Enter The Dragon

22 June 2012 | 12:30 pm | Liza Dezfouli

Here be dragons. And there be worse things. Dana Miltons, performer in The Golden Dragon, confides her fears of exposure to Liza Dezfouli.

“I've had to let go of what is real,” says Dana Miltons, who changes characters from minute to minute in The Golden Dragon, a play by the increasingly popular German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig coming up at the MTC as part of the Lawler Studio season. “Schimmelpfennig specifies that the Asian characters of the play must be played by white actors, the male characters by female and vice versa, in work that is described as 'brutal, poetic, mysterious and touching'. “It's very Brechtian,” says Miltons. “It's very much about presenting a bizarre kind of world where I'm jumping in and out of character.” Miltons says the play is 'ultimately poignant and funny” despite its storyline beginning with a DIY tooth extraction in a restaurant kitchen sans anaesthetic.

Set in a Thai/Vietnamese/Chinese eatery called The Golden Dragon, where many of the characters are part of the much-exploited black economy, the play insists on its audiences, as well as the actors, getting a sense of what it is like to be someone else.

“I'm playing three men,” says Miltons. “One young Asian man, an older man, he's sort of an alco, and a 'Barbie fucker', he's an older pilot in a relationship with a young woman, who's played by Roger Oakley, a man in his 60s. I'm 32 myself and blonde and blue-eyed. So we're making the audience think about what it is like to be another person.”

Preparing for The Golden Dragon hasn't been an easy ride for Miltons, not least because she also has to be herself on stage. “I'm jumping in and out of character, I speak to the audience as myself and then I become another character. That's very hard. I'm terrified! I'm not an extroverted person as an actor, I hide in my characters because they're not me! Speaking to the audience, meeting their eye – it's not something we're generally used to. Those sorts of jumps are a real challenge. I'm used to being in theatre and film that replicates the real.”

The pace of the play is another aspect that doesn't let anyone get too comfortable, notes Miltons. “The sheer amount of changes – 48 scenes in about 75 minutes – there are scenes of about one or two minutes. The moment you just 'get into' something, it changes – that's a real challenge as well.”

“It's so beautifully written,” the actor enthuses. “You have to put aside everything to do with 'an Asian man' and look at the human element – this journey is nothing to do with being Asian and male, it's a human experience, an essential story, told simply a small story; in the telling of it you start to understand the way it resonates... Everyone can identify with this character and his journey. It creates ripples of ideas, of emotion, our concepts of the the world we have. It's tells how those small things mean so much, those individual journeys people go on. Theatre is so often an opportunity for people to sit in the dark; this asks for audience members to be involved, it feels like a true, live experience. It's the great defining feature of this writer. You're reminded that this is still a story, I am playing a character. It remains theatre that's theatrical.”

The Golden Dragon runs until Saturday 7 July at MTC Lawler Studio.