"You get into the rhythm of it. And once you do it at that pace you feel like you're hurtling toward the end of something."
It's been 33 years since Stephen Sewell's play, The Blind Giant Is Dancing, first premiered in South Australia. Look around. The political landscape he had the foresight to sketch out has an eerie ring of truth to it — a play about power and corruption in government and an alliance between the political sphere and the business world.
Zahra Newman, seen recently at Belvoir in Artistic Director Eamon Flack's highly satisfying production of Ivanov, plays Rose Draper and says it didn't take long for the director and cast to see the connections between the play's setting and modern Australia. "What Stephen was writing, he was envisioning a future and that future has happened," Newman explains. "Some of the stuff that he talks about — predicting the nature of Australian politics and the nature of how politics and business work together now, in a way that we've come to expect — it was not always like that. I think good plays, the reason that they are still done is because they're about humans and human nature and we relate to that through the ages. Stories about family, and stories about love, stories about compromise and about power, the things that we struggle with every day, there's always a connection you can make."
"Exhaustion of actor and exhaustion of character is reflective of the world."
Split into three acts that get faster as the play progresses, The Blind Giant Is Dancing is a real work out for the actors but one Newman is relishing. "The play is in three acts and the third act has twice as many scenes as the other two acts. It's a little work changing scenes and the scenes happen quite quickly, so you have to get all that technical stuff down. What you realise is how you expend your energy in the scenes, especially for Dan Spielman who's playing the lead role. There's big sections of the play where he barely leaves the stage.
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"You get used to it," Newman says. "You get into the rhythm of it. And once you do it at that pace you feel like you're hurtling toward the end of something, which actually helps the play make more sense. Also exhaustion of actor and exhaustion of character is reflective of the world. Just the feeling of characters having been through what we're going to see in the play."
This is the first time Newman has worked with all of her fellow cast mates, including current TV favourite in the US Yael Stone (Orange Is The New Black) and Spielman (The Code, Offspring), so the Jamaican-born actress is glad her director Eamon Flack is a familiar face. "I think if you've worked with a director before you've got an affinity with that person because you've gone through a process with them but to an extent is does always feel a bit like first day of school. It's not just about you and the director. There are other people in the room as well. You have to learn how they all work together and how we're going to work together to build this thing.
"And we never really know what a play is until we have everybody in the room together and even then it doesn't fully reveal itself until you get an audience. That's the last little piece of the puzzle."