Tag Archives: Merrigong Theatre

Cora Bissett

10 Apr

The first thing that strikes you about Cora Bissett is her sense of humour – that contagiously cheerful laugh as she says something cheeky in her hearty Scottish accent.  She radiates an energy and sense of enthusiasm that you can’t help but be drawn to.

This exuberance is not just an on-stage act.  Bissett is one of those actors whose personality naturally seeps into her characters.  This is certainly true of Bissett’s latest role, where she plays Helena in the international hit, Midsummer (A Play with Songs).

Bissett admits she sees a lot of herself in divorce lawyer Helena.

“She’s someone who is very, very together in many ways.  She’s quite bullet-proof in her job and professional life, but there’s actually a lot of vulnerability underneath that and I think that can be true of a lot of us,” Bissett says.

“She’s someone that has a huge sense of fun.  I mean when she has this opportunity to let rip, she absolutely has a ball and discovers that maybe that’s her truer self.  And I think there’s that dichotomy with me.  I work extremely hard, I’m juggling 10 jobs all at once, but man I love a really good time!” she says laughing.

As she laughs about the fun-loving similarities between herself and Helena, you get the sense that Bissett isn’t joking – she really does enjoy letting loose.  Bissett jokes that her love life, or lack of, is one of the biggest things she has in common with Helena.

“Well, she hasn’t found her life partner,” she says heartily laughing.

“I’m still sampling, shall we say.  Experimenting, getting closer each time,” she says cheerfully through fits of giggles.

Bissett says that the decision to become involved in Midsummer (A Play with Songs) was an easy one for her.

“David Greig, the writer is one of our national treasures so I would have jumped at the chance to work with him and also to be involved in the actual creation of the piece.”

Bissett and co-star Matthew Pidgeon who plays Bob, not only act in the play, but based some of the characters’ adventures off their own embarrassing stories.

“Matthew and I were involved in the very early stages of putting it all together.  So the play’s sort of been built around us, with lots of us moving into it,” explains Bissett.

“It takes a really sort of interesting perspective on life and things, so it was just a great project to get involved in.”

For Bissett, one of the greatest appeals of the show was the freedom it gives her as an actor.  She says that it is different to your typical play because not only is she acting in it, but she’s talking to the audience and narrating at the same time.

“There’s just a kind of great liberty and feel about that and it’s kind of much more direct, it really is us talking to the audience.  There’s a real warmth – when we get it right and when the audience is really with us I think we all leave feeling like we’ve all met each other, you know?”

Although Midsummer is a play with songs, it is not a musical.  According to Bissett, it’s an ‘anti-musical’.

“It’s the indie, nerd, geek’s version of a musical which is just really three-chord songs, played on a guitar, totally live, no back-up, really kind of understated but just very honest, very earthy.”

Bissett describes Midsummer as a “life-affirming story about finding hope and happiness in very unexpected places.”

She says the humour in the play is very Scottish, which Australians will be able to relate to.

“Scott’s are really known for being incredibly self-effacing, we really like taking the piss out of ourselves,” Bissett laughs.

“So there’s lots of moments of humiliation and degradation, where you know, we’re encouraging you to laugh with us.  And it’s quite bleak at times, it can be quite dark.  You’re going to look at the mess my life is in, but hahaha, isn’t it quite funny too?  I think the humour is a little bit that – it’s kind of cheeky.”

Midsummer (A Play with Songs) opens at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre on Tuesday April 3 and will run until Saturday April 7.

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Preview: ‘Summer of the Seventeenth Doll’

19 Mar

‘Summer of the Seventeenth Doll’. Photo courtesy of the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre.

One of the most iconic Australian plays is coming to Wollongong this week as part of the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre’s 2012 season.

Written by Ray Lawler and first performed in 1955, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is considered one of the first plays to distinctly portray Australian life.

Centred around four main characters, who meet in a house they share in Carlton every summer, the play is set during the seventeenth annual summer the protagonists share together.  This summer, however, is different.

Director Neil Armfield revives this classic tale, starring Blazey Best, James Hoare, Steve Le Marquand, Travis McMahon, Robyn Nevin, Helen Thompson and Eloise Winestock.

Opening night of the Belvoir Theatre company’s production of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is Wednesday 21st March at Wollongong’s IPAC theatre.  The performance ends on Saturday 24th.