Shannon Woollard from Death of a Comedian

Melbourne actor and director Shannon Woollard performs in Death of a Comedian by Fred Rowan that opens at the La Mama Courthouse tonight. A battered survivor of 80s Aussie comedy is ready to take on audiences again, but this time it’s really a game of survival.

Shannon Woollard
Shannon Woollard

What three words best describe your show? 
A sad and bitter farce.  A bittersweet farce sounds better.  Hang on, it isn’t quite a farce.  Bloody hell…

Do you remember the first show you saw at La Mama?
Yes.  It was directed by David Branson (1999?).  I don’t remember what it was called, but it had very low lighting and there was a violin.

What is one of your favourite shows you’ve seen at La Mama?
Random Acts by Anna Lall in 2007.  Directed by (our director) Bruce Langdon.  Ian Rooney as a blind restaurant critic, one of the best things he’s ever done.

What La Mama show do you wish you’d seen? 
Coranderrk: We Will Show the Country last year.

What do you love about working at La Mama? 
The Courthouse space.  The ambience lends itself well to certain kinds of material.  The House Managers are also very helpful.

What do you love most about this show? 
The astonishing, almost pathetic sadness of the characters.  Plenty of irony there, of course.

Where is the best coffee in Carlton? 
My partner (who works at Cinema Nova) says Carlton Espresso.  Caffeine and I don’t get on very well these days, which is a little annoying, because I have always liked coffee.

Who would you love to see in your audience one night? 
My high school drama teacher, Janet Shaw.

Is there anyone you don’t want to see in the audience? 
No.  Not ever.

What do you like to do after a performance?
 If it’s a big show, I like to have a quick shower.  Then drink a cold lager with my colleagues.

What was your first time on a stage? 
In my mother’s belly, during an amateur show in 1969.  Post-natal:  the annual high school musical in 1983.  But my first proper public appearance was in a production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Canberra Philharmonic Society) in 1984.  I was an office boy.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
The night before a season opens, I sing Consider Me Gone (by Sting) in the shower.  I’ve been doing this for 20 years now and I cannot remember why.

What’s some great theatre advice you’ve used?
Stand still.

What punishment do you think is fit for audience members who don’t turn their phones off during performances?
Summary execution.

What’s your favourite gelati flavour? 
Licorice.  Is that a gelati flavour?  It should be.

What role/character do you really want to play one day?
I really wanted – and once almost played – Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest.  From what I was later told, the director had basically cast the show with me in that role, but had some sort of existential crisis and proceeded to re-cast the entire thing.  A very sad story.  I’d love to play Billy Flynn in Chicago.  Henry V?

Matinees: love or loathe?
Whatever is required.

Do you read reviews?
Occasionally.  Dramatic criticism is a wild and woolly beast.  I don’t believe that you can make a proper assessment of a production unless you have a basic grasp of the intention of the text.  It’s a pretty hard job.  I’d say about 60% of reviews are pretty useless in terms of giving some insight into or useful information regarding the production itself.  Stylistic preference can corrupt in a very major fashion.

Do you know of any secret parking spots near the theatres (although it’s such a short walk from the Melbourne uni tram stop on Swanston Street, so driving isn’t necessary)? Abandon all hope.  There is no such thing.  Catch a tram, you bastards!

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
The Ninth by Harvey Sachs.  It’s about the social and political context within which Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was written.

Death of a Comedian
La Mama, Carlton Courthouse
28 November 28 – 9 December 2012
Wed, Sun 6.30 pm
Thu, Fri, Sat 7.30 pm

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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