Remaining True: Matt McFarlane on acting, the arts and the MTC

Australian actor Matt McFarlane has enjoyed what many would call a ‘dream run’ since graduating from WAAPA’s Music Theatre degree in 2007.

From music theatre to television, children’s entertainment to working at the Melbourne Theatre Company – this highly talented and dashingly handsome performer is just scratching the surface of what is sure to be a long and successful career.

Matt McFarlane
Making his Mark: Matt McFarlane is fast becoming one of Australia’s most versatile performers

More than just your average singer/dancer/actor, McFarlane is one of the most professionally driven performers in Australia and his hard work has seen him perform in a string of professional music theatre productions in Australia and New Zealand (including Priscilla, Grease, Fame, Guys and Dolls, Damn Yankees and Love Never Dies – performing the role of The Phantom over 40 times).

Not content with working in one facet of the arts, McFarlane enjoyed a stint on Channel 10’s reality series I Will Survive (looking just as dashing in sequins and heels), and no sooner had he left the show was he auditioning for a role Melbourne Theatre Company’s newly commissioned work True Minds by Joanna Murray-Smith.

We spoke with Matt about his upcoming MTC debut and his thoughts on life as a performer…

How did you come to audition for the world premiere of True Minds at MTC? 

I had just finished I Will Survive on channel 10 and my agent called and said that she had an audition for me for a play written by Joanna Murray-Smith. I didn’t need any more convincing. I went in to the MTC and auditioned for Joanna and Director Peter Houghton. I got a call about a week later saying I had landed the part! It was one of my all-time favourite phone calls!

What was the audition process like?

The audition process was quite low-key. Both Joanna and Peter are really relaxed and welcomed me by getting out of their seats and coming over to shake my hand when I walked into the room – which is very rare and such a calming thing for a nervous auditionee! We read through the audition script and worked on some different methods of delivery. I felt comfortable and they allowed me to express my thoughts on the role and take risks.

Originating a role is an incredible opportunity – is it something you thought you’d be doing when you started out in the performing arts? 

It’s a great honour and something I have always dreamed of. When I started out I would read plays and always saw the names of the original cast in the first two pages. It is a dream to create something that will be part of a World Premiere. I take it very seriously and want to deliver a performance that I will be proud of in years to come.

How would you describe yourself as a performer? 

I think of myself as a performer striving to be able to work in different areas of the business. I don’t like the idea of being confined to any area. I would love to emulate a career like Hugh Jackman, he’s done it all! So I guess I would describe myself as a greedy performer, I want to do everything!

What is the most exciting thing about performing with the MTC?

I think the most exciting thing is being in the room with some really amazing actors. I sit at the table during our read-throughs and admire the talent around the table. That inspires me to deliver my best. The MTC is such a prestigious establishment, and the first play I saw was an MTC play when I was at school. I remember thinking – “Man I want to be up there one day!” achieving that dream is my primary source of excitement!

[pull_left]The MTC is such a prestigious establishment, and the first play I saw was an MTC play when I was at school. I remember thinking – Man I want to be up there one day![/pull_left]

Do you think your previous experience in Music Theatre and training at WAAPA has helped you to secure this role?

I think my training at WAAPA was second to none. I wasn’t just trained in Musical Theatre, I was trained in Acting, Singing, and Dancing – all of those skills encourage me to traverse the many continents of this vast industry. I think limiting yourself to one skill in our relatively small industry is an oversight. I believe in biting off as much as you can and chewing like crazy!

Where are you hoping to go from here?

Who knows what the future holds – I guess that’s part of the excitement! I am thrilled to be part of the MTC family and my aim is to follow the acting path. I mainly want to keep my face out there, if I continue to challenge myself – the possibilities are limitless!

What advice would you give up and coming performers and new graduates who are starting out in the industry? 

I would give the same advice that Hugh Jackman gave us when he came to visit WAAPA when I was a first year.

He said “For the first five years – take everything that comes your way. Do as much as you can in as many areas as possible. After that you make choices on what is right for your career and the direction you want to go.”

I live by this advice.

Commissioned by the Melbourne Theatre Company, True Minds is a hilarious new play from critically acclaimed playwright, Joanna Murray-Smith. The world premiere will take place on April 29 at the Southbank Theatre, The Sumner starring Matthew McFarlane (Benedict Perring), Alex Menglet (Griffin Grayson), Genevieve Morris (Tracey Grayson), Adam Murphy (Mitch Carter), Nikki Shiels (Daisy Grayson) and Louise Siversen (Vivienne Reynolds).


Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Sumner

Season dates: 25 April to 8 June 2013

Opening night: Monday 29 April 2013 at 8pm

Tickets: from $58, Under 30s just $33
Booking Details: Southbank Theatre Box Office 03 8688 0800 or


Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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