" I was 100 per cent sure that I would never 'make it' as a writer, but I kept writing anyway, because writing adds great meaning to my life and keeps me sane. If you're happy not writing, don't be a writer." Wise words from American playwright Annie Baker, whose recent Off-Broadway hit The Aliens is currently showing in Melbourne thanks to Red Stitch Theatre.
Brett Ludeman is just one of the cast members from this highly anticipated show, and he speaks very highly of the behind the scenes production that will soon reap the benefits of its Australian debut. "We all had a great dynamic," he says of his fellow actors.
Ludeman plays KJ, who, alongside Brett Cousins, loiters outside a coffee shop. Outside the back, near a skip, where they reflect on life's big questions. They are both in their thirties, school drop outs, and they analyse philosophy, music and drugs. David Harrison plays the unfortunate teenager coffee shop employee who is give the unseemly task of asking them to please take their analysis somewhere else, but is soon drawn in to their discussion.
"We were lucky to have David as our guest actor," Ludeman explains. "And working with Nadia Tass has been great." Tass, one of Australia's best director/film producers, directed this piece for Red Stitch and according to Ludeman is "exceptional." "She is so nurturing and so giving," he says, his admiration clear. "When she works on something, she gives 110%. We all learned a lot from her."
Famous for her work on The Big Steal and Malcolm, Nadia Tass began directing theatre in Carlton and has worked with La Mama, Melbourne Theatre Company, The Pram Factory and Playbox. She has worked internationally, with her musical interpretation of The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe playing across Australia and New Zealand. In the early '90s, Nadia began work in the United States and his since flourished. Having her work locally with the talent of someone like Annie Baker is a highly anticipated theatrical experience.
Annie Baker, relatively new to the world of theatre when compared to Tass's veteran status, has a remarkable gift of capturing the human soul in the characters she creates. One of her most popular works, Circle Mirror Transformation just started a season at Melbourne Theatre Company and is another Off-Broadway hit. It received an Obie Award for Best New American Play and Performance in 2009 and is just another example of how Baker is able to portray the complexity of raw emotion. The Aliens, a tale of solitude and displacement, explores similar themes, with Baker delving in and out of friendship, loyalty and the unexpected.
Red Stitch, well known for its quality work as "the actor's theatre" has run many successful seasons and is due no doubt in part tot the wonderfully talented actors that work within it. In The Aliens, Brett Cousins returns to the stage as Jasper, the other half of this odd couple. Cousins, best known for his work on Neighbours and The Secret Life of Us, is a founding member of Red Stitch and a dedicated performer at the Australian Shakespeare Company and the Bell Shakespeare Company. He and Ludeman work side by side, as similarly lost thirty-somethings who are just trying to find the meaning of life.
"Brett is a theatre veteran," Ludeman says. "I had an internship with Red Stitch and I was lucky enough to get this part." He is no stranger to the performing arts world however; Ludeman also a skilled videographer. "For the independent art scene," he explains. "I do work in theatre, dance, music, advertising and film Australia wide." It's what brought him to the world of acting and performance, and it is where he wants to remain.
A beautiful piece of contemporary theatre, The Aliens opens this week and runs until September 24 at Red Stitch Theatre, Rear 2, Chapel Street, St Kilda. Tickets can be booked online at redstitch.net or on 9533 8083.