The Fame Reporter interviewed the incredible actress of stage and screen, Jessica Tovey, she is currently starring as the legendary title character in the infamous Greek tragedy, Antigone playing at the Bille Brown Theatre at Queensland Theatre in Brisbane.
In this lyrical adaptation of Sophocles’ timeless tragedy, award-winning Brisbane playwright Merlynn Tong adds an urgent modern twist, reuniting Christen O’Leary and Jessica Tovey after their triumphant pairing in Twelfth Night.
Jessica’s past productions include Queensland Theatre’s Twelfth Night and Constellations. Other credits include Bell Shakespeare Company: The Miser, The Merchant of Venice; Melbourne Theatre Company: Double Indemnity; Q Theatre: Truck Stop; New Theatre: Seven Little Australians.
Tovey has starred in the television shows Bad Mothers, True Story With Hamish & Andy, Wolf Creek, Movie Juice, Wonderland, Mr and Mrs Murder, Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo, Cops Lac, Panic at Rock Island, Wicked Love, Rescue Special Ops, Dance Academy, Home & Away, Underbelly, Wicked Science. Film: Tracks, Lemon Tree Passage, Adore, Beast No More.
We talked to Jessica about the new adaptation of the Greek tragedy for a contemporary audience, what enticed her to play this powerful timeless character fighting against injustice and more!
See our interview below!
Welcome to The Fame Reporter Jessica, what sparked your interest in performing initially?
I was always very passionate about acting, starting classes when I was 6 years old. My grandmother loved musicals and I would spend hours and hours watching them with her as a little kid.
What about your character, Antigone drew you to take on this role and what is your ultimate favourite moment in the show?
It’s rare in theatre, even by today’s standards to have the main character be a teenage girl and yet, here is this 2500 year old play that is performed around the world so consistently still. There is something about this character and this play; the argument at the heart of it that still calls theatre makers to this day.
Not only is she strong willed and passionate but the theme at the center of the play is still so important for audiences to hear:
What is the balance of ‘law’ and society conformation and individuals’ rights and freedoms that protect us and retain our humanity.
Do you have a role in theatre that you are dying to play?
Not really, it changes as I age. To be honest, with the roles I’ve had so far I think I am doing pretty well.
How has Merlynn Tong adapted the classic greek tragedy for a modern audience?Merlynn’s version of Antigone is actually quite classic in style. It’s retained a lot of the language and rhythm of a more presentational form. However, throughout the script there are moments of contemporary slang peppered throughout.
I think the extraordinary thing about Antigone as a work is its ideas are timeless and hold for an audience now.
What has been the most rewarding and challenging parts about performing in this classic story?
The emotional labour required for this show is pretty immense. Playing a character who is so deeply driven by grief and rage takes a pretty big toll emotionally and physically night after night.
What do you like about stage work versus film and TV?
They are both quite different. The acting is the same but the techniques around can be vastly different. I love the immediacy of the stage; having an audience right in front of you to work off. Plus 4 weeks of rehearsal is a luxury.
Tv/film is almost like improv with little to no rehearsals, but the performance has to be much smaller and internal, the camera catches everything!
What 3 performers dead or alive would you love to have a dinner party with?
Katherine Hepburn, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Marion Cottillard.
What have you learned about yourself and society during the rehearsal process?
I’ve realised that despite our natural tendency to believe we side with Antigone, that as a society we believe in human decency over ‘protection of the State’, we in fact live in Creon’s world.
We put people and children in detention centres, we mistreat and spread hatred based of difference and we sacrifice our freedoms for surveillance.
When our politicians cut down activists and try and limit our freedoms to protest, they are doing exactly what Creon does to Antigone; attempted silence.
What is it like working with the talented actors in your cast, in particular reuniting with Christen O’Leary?
It’s a wonderful cast. Truly, everyone one is wonderful and I think we’ve been so fortunate. I’ve loved going head to head with O’Leary. We didn’t spend much time together in Twelfth Night, sharing only a few lines so it’s been such excellent fun fighting with her night after night.
Why should audiences come along and see this production of Antigone?
This play is as relevant as it was over 2000 years ago. It has an immediacy and an urgency that help us start conversations with ourselves and the people around us about our own world.
There are some truly beautiful and heartbreaking moments in the play but be prepared, it’s a tragedy. I hope it serves to remind people that inaction against tyranny leads to despair.
It’s just classic theatre! Gut wrenching, powerful and provoking.
Fame Reporter Word Play
Favourite mantra when you are down
Play the ball where it lies.
Any secret talents
Dressing Room necessity
Home and Away
Can’t live without
Place you want to travel to
Australian theatre scene
Produce my own show
TV Show Binge
Finally, favourite thing about performing
Thank-you Jessica for joining us at The Fame Reporter and we wish you all the best for Antigone at Bille Brown Theatre, Queensland Theatre in Brisbane until 16 November!
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All photos – Supplied