Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company is a show for anyone who’s ever had a relationship: it’s witty, sexy and devastatingly honest at its core. The text was written in 1970 so deals very overtly with marriage – which in itself is interesting in context of our national conversation about marriage equality. But at a more basic level, it’s about the human search for identity through connection. “Who am I?” is a question that perhaps we can only answer in relation to others
A mere 10 days from the opening of Watch This’ highly anticipated season of Company at fortyfivedownstairs, AussieTheatre catches up with cast members Nick Simpson-Deeks (Bobby), John O’Hara (Harry), Nicole Melloy (Sarah), Gillian Cosgriff (Susan), Nelson Gardner (Peter), Tim Paige (Paul) and Bianca Baykara (Marta) to find out about their romantic histories.
Let’s start off with the obvious. It’s a show about relationships. What’s your relationship status, if you don’t mind us prying? Single; happily partnered; it’s complicated; it’s none of your goddam business – I’m not paid enough to answer these questions?
Bianca Baykara: I am single!
John O’Hara: Yes, yes, I know it’s hard to believe but I’m EXTREMELY single and, for the record, ready to mingle.
Tim Paige: I’m happily partnered with beer, chips and bread. And Katie… my girlfriend, Katie.
Nicole Melloy: I am engaged and soooo happy about it because I have found the best guy eva.
Nelson Gardiner: I am currently single. Not in a desperate, sad or lonely kind of way.
Gillian Cosgriff: I moved in with my boyfriend about a year ago. He threw out his large collection of vests to make room for my clothes. If that’s not romance I don’t know what is.
Nick Simpson-Deeks: I was going to say “It’s complicated” but… it’s not, really. At the moment I don’t think of myself as single, but I’m also sort of… available, too, in a way, if that makes sense. No? Ok, I’ll stop talking now.
Alright, let’s delve deeper. Love makes fools of us all, according to the old adage. What’s the silliest thing you ever did for love?
GC: I pretended to like Nickelback. Yes, I am deeply ashamed.
NSD: Once at a concert I lit up a cigarette to try to impress a girl I really liked, because she was smoking, but we were in the mosh pit and everyone was —you know— head banging, and I lit my fringe on fire. Hashtag Nineties. I lost her in the crowd after that.
TP: Got a circumcision.
BB: Missed a flight to Los Angeles after a love-at-first-sight moment at a Chromeo concert in San Francisco. We locked eyes across the dance floor. We barely knew each other but went with our feelings. So worth it.
JO: Oh god, so many things. I once compiled a complete 200 page journal of written memories to give to an ex to prove that ‘we did have a good time!!!’… take the hint John.
And what’s the most romantic thing anyone ever did for you?
JO: I had a beautiful someone fly from Sydney to Perth for 6 hours to say “Happy New Year” and then get back on a plane.
NSD: I came down with flu recently, and had to take a few days off rehearsal. It turns out living on your own when you’re sick is the worst. Someone (let’s call her “Ms. X”) came over one afternoon with food, and made me tea and just generally took care of me at my most pathetic and gross. That’s real romance, I think.
BB: A particular standout was when I came home late after a performance and found there was a jar of Nutella and a stack of homemade roti waiting for me. As Joanne sings in Company: “It’s the little things”!
NG: My ex made me a surprise picnic. She might read this and that’s awkward. Hi!
GC: I went to Catholic school and we used to have morning prayers where people could add their own, like, “I want to pray for my sick Grandma,” and stuff like that. In grade one a boy in my class stood up and said, “I’d like to thank Jesus because Gillian said she would be my girlfriend.” I’d like to use this public forum to say I DID NOT SAY THAT. DO YOU HEAR ME LUKE VAN RYAN?? I WILL NOT BE YOUR GIRLFRIEND
There are a range of different relationships covered in this show. How closely do you identify with your character and his/her situation?
NSD: Ahem. Well… I’m still trying to figure out how coupledom works; I live alone; I’ve dated a lot, but long-term relationships have been notoriously difficult for me; plus, like Bobby, I’m turning 35 (right during the run of the show, no less) which is kind of harrowing to be honest, so… you know… I’m feeling like this one is pretty close to home.
NM: Sarah is a competitive, Type A sort of woman, who doesn’t take any shit and is obsessed with food, so yes I can identify with these things!
JO: I totally identify with the Harry/Sarah narrative. They have, I think, one of the more functional relationships of the couples. They bicker and nag and make fun but they love each other endlessly. I think their arguing is healthy and sexy and its definitely the kind of relationship I’d like to be in. Harry and Sarah don’t take themselves too seriously, they self deprecate constantly and that’s very me.
BB: Marta’s young, passionate, open and loves living in the Big Apple. I love that she goes with the flow and is so open to connecting with people. She’s just living in the moment. I’m most like Marta when I’m traveling – open to whatever life throws at me and ready for adventure. Marta probably doesn’t stay in on Wednesdays & Thursdays to watch The Bachelor though!
GC: Over the course of the show my character Susan and her husband Peter separate, get divorced, and then continue living together happily. [SPOILER ALERT.] I like it that they abandon convention to find something that works for them, even if it’s not everybody’s ideal.
And how about your significant other in the show? What’s the dynamic or partnership you’ve created together so far in rehearsals?
NSD: I guess I have three significant others in the show, one of whom I may have dated in real life, and remained close with… so in that instance I think there’s a really lovely ease and familiarity that translates onstage – but in any case, I find all three actors who play Bobby’s girlfriends in the show (Bianca, Carina and Madeleine) utterly brilliant and beguiling, because, well, they just are. So I don’t have to do a whole lot of imaginative work there when it comes to being charmed by each of them up on the floor.
BB: I have dated someone in the cast, who may or may not be my scene partner… Nick and I know each other very well, and I think it shows in our scenes together. There’s an ease and a confidence in our dynamic which makes Marta and Bobby a really fun partnership to play.
JO: I’ve been a massive fan of Nicole’s work for years but I’d never worked with her til now. I feel like our chemistry on the floor was almost instant and we have discovered we work in a similar way. We talk a lot and laugh even more about our scenes but we’re both very invested in bringing honesty and intelligence to our characters. I’m an even bigger fan of Nicole from this process and I’m so excited for audiences to see her fly… She’s a knock out in this role. #harryandsarah
NM: I can not speak highly enough of John O’Hara. I think we are actually falling in love. With this actor I feel safe, supported, he constantly makes me laugh, we are always running our lines because we love each other so much and he smells amazing.
NG: Gillian and I have a blast together. I think she’s secretly a little bit in love with me. I keep photos of her in my wallet. We’re going to go on holiday together. I want to wear her clothes. She’s really playing ‘hard to get’ though.
GC: Frankly, Nelson is unbearable. Working with him is a constant struggle. Also, I think he’s the one stealing my clothes.
What’s your favourite moment in the show? It doesn’t have to be your own …
NSD: There’s this part where all the wives perform a cheerleading routine for Bobby, and I just get to look on and watch. That, just on it’s own, would be a dream moment because the girls are all so funny and committed, and I have to do literally nothing but stand there and enjoy it. But the icing on the cake here has to be Sally Bourne (Joanne) doing her particular version of the cheer with a cigarette in one hand and making the absolute bare minimum effort, while everyone else around her works up a sweat. I’ve seen it so many times and I still cannot stop laughing.
JO: The karate sequence with Nicole. She’s hilarious and in choreographing it we both felt parts of each others bodies I never thought I’d go near.
NM: Karate. And the moment where Nick does the really bad dancing and we don’t laugh.
BB: My favorite moment in Company is the moment riiiight after the button of ‘You Could Drive A Person Crazy’ because it means Carina Waye, Madeleine Mackenzie and I survived.
TP: Another Hundred People is a definite highlight. Bianca Baykara is a star. She should definitely go on The Bachelor! And, when Nelson Gardner squeezes my butt when we’re dancing in a clump.
NG: It’s hard to say because we still haven’t seen all of each other’s scenes yet! Gillian loves our moments together and I do too. Very much. I wonder what she’s wearing to opening night…
GC: Any time I don’t stand next to Nelson.
Also, I love Sorry-Grateful, and the Kathy scene is beautiful as well. I just love the whole show.*
*Except for Nelson. Also, I want my blouse back.
You read it here first! A cast of brilliant actors (with a comedic flair) meets a sparkling text and wonderful music, under the direction of a pretty extraordinary creative team. Reads like a dream. The last professional production of Company in Melbourne was 15 years ago.
Don’t miss this one.
For tickets go to fortyfivedownstairs.com/events/company