GETTING TO KNOW: PATRICK MOFFATT

Patrick Moffatt is a member of Ranters Theatre, a graduate of the VCA and a musician with the glam-trash rock band, The Melody Lords. Company productions include Intimacy, Song, Holiday, Affection, The Wall, St Kilda Tales, Features of Blown Youth, The Fertility of Objects. Patrick received the 2008 Victorian Green Room Award for Best Male Actor (Independent Theatre) and the 2009 Dublin Fringe Award for Best Male Performer (joint winner).

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Patrick talks to The Street before his arrival in Canberra for the season of Intimacy at The Street Theatre.

WHAT IS INTIMACY FOR YOU?

That’s a difficult question, but I suppose it’s what happens when you allow people to really see you.

WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR WORK WITH RANTERS THEATRE?

The opening night of Intimacy was memorable. But first a little back story. One of the scenes in the play is based on a street performer one of our actors met who dresses up as bird and does these kind of bird impersonations. I do a fictionalised version of him, not an impression of him, quite the opposite. But I didn’t know he was in the audience. Anyway, in the foyer after the show he spots me in the crowd and flies like a huge exotic bird through the crowd and flutters to a stop in front of me. He grabs me, hugs me, kisses me, hugs me again and then says, thank you… you didn’t make fun of me. I love what you did. It was beautiful. You get it. And then he flew off.

YOU CO-WROTE INTIMACY WITH OTHERS AT RANTERS THEATRE. CAN YOU TAKE US THROUGH THE PROCESS OF DOING THIS COLLECTIVELY.

Our artistic director came up with the concept for Intimacy and then a few of us in the cast spent many hours with him over a few years fleshing it out. Then all the cast spent a number of months improvising personal stories based on the concept, with the most interesting stuff making it into the script, along with some additional text from our writer. We then kneaded the text into something that can be performed. We will tweak a bit of fact or add a bit of fiction to make it swing.

THERE ARE THREE ACTORS IN INTIMACY. WHAT HAVE YOU DISCOVERED TOGETHER IN BRINGING THE WORK TO THE STAGE?

Every time we do this show I find I want to talk about how to perform it. We can each bring something to the work that was different from last time, something personal to explore or something for the group to take on in remounting the show. Or you can simply say nothing. Oddly though, often we will find we’re on the same wave length about how to proceed.

YOU ARE NOW BASED IN BERLIN. HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO SUSTAIN A CAREER BETWEEN EUROPE AND AUSTRALIA? WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE CHALLENGES?

I am not a jobbing actor. I tried to be, but it’s just not my bag. For example, many years ago I bumped into a woman coming out of some show at the Arts Centre in Melbourne one night. I was confused at what she was saying to me and said, I’m sorry have we met before? You seem know a lot about me. She removed her glasses slowly and said, Patrick… I’m your agent. She fired me the next day.

The only acting I do really in Australia is with Ranters and I’ve been with the company for over 20 years. In Berlin I have a translation business with my girlfriend which can keep me busy and is something I can do in Australia as long as I have my laptop. I also have a job with a publishing company in West Berlin checking and writing computer code which satisfies, and sometimes fries, that other side of my brain. And I’m working on a performance idea over there, something just for me.

HOW HAVE YOU FOUND THE RESPONSE OF AUDIENCES IN EUROPE TO AUSTRALIAN THEATRE?

We tour quite a bit in Europe and audiences there get our work no less than audiences here. Our work is not about Australia. You could say, as someone did after one of our shows, it’s about the fact that people need each other.

INTIMACY HAS ALSO TOURED TO EUROPE. WHAT WERE THE RESPONSES TO THE WORK AND WHAT CONVERSATION WAS GENERATED BETWEEN ARTIST AND AUDIENCES? AND THE CONVERSATIONS AROUND LANGUAGE IN THEATRE?

Often the responses to the work are very personal. We did a Q&A in Vancouver recently and a woman stood and started telling us how difficult her job was as a nurse in a hospital emergency department and how she felt underappreciated by the community. I also felt like the show had made her a little angry or upset. Maybe because there’s no obvious no drama in it, she found it didn’t reflect the real world – or at least her world which is incredibly dramatic and stressful. We have had a number of occasions where people have felt the drama in their life manifests as part of the experience of watching the show.

After one of our performances in Denmark a man came up to me and thanked me for the show. He told me he couldn’t remember any of it, but that it had made him realise he had three or four really important and difficult things he needed to do or say to his dying mother and estranged father. That was the show for him. He was totally resolved to make things better between the three of them – and then thanked me for the show.

ARE YOU SUPERSTITIOUS? IS THERE A PROCESS THAT YOU ALWAYS LIKE TO GO THROUGH BEFORE STEPPING OUT ON STAGE?

I’m not superstitious. I treat performing like a job. I try and make sure the day gets organised so I don’t have too many thoughts to distract me come 8pm. It doesn’t always work, so I will always listen to music before a show to help me focus on one thing.

PLEASE SHARE A FEW WORDS ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MUSIC?

My biggest musical influence when I was a young drummer in my early 20s in Perth died a few days ago. So if I think about music at the moment I think about him and about the other people I’ve met through playing music. Some people I’ve worked with simply blew my head off musically, while others I’ve thrown seriously heavy marble ashtrays at. When I’m listening to music I can feel like I have to sing or tap along otherwise it may not make it to the final bar. I think that comes from being a drummer. If one of the other instruments stops, the song still goes on. But if the drums stop…

WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?

I think I’m being inspired by this, but I’ll have to wait and see: I like watching YouTube videos, especially at 3am, of the Korean mukbang performer called Banzz. Makbang is a broadcast of someone eating large quantities of food. He’s very popular outside Korea too, and looks like Harry Potter. Sometimes the videos are streamed live. It’s mesmerising watching someone eat a pile of food for an hour sitting in their bedroom while 10,000 people are watching online and asking questions and making comments. It’s intimate and very public at the same time – with audience participation and feedback. And it’s like a sports event too, but always with the same outcome: Banzz always wins. The plates are always left empty!

WHAT ARE YOU READING AND WATCHING CURRENTLY?

I’m reading the Lonely Planet guide to Ireland because we’re performing at the Dublin Theatre Festival this October and then driving with my girlfriend to my parents’ hometowns in the west and up north to introduce her to my some of my Irish family. Gosh that sounds like a plug, but the truth is I know practically nothing about Ireland.

I just finished watching all the episodes of Midsomer Murders online in Berlin, where it is dubbed into German and called the hugely popular Inspector Barnaby. It’s been good for my German, but it’s taken a toll. Ask me about any new TV shows over the last 18 months and I’ll just stare at you blankly and blink. Blink.