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Theatre Focus: Brendan Hanson

30 October 2015 | 7:28 pm | Shane Pinnegar

A WAAPA graduate who has sung and acted throughout Australia and Asia performing opera, musical theatre and cabaret, Brendan Hanson is eager to get to grips with the acclaimed Broadway, Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning Next To Normal. 

He says it’s important to ensure the subject is handled tactfully and respectfully.

“Well, it’s about doing the research,” Hanson says. “Also, let’s be honest. I don’t think there’s anyone who isn’t touched or affected by mental illness. There’s a family member or there’s colleagues at work... it surrounds us. I guess part of it is your own personal experience of that and what you bring then to the role yourself. A lot of it is just coming from having to assist or bear witness to friends who deal with mental disease all the time. What an affliction it is. 

“How amazing is that now, that we see it as exactly that. We see it as a disease, something that needs to be monitored and addressed, rather than the whole idea, you know, ‘get on with it. Get over it and get on with it’.” 

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Director, Adam Mitchell, has said, of the work, ‘It’s much more than a feel good musical. It’s more of a feel everything musical’. That must be a dream for the actors on stage. 

“Hell, yeah!” exclaims Hanson. “The material is amazing. Some of it is really funny - it really is. The way they handle Diana’s manic phases is so deft, so engaging, and also, really funny. There’s incredible opportunities for humour. 

“The show’s success is because of the complexity and the beauty of the writing. And, yet, it’s an absolute gift as an actor, to have the opportunity, because, musical theatre often gets put into that basket of jazz hands.”

What would the actor say to people who might baulk at the idea of going to the theatre and confronting mental illness head on?

“Yes, it is the central theme,” Hanson starts with a pause, before continuing eloquently, “but it’s handled with such humour and cleverness and accessibility through the music. The music is wonderful - it’s really, really, really clever. It’s not like opera singers bellowing at you. In some regards, you won’t even feel like people are singing, necessarily. 

“It’s something - a subject matter – which, like I said, that most people have been affected by. If it’s not themselves, it’s by a family member or a colleague at work or a friend. It’s handled with such delicacy. It’s a really amazing piece of theatre, really, written in a way that’s completely accessible. It won the Pulitzer and the Tony Awards for a reason - come and find out why.

“It’s a cracker,” he continues giddily, “we’ve got a great six-piece band. We’ve got David Young as our musical director - he’s phenomenal, he’s just come off touring with Wicked for a very long time. Great cast. Honestly, I’ve had a whiff, a whisper, of about what the sets entail and that’s pretty exciting as well. It’s going to be a great night in the theatre.”

Originally published by X-Press Magazine