Having spent her childhood in the deserts of the Middle East, Lily moved to Melbourne for university followed by training at the Victorian College of the Arts. Upon graduating from the VCA Lily worked extensively across television, film and theatre in Melbourne before moving to Canberra where she is studying a Masters of Communications, working at the Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres. Lily’s television credits include Party Tricks and Offspring and she has appeared in films such as The King’s Daughter, Lights and Syriana. Her theatre credits include Phini in Future Loves Burning and The Saviour in Apocalypso both for the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Love and Other Acts of Theft for the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Josie in The Safe House and Jody in Hose for MKA as well as Betsheb in The Golden Age, Margaret in Three More Sleepless Nights and Miranda in The Tempest whilst at the VCA.
THE STREET TALKED TO LILY BEFORE THE SEASON OF DIARY OF A MADMAN.
YOU ARE ABOUT TO PLAY MULTIPLE ROLES IN DIARY OF A MADMAN. WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES FOR YOU AS ACTRESS?
Playing three characters in one work is no small feat. Each one is very different and so the challenge here is to ensure that each characterisation is strong enough that when I step into Sophia’s high heeled shoes, I leave Tuovi behind. Luckily for me, each has quite a unique rhythm and energy, but on the other hand, they are all seen through Poprishcin’s eyes so perhaps there is a similarity to be found.
YOU ALSO ARE LEARNING FINNISH. TELL US MORE.
This is a huge challenge for me. Tuovi is the character I play most in the work and much of her text is in Finnish, a language that I was in no way familiar with. I have been very lucky to be able to work with a language coach because the sounds are quite different to English, a lot of rolled R’s and hard consonants, so it requires a very different way of using the mouth and tongue. Although it is a tremendous amount of work I am almost starting to the think of it as a blessing because it is such a distinct way into the character.
THE WORK DEALS WITH MENTAL DETERIORATION AND A MALE CHARACTER WHO HAS NUMEROUS UNSAVORY TRAITS. HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THIS?
The work is in diary form and so most of what we’re seeing is from Poprishchin’s point of view. It gives us a fascinating glimpse into the psyche of this man who is struggling and deteriorating in front of our eyes. But while he undoubtedly has unsavoury traits we also need to ask what role society plays in his mental decline?
REHEARSALS START SOON. WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS IN A WORK LIKE THIS?
I have been quite preoccupied with the language element of the work. I started my Finnish classes prior to the start of rehearsals, which was very beneficial to ensure I’m getting off on the right foot. Additionally, I have been delving into some character works, reading the script multiple times to deduce every clue I can from what is said, and I have been ensuring the kitchen is stocked with vegetables and coffee to keep me going through the busy weeks to come.
WHERE DOES LILY MEET SOPHIA, THE DIRECTOR’S DAUGHTER?
I grew up in Dubai which is a very wealthy society. Sophia spends her days picking out dresses, attending balls and waiting for well positioned suitors. I can’t say my life was quite like that but money and social rank were a part of life in Dubai and it can be difficult not to get caught up in the superficial, so in many ways I can relate to Sophia. I don’t think it’s that she ignores the inherent social problems of the time, she is simply sheltered from them.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO A SUCCESSFUL AND FRUITFUL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AN ACTOR AND DIRECTOR?
The relationship between actor and director is a vital one but there is really no way of knowing how it will play out until you get in the room. For me, the most important elements are communication and trust. While in the work, I can’t appreciate the full picture and so I might be doing something that feels wonderful but doesn’t serve the piece. The director is in many ways like an orchestra conductor, ensuring that each element works together.
YOU ARE NEW TO CANBERRA. HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO CHECK OUT THE LIVE PERFORMANCE SCENE HERE? WHAT’S YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION?
I actually have not had much chance yet but I am very impressed with the arts community here. I also work at Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres and the sheer amount of work that comes through on a daily basis proves that the arts are alive and well in Canberra.
ARE YOU SUPERSTITIOUS? IS THERE A PROCESS THAT YOU ALWAYS LIKE TO GO THROUGH BEFORE STEPPING OUT ON STAGE?
My best friend and oft collaborator has a special good luck phrase she says just before we go on stage, I won’t repeat it as it’s a touch inappropriate, so I think of that right before I step on. Otherwise I am almost so superstitious that it counts itself out. Coming up to show night I have to use the correct colour pegs when hanging out the washing, press the button a certain amount of times to cross the street and not walk on cracks in the pavement. There’s no way to get everything right so I suppose I’m setting myself up to fail, and deep down I know luck has little to do with it. If you are thoroughly prepared and allow yourself to play in the moment, nothing can go wrong.
WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?
Honestly, I am thoroughly inspired by Canberra right now. As we go into a bitter winter I might regret saying that but just moving and having the freedom to discover a new city has been wonderful.
WHAT ARE YOU READING AND WATCHING CURRENTLY?
I’m mostly just reading the script over and over, occasionally interrupted by Finnish phonetic charts. I am also studying my Masters of Communications so there are lot of journal articles about integrated marketing saved on my computer. But when I do allow myself a break from work I have been watching the second season of The Crown which is fantastic.