Red Stitch: Herding Cats with Ngaire Dawn Faire

Red Stitch present the Australian premiere of Herding Cats by UK writer Lucinda Coxon. Opening this week, it’s 2010–11 UK productions won the acclaim of critics and it was shortlisted for writing awards.  It’s described as bleak with shards of black humour and The Guardian said “see it and shudder”.

Ngaire Dawn Fair graduated from the National Theatre in 2008 and made her Red Stitch debut in 2011 in in My Romantic History. She has performed in with ITCH productions and Hoy Polloy and been in television shows including Rush, Satisfaction, Neighbours, Killing Time, The Slap and Winners and Losers. She chats with Anne-Marie Peard about being in a show that initially made her feel very odd.

Ngaire Dawn Fair. Photo by Sarah Walker
Ngaire Dawn Fair. Photo by Sarah Walker

What three words best describe Herding Cats?
Fast, dense, surprising

What do you love most about this show?
The way it keeps you guessing. I love how unusual it is. Some people will love it, some will hate it and everyone will have different ideas on the how the characters are interconnected.

What is one of your favourite shows you’ve seen at Red Stitch?
The Aliens.

What do you love about being a Red Stitch ensemble member?
I love the people. There’s a lot of trust; I don’t work well under supervision. There’s a real sense of freedom and equality, everyone just does their jobs and there’s always support if you need it.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced preparing for this show?
If Justine (my character) was a cartoon character she would be Taz Devil, she’s a whirlwind. She rarely takes a breath, so just maintaining the energy to keep up with her is a challenge.

What was your reaction when you first read this Lucinda Coxon’s script?
I felt very odd, I had to tell my partner about about it. And in the retelling, I decided it was special.

Who would you love to see in the audience one night?
Richard Gere. That would be excellent.

Is there anyone you don’t want to see in the audience?
My dear grandparents, they would be horrified.

When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
I don’t think I ever really wanted to be an actor but I always loved playing characters. In high school I performed a monologue to my class from Educating Rita and that was the first time I felt an audience engrossed in a story I was telling. That was a special moment. That might have been the beginning.

Apart from this one, what was the last play you read?
Red Light Winter by Adam Rapp.

Do you believe in any theatre superstitions? What are they?
No, I say good luck.

What’s some great theatre advice you’ve used? Who was it from?
“Be bold, be big hearted.” My grandfather said that, for theatre and life (different grandfather from above, if he was still with us, he would love this show, I think).

In your wildest dreams, who would you love to work with on a show?
I would like to be in a play with James Dean please.

Do you read your reviews?
I fantasise about not reading them, but I do.

Convince a stubborn north-sider to head over the river to St Kilda.
The train to Flinders from Windsor only takes 9 flipping minutes!

Tell us about your fellow cast, Paul Ashcroft and Dion Mills, and director, Suzanne Chaundy.
We have had so much fun working on this show.  The play is much funnier than I anticipated, so rehearsals have been a hoot.  Suzanne is open, honest and clear with a wickedly encouraging laugh. And Paul and Dion are perfectly cast (although they might not like me saying that). It’s just like a weird little family.

Herding Cats
Red Stitch Actors Theatre
7 June – 6 July
Red Stitch theatre

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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