Imagine having to pay for the air you breath? Or worse still, not being able to afford it? Injected with Ben Elton’s signature sharp wit, Gasp! will leave you, dare I say it, gasping for air between laughs at this satirical poke at Perth’s mining boom and political landscape. Co-produced with the Queensland Theatre Company and the Black Swan State Theatre Company, Gasp! showcases some of Brisbane’s and Perth’s most talented actors, including Greg McNeill who I had a chat to in his role as mining mogul Sir Chiffley Lockheart.
Tell me about your role as Sir Chiffley Lockheart, aka Chief, in Gasp!?
The Chief runs an iron ore company which he inherited. His only two skills are inheriting and avoiding taxes. But when the iron ore starts to run out he starts looking around for new resources.
How do you personally relate to the role?
He’s a can-do kinda guy and up for anything. I like the message that care needs to be taken and it’s a poignant message I deliver while making everyone laugh all night. I love the yin and yang of the story; especially the humour.
Did you work closely with Ben Elton?
The actors spent a week working around the table where we were invited to inject our own take on the story. I was able to loosen the language which was a terrific experience with someone of his standing. We’ll be spending another week with him during the production stage where we’ll have the opportunity to further develop our roles.
You live in Perth? How relevant do you feel Gasp! is to this resource rich state?
It’s spot-on! A bullseye! With all the overspending in the state it addresses the political spin put on things and alludes to the excuses used by politicians. Ben lives in Fremantle and is the eyes and ears of the city. Even though the play was originally written 25 years ago it has evolved and been adapted to suit WA and is great reflection of the state but it does push the envelope. And Ben keeps on pushing; director Wesley Enoch hasn’t reined us in…yet.
Is Gasp! going to be touring?
Yes, it’s going to Brisbane and maybe other capitals but nothing has been confirmed yet.
What’s your favourite thing about Perth? And what recommendations do you have for visitors?
Perth has been very kind to me. I came during the America’s Cup, partied with the Bonds and never left. I love Rottnest and surfing in my secret spot which I don’t want you to tell anyone about. I’d take visitors take out on my boat to Rottnest and maybe show them my secret surfing spot. I have no plans to move. My son is at WAAPA and I get to travel with work which is great. I love my work.
Describe your big break?
In 1991 I auditioned for the first season of the State Theatre Company of WA and was cast in Antony and Cleopatra and then several consecutive shows. From there I spent 16 years doing voice overs which has been bloody marvellous. I’ve worked for the Hole in the Wall, WA State Theatre Company, Perth Theatre Company, Effie Crump and appeared in Drift, Murder x 3 and I played Billy Graham on Shark Net. This is my first role with the Black Swan.
Gasp! plays at the Heath Ledger Centre State Theatre Centre of WA 25 October – 9 October 2014
Click here for my review