Gerard is a graduate of NIDA and has worked across TV, theatre, music theatre and film over the past 20 years. Gerard most recently appeared as Eamon in the multi-Helpmann Award winning musical Once for GFO at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne, directed by Tony Award winner John Tiffany.
TV credits include The Code 2 (ABC) Camp (NBC), Underbelly: Badness, Rake, The Kangaroo Gang (UKTV), Tough Nuts (Foxtel), Home and Away, Backberner and Australians at War. On stage, Gerard most recently played the Homeless Man in the acclaimed Hidden Sydney – The Glittering Mile. In addition he created the role of Smokey in the world premiere of Dead Man Brake by Alana Valentine at Merrigong Theatre Company. Gerard also created the role of Mr Frog in the musical workshop production of Do Good and You Will Be Happy by Hilary Bell and Phillip Johnstone. He toured Australasia with Buddy: The Musical playing Norman Petty as directed by Craig Ilott. Other theatre credits include Patsy: The Musical with Deborah Conway, Weasel in Wind In The Willows (Australian Shakespeare Co.), A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Seagull, Barefoot in The Park, West Side Story, Cymbeline, She Stoops To Conquer, Anna Karenina, and Gathering of Vampires.
THE STREET TALKED WITH ACTOR AND ACCOMPLISHED VOICE ARTIST GERARD CARROLL BEFORE THE OPENING OF COLD LIGHT.
YOU WORK ACROSS THE STAGE, FILM AND TV INCLUDING YOUR RECENT APPEARANCE IN CODE (2) SET IN CANBERRA. IS THERE A DIFFERENCE IN WHAT EACH FORM BRINGS OUT OF YOU AS A PERFORMER?
Different mediums usually ask for a different scale of performance. So an adjustment has to be made. The luxury of time and preparation are not usually present on a film/tv production and you have usually been cast as something that is very close to yourself anyway. On a fast moving TV set an actor really has to keep their wits about them as the distractions are significant. Your role is just part of a bigger machine that is operating around you. Often the last thing on anyone’s mind is how well you are doing as an actor. In contrast, theatre rehearsal is a stretching of time which allows you to not have to rush decisions about how you play the role. Technically though, in a theatre people need to hear what you are saying, so there is a heightened performance level, which if you did it in front of a TV camera, would be very clunky.
YOU PLAY MULTIPLE ROLES IN COLD LIGHT INCLUDING TAKING ON THE CHARACTER OF EDITH’S SECOND HUSBAND RICHARD. WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES IN PLAYING MULTIPLE ROLES?
When you play multiple roles you have the responsibility of delineation. If you are playing just one role the onus to do this is not so significant. In doing any role you only have yourself to draw on. We all possess, to some degree, most of the characteristics that all human behaviour exhibits. It is just a matter of finding those. Sometimes a part might only pop up in one scene of the play, and so it can help an audience to make that brush stroke quite bold. The danger is caricature. In the world of birdwatching they use the acronym GISS, which General Impression of Shape and Size, to identify birds. Like those Japanese ink drawings that catch the essence of something in a few brush strokes.
WHERE DOES GERARD CARROLL MEET RICHARD?
I read science journals weekly and have a cache of mental facts stored away that surprise people when I reveal them in conversation. My natural fascination for science means I spend many hours reading obscure articles. If you happen to talk to me directly ask me how and why birds manage to achieve the beauty of those murmurations, the flocking we see that is so naturally artistic that it looks choreographed. I will point you to those articles.
YOU ALSO PLAY HISTORICALLY SIGNIFICANT CHARACTERS INCLUDING EDITH’S MENTOR JOHN LATHAM, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE HIGH COURT IN 1935. HOW, AS AN ACTOR, DO YOU NEGOTIATE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN NOVEL AND PLAY WHEN TAKING ON A REAL PERSON?
Latham appears in only one scene in Cold Light. He is a real person bumping up against a fictitious one. You can only play the scene you are in. Trying to drag such a massive historical figure’s entire history onto stage for one scene can be overwhelming and in reality it is not needed. It can get in the way of a scene and the fact that it is just two people talking. So you play the scene, and the person of Latham, as such, is encoded in the thoughts and words he chooses to use and not use. I am a 46 year old playing a 73 year old Latham in 1951. It has to be a distillation of that person in that particular scene. An audience, with their imagination, completes the picture.
THERE ARE SIX ACTORS IN THE WORK. WHAT HAVE YOU DISCOVERED TOGETHER IN THE FIRST THREE WEEKS OF REHEARSAL?
Discovered that they are a lovely bunch of generous people who love to have a good laugh.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO A SUCCESSFUL AND FRUITFUL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AN ACTOR AND DIRECTOR? AND OTHER ACTORS IN THE ENSEMBLE?
Rehearsals are intense and often very destabilising for artists. This is a given. To buffer that it is helpful to be in a room with people you enjoy being with. It is no different from any work in that respect. If you are going to be locked in a room for 8 hours a day then you want to like the folks you are with. Heaviness can kill a rehearsal room. Artists are brave folks who really put themselves on the line daily for what they do. Each job usually involves working with many people you have perhaps never even met before, like the first day of school every time you work. Then within minutes you are expected to trust and respect each other. Laughter is the best way to achieve this for me. If you are laughing with others the work you are doing will always be better.
THE WORK DEALS WITH AMBITION, WOMEN, AND PEOPLE OF DIFFERENCE – IS COLD LIGHT A WORK FOR OUR TIMES?
The play deals with a lot with liberty and its potential removal. The anaesthetic-like quality of living in a free society gives the feeling that is always going to be there. History shows that is not the case.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR FROM AN AUDIENCE?
I don’t have expectations from an audience. Actually, that’s not true. Here is my list of expectations: Come to the show, don’t have a green/blue glow to your face as you check that text that has to be answered in the first few moments of the play, pre-open your lollies, have the phone on silent and not just on vibrate, try not to talk during my lines, laugh a lot. Trying to control an audience is a dangerous hobby.
ARE YOU SUPERSTITIOUS? IS THERE A PROCESS THAT YOU ALWAYS LIKE TO GO THROUGH BEFORE STEPPING OUT ON STAGE?
Not superstitious at all. I am a born-again rationalist. We live in an age of extraordinary science and beauty. Much more thrilling than hooha and astrology.
WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?
My list is of both things and people. Brian Cox, Chris Hadfield, Daniel Tammet, Chris Thile, The Punch Brothers, The Milk Carton Kids, Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings, 4 Corners, Miranda Harcourt,any artist who has a go, people who garden, the Arboretum, magpies, ringtail possums, Manifesto- the exhibition, John Olsen, Jeffrey Smart, Robert Hughes(the writer), Doug Cameron, Tanya Plibersek, Penny Wong, , the 3-foot wave at Bronte, my partner, my parents and Max the Wonder Cat.