A Quick Chat With Xavier O’Shannessy at La Mama

“I see their faces. They don’t care if ya surf. They don’t care if ya work with them. To them, you’re a stinkin’ terrorist.”

Unaustralia by Reg Cribb is a story about a devout Muslim teenager who loves to surf. When his brother fights with life guards, a too-familiar racial battle begins on an Australian-dream beach.

Cribb won the Patrick White Playwrights’ Award in 2001 and was shortlisted for the QLD Premier’s Literary Award for his play The Return, which he adapted into the AFI nominated film, Last Train to Freo. His 2003 play Last Cab to Darwin won the QLD Premier’s Literary Award, the Patrick White Playwrights’ Award, the WA Premier’s Award and the WA Equity Award for Best New Script.

Melbourne actor Xavier O’Shannessy is making his La Mama debut in Unaustralia. He says, “I wonder when we, as a country, will wake up and accept that – like every modern nation built on the displacement of an indigenous population and subsequent waves of migration – we face complex and ever present racial tensions. When will we stop sweeping our racism, bigotry and discontent under the carpet at every opportunity and covering it with half-truths about our so called tolerant, welcoming and progressive past?”

Xavier O'Shannessy
Xavier O’Shannessy

Do you remember the first show you saw at La Mama?
No but I do remember being blown away by the intimacy of the experience.

What is one of your favourite shows you’ve seen at La Mama?
The Hamlet Machine.

What La Mama show do you wish you’d seen?
Most of the ones that I’ve missed.

What do you love about working at La Mama?
This is my first time.

What do you love most about this show?

Playing a second-generation seventeen-year-old Lebanese-Australian rapper. It’s a huge adjustment and really bloody fun.

Where is the best coffee in Carlton?
Carlton Esspresso, or is it called DOC? Or are they two different places?

Who would you love to see in your audience one night?
Full houses would be nice.

Is there anyone you don’t want to see in the audience?
It would be pretty intimidating to look out and see any second-generation Lebanese-Australian rappers in the audience.

What do you like to do after a performance?
I don’t like feeling too full on stage so I don’t eat a lot leading up to a show. But I’m constantly hungry, it’s a catch 22. So, after a show, I get home, curl up in bed and gorge. Probably not very healthy.

What was your first time on a stage?
I’m pretty sure it was my primary school concert called Frame, from what I can remember, it was a redux of Fame the Musical but with lots of picture frames.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
It depends on the show. Some times I just rock up, do my vocal warm up and head on stage. Other times I spend ages preparing. I try not to get too neurotic though.

What’s some great theatre advice you’ve used?
Don’t try. Either do it, or don’t do it.

What punishment do you think is fit for audience members who don’t turn their phones off during performances?
They should have to sit through every terrible school musical ever made, end to end.

What’s your favourite gelati flavour?
Please don’t make me choose. I can’t deal with choice.

What role/character do you really want to play one day?
One that gives me cause to quit my day job.

Matinees: love or loathe?
Eh, they’re not so bad.

Do you read reviews?
I’ve not had any. Are you offering to write one? Thanks!

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)?
I suppose I should point out just how accessible La Mama is via public transport. This was the point of the question, right?

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
You know, I’ve picked some real lemons lately. But I have this compulsive thing where I have to finish every book that I start. It can make bed time pretty frustrating. That said, Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson was interesting.

What question do you wish I’d asked?
Would you like me to give you $1415?

How would you answer it?
Yes, but don’t give it to me directly, donate it to our Pozible campaign. Here is the link.

La Mama Courthouse

1 August – 19 September

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *