Actor/producer Ross Balbuziente is relishing the opportunity to play the dark, brooding type.
Ross Balbuziente read Wuthering Heights by choice — now he is playing one of literature’s darkest characters.
“He’s not very likeable,” Balbuziente admits, “but as an actor you can’t judge the character you’re playing. There’s a reason for every action a person demonstrates. From Heathcliff’s perspective what he was doing was rightly just.”
Fans of the classic Emily Bronte novel will be relieved to know it is faithfully adapted for the stage, but expect more.
“Being one of the producers I get to be privy to the adaptation conversations,” Balbuziente says. “Like a Shakespearean text, the emotions are so relevant to now … remove the extremities and what you have are the bare bones of what you experience in everyday life — love, revenge, forbidden love and lust.
“We’re treating it as a classic because it is so bloody good. We are remaining very faithful to the text, but aesthetically our director Nick Skubij is having a field day with the creative team to recreate the atmosphere which plays such a huge part,” he says.
“One of the biggest challenges is the riskiness of recreating the moors on the stage. Emily Brontë doesn’t help with generational jumping and similar character names.”
As the creator of shake & stir theatre co, Balbuziente is no stranger to bringing difficult productions to the stage, including 1984 (which has just completed a national tour), Animal Farm and a plethora of Shakespearean productions.
But tackling Catherine and Heathcliff is a challenge; there’s no Regency Period dancing and witty banter here. The story is based on two ill-fated lovers.
“It has everything to do with choices,” Balbuziente says. “Every day we are faced with a crossroad; split decisions we make can have a domino effect. This production questions your choices. Hopefully we can aid students coming to see the show as well.”
Having the control to create, select and deliver works is most actors’ dream and Balbuziente has achieved that.
“I love the performing arts and I wouldn’t be in any other industry. I love the quote that every time you perform a show it is the first and potentially last time an audience member sees a piece of theatre. A director friend said that to me and that has lasted with me. It helps that I love what I do.”
And is there a role he covets?
“Yes – Iago in Othello,” Balbuziente says. “You never know, I might just program it and cast myself.”
A nice twist to look out for is actor Gerry Connelly in the role of pivotal character and storyteller Nelly Dean.
“We wanted to step outside the box casting this role and we are thrilled to have one of Australia’s best actors in it, playing it one hundred per cent straight, not spoofing.
“It goes backs to that riskiness of putting on this epic novel on the stage. We’re not shying away from any challenges.”
shake & stir theatre co’s Wuthering Heights is at the Cremorne Theatre QPAC from 1 to 18 October 2014. For more information, visit our event guide.