At just 26 years of age Luke McMahon is another of WAAPA’s (Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts) rising stars. He might be based in Sydney but Luke has a soft spot for Perth, after all that’s where it all started.
Tell me about your character Konstantin in The Black Swan State Theatre Company’s production of “The Seagull”?
Konstantin (pronounced as though there’s an “e” on the end) is a tortured writer living in a time when symbolism and the use of metaphors are introduced into the Russian literary scene. He strives to write outside of the physical world while constantly seeking validation and approval from everyone around him. He struggles against his mum Arkadina, a dramatic over-the-top Russian actress (played by Greta Scacchi) and her lover, the esteemed Russian fiction writer Trigorin (Ben Mortley). They both represent the old world, and as Konstantin explores new art forms and tries to create something of significance, they mock his work which catapults him into a world of despair and destruction.
The Seagull was originally written by Russian writer Anton Chekhov and adapted 1898 by popular Russian playwright Stanislavsky. How is a play set in the late 1800’s still relevant today?
The themes are universal and full of contemporary messages and behaviours, especially between the characters’ relationships.
Would you call it a comedy or a tragedy?
Probably a mix, a dramagedy! If it’s a comedy then it would certainly be a dark comedy.
Do you relate to the role?
Absolutely. I think everyone struggles to find the meaning of life and their purpose in the greater scheme of things.
Do you think we ever do?
I think we come to terms with life.
Tell me about the significance of the seagull?
It’s symbolic and each character attaches meaning to it. Konstantin offers up the seagull much as he does himself. It’s both a scavenger and thing of great beauty.
Yeah, the European seagulls are majestic and white, which embodies purity and innocence. Their flight represents freedom.
Describe the play you perform within The Seagull?
It’s nonsensical and full of symbols and dream like images. On first glance it’s chaotic but mirrors the actual play so watch for the hidden meanings.
You’ve taken over the role of Konstantin from Xavier Samuel, most well-known for his role in Twilight?
Yes, he was in the South Australian production. The script is the same but the cast is different and Kate Cherry is the new director.
Is The Seagull going to be touring?
No, not at this stage.
You starred in Tim Winton’s “Shrine”. How was that experience?
I auditioned when I was in my third year at WAAPA during a workshop and got the role. It was very exciting to work under such an established and iconic writer and alongside the talented John Howard. John is well versed in the formula of what makes a good story and Tim was extremely generous with his script by allowing us to include our input. Starring in the first production of a show was a wonderful opportunity to make it my own. You could say, it was like creating art.
Describe your big break?
I auditioned for a school tour in 2007 (I was 20 years old) and didn’t get it. But I followed up with an email to the production company. The actor they had cast dropped out and I got the job which spanned for 8 months and I did over 300 shows.
The Seagull is definitely up there and working with my WAAPA teachers Michael Loney and voice coach Julia Moody is really nice. I was once flown to LA for two weeks to shoot a commercial. And another time NBC called to say they wanted me on the next flight to LA for a pilot I’d auditioned for ages ago and had forgotten about. Two hours later they told me the gig was off because I couldn’t get a visa in time. So that was a highlight and a lowlight, all in one.
What do you look for in a role?
A challenge. If it makes you scared, you should go for it. And if you believe you can be genuine and authentic and add something to the role, then it’s definitely a role worth working hard for. I’m always attracted to a complete story.
Any advice for budding actors?
I could go on and on with advice. I want to tell the truth about the industry. There’s no secret to success so don’t feel like you know less than everyone else. I’ve been extremely lucky but I work really hard. Believe in yourself and do as much acting as you can. Get educated and stay in school but don’t pay too much for acting classes, however definitely train in an accredited drama school if possible. Don’t knock commercial work. It’s paid acting work which allows you to pursue other endeavours plus it also pays the bills. Get good representation from someone who understands you as a person and as an actor. Read lots, go to the theatre as much as possible, talk about it all the time, listen to people you value but also take their advice with a pinch of salt. Let it consume you.
What are you plans while you’re here in Perth?
It just so happens my girlfriend Lara Schwerdt, who is also an actor, is in town rehearsing for another Black Swan State Theatre Company production called “Laughter on the 23rd Floor.” I should stress that a couple who both get roles in the same place at the same time is virtually unheard of in the industry. While she’s rehearsing during the day I’ll be skateboarding. I was once sponsored skateboarder but chose acting instead.
Real life. I don’t know. I’ll be auditioning as always. Just have to wait and see what happens.
The Seagull plays at the State Theatre Centre from 9 – 31 August, opening night is 13th August. Follow the link for my review of The Seagull