed Malta, her home. She was the most selfless person I ever knew and loved her family more than her own life.
Julian: You said real and I think that’s right.
Paul: That’s right she was real. She was very much a woman of her time, I mean, she lived through the depression and the war so she never liked to indulge in material things. She never wore makeup, only for weddings, but it wasn’t a concern. She never liked waste.
Julian: It didn’t make her hard though. It made her simple and direct. No bullshit.
Paul: I admired her for that. She was incredibly strong, a survivor. She was always doing something, building something, fixing something, growing something, knitting something, sewing something…
Why do you think people should come and see the show?
Julian: It’s good! There’s a lot to relate to. There’s a special place in Australian drama for stories that reflect different back grounds. Angela is representative of a certain generation. We were talking about the war and how the events of the middle of the last century have really marked a generation of Australians and we’re still struggling to understand what that means. Our lives are so full of bullshit these days and this play is a reach back to try and understand another way of thinking about that time and its effect on us.
Paul: We are given so much crap to distract us these days, mobile phones, internet… we’ve lost a connection somewhere and I think the play is about restoring that connection. If I had all that modern technology I may never have spoken to my grandmother!
Julian: Everything feels very immediate in the show. There are 3 aspects; Angela, Paul and Malta. Each of those is very vivid and direct and colourful and it moves quickly.
Paul: It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like this, with so much dialogue. It’s scary! But I have a wonderful team. I can’t imagine doing this with anyone else.
Julian: I think it’s extremely ironic that we’re sitting here slagging off the internet, when this is going on the web!