Becoming The Bloodsucker

2 May 2012 | 6:45 am | Baz McAlister

Playing a most unusual creature of the night for Zen Zen Zo in Vikram And The Vampire, actor Lizzie Ballinger gives Baz McAlister a lesson in hindu mythology.

This month, Zen Zen Zo's stately playground in the Old Museum is transformed into ancient India when the company takes on an adaptation of the fantastical Hindu folk tale of King Vikram and the vampire. Vikram And The Vampire marks the beginning of husband-and-wife team Michael Futcher and Helen Howard's directorship of the company – and they're continuing the wonderful Zen Zen Zo tradition of offering up something quite out of the ordinary.

The titular vampire is being played by 2010 QUT graduate Lizzie Ballinger, but she explains it's a character that's a far cry indeed from Dracula, or even Edward Cullen.

“I'm not playing a stereotypical vampire,” Ballinger says. “I've done my research on these creatures – they're called vetala. In Hindu mythology, it's quite a sinister creature. It does suck blood, like a vampire, and Hindus believe that this spirit would go and cause mischief in villages, such as miscarriages, or deaths of little children. They're evil spirits – but in this play, my character doesn't have that evil personality. Vetalas tended to be the spirits of children who didn't have proper burial rites, and my character is the spirit of a young boy.”

Ballinger describes her character as impish and mischievous, with a lewd imagination and a tendency towards innuendo. When you consider who she was guided towards for inspiration, it makes perfect sense.

“My character is very mercurial, and one of his personas is that of kind of a stand-up comic. So Michael and Helen, at the beginning of rehearsals, told me to go and watch Robin Williams – during the period when he was on crack, of course! And it helped – I mean, I'm not condoning drug use, but he did have a manic energy he was known for
back then.”

Ballinger has a natural talent in that discipline, too. Studying stand-up was part of her acting course at QUT, and as a comedian, she gravitated towards the lewd. “My comedy teacher, [Brisbane comedian] Andrew Nason, put me last in the set because my comedy was so dirty,” she says. “He was like, 'Everyone will have to be drunk by the time you go on, because your material is filthy'.”

As the production rockets towards opening night, Ballinger's vampiric make-up has come together. “It's amazing, I look like Batman,” she grins. “So cool. And at my request, we've eBayed some fangs for me, proper little ceramic ones that go over the teeth.”

That request speaks to the collaborative spirit that Futcher and Howard foster in their talented company – which for this production includes Brisbane stalwarts such as Sandro Colarelli and Bryan Probets.

“Michael wanted this to be a collaborative creative process, he wanted things to come alive on the floor during rehearsals – and it has,” Ballinger says. “It's amazing to come to work with these creative, amazing, crazy people. Sometimes I pinch myself when I think, 'This is my job'. It's not the most lucrative job in the world but it's so rich in so many other ways.”

Vikram & The Vampire runs from Thursday 3 to Saturday 19 May (no shows Sundays or Mondays) at The Old Museum