Cloudstreet takes over His Majesty's Theatre this summer as part of Perth Festival. Following a sold-out Melbourne season at Malthouse Theatre, we are excited to bring this beloved Western Australian story home. It is truly a once-in-a-generation chance to see Tim Winton’s award-winning novel on stage.
Follow the lives of two families, the Lambs and the Pickles, over two decades in post-war Perth. Together they share an old house at number one Cloud Street haunted by a dark history.
We interviewed Ian Michael, actor, theatre maker and proud Nyoongar man from Western Australia. Ian performed in Malthouse Theatre’s sell-out season of Cloudstreet in May 2019, playing five different roles in the production. Ian shared what he loves about Cloudstreet, its challenges and thrills. Read our behind-the-scenes interview below.
What roles do you play in Cloudstreet?
I play the roles of Storyteller, Chub Pickles, Lon Lamb, Mr Tisborne and Meredith. I’m the only actor in the production who plays a Lamb and a Pickle, and interestingly in the original production 22 years ago in Fremantle, Mr Tisborne was actually a Mrs Tisborne!
How do you manage to change roles so quickly on stage?
At the start of Act Two, the costume changes were a real challenge as half of the cast play a lot of different characters. In three scenes I play three different characters with three different costumes! Each change takes only 30 seconds, including costume, accessories, shoes and hair so everything is made with Velcro or studs and poppers
What was most thrilling about Cloudstreet?
Just how big the production is: there’s water, blackouts, big moving set pieces and ice cream!
I also loved being able to speak Nyoongar language in a production that didn’t originally incorporate it and it was very grounding as to where the story came from, especially when were away from Perth. Throughout the whole rehearsal period I introduced a Nyoongar word of the day to the cast, right through to Closing Night which was very special and bonding for everyone.
What was most challenging?
The length of the show – it is a five-hour experience for theatre goers with three and a half hours of performance on stage, so as an actor you really have to get your fitness levels up! By the time we finished rehearsals and got to preview, we knew how it felt for your body and mind – really exhausting. Another big challenge in the Perth Season is that we only have 2.5 weeks of rehearsal as it is a re-rehearsal.
What else are you looking forward to in the Perth Season?
I’ve never worked at His Majesty’s Theatre before and I’m excited about doing a show set in this city in a theatre with such a vast history. I’ve always wanted to perform on this stage, and it will be amazing as it’s the first show at His Majesty’s after its big renovation.
Also, in our production of Cloudstreet, we have three First Nations actors whereas the original show 22 years ago only had one. Plus, we have one actor in the cast, Benjamin Oakes who plays Fish Lamb, who is living with a disability, so I feel our production has a feeling and sense of truth and relevance.
And I just loved the cast – it was one big family working together to make two families on stage, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them all again for the Perth Season.
Boorda! (See you soon!)
Image by Pia Johnson