Lucy Goleby loves a play with a social conscience.

We pay for water so is it such a stretch to think we might one day pay for air? It begs the question, ‘how much do you think you’d have to breathe?’

This is the dark comic premise of Ben Elton’s Gasp! and actor Lucy Goleby is no stranger to taking on roles that expose social conventions.

“I think the political undercurrent of the play is scarily real!” Goleby says. “There are a lot of seemingly ridiculous notions explored in the play that aren’t actually as far-fetched as they may appear.

“Ultimately, that’s where real comedy comes from – a situation that’s both familiar and confronting, that makes us laugh, and then makes us think.”

Elton’s play Gasping was first performed in London in 1990, starring Hugh Laurie; now Gasping has been reimagined – the rewrite, Gasp!, relocates the story to an Australia giddy on the resources boom.

Corporate powerhouse Lockheart Industries has a genius plan to privatise the air; the ‘Suck and Blow’ filtering machine is an instant hit and sales soar. But it splits the planet into the haves and the have-nots and if you can’t pay, you don’t breathe.

Goleby plays Peggy, an asthmatic who Goleby agrees is not going to do well in an air-scare world where she already struggles to breathe.

“She represents the real world and the everyday person, who is affected by the world made by big corporations, but has no agency over their economically-driven decisions,” Goleby says.

Goleby grew up in Canberra, immersing herself in local theatre, voiceovers, film, musical theatre and costume design. She completed a Bachelor of Arts in drama and Spanish. For Honours, Goleby explored the evolution of the relationship between puppet and puppeteer. She went on to perform with The Wiggles and tour nationally with The Ten Sopranos. She completed a Master of Arts majoring in creative writing, and performed in various independent productions.

An exceedingly qualified performer, Goleby has dabbled a bit in the ink herself.

“I’ve done a bit of writing, and am interested in doing more at some point. But the primary reason I decided to train at NIDA was to focus on performance, rather than academia,” she says.
“I love the homework and research associated with acting, but ultimately you learn the most by getting up and doing.

“It’s important to reflect, analyse and pull apart the doing, but the best way to do that is by doing again! So for now I’m very much focused on acting.”

Goleby has been doing a string of new plays at NIDA and after Gasp! will return to Brisbane in early 2015 in a new play by Matthew Ryan for the Queensland Theatre Company.

“I love the collaborative process that comes to the fore in the development and production of a new play,” she says.

“I think the special work of theatre is its ability to expose social conventions and explore ordinary relationships in extraordinary situations.

“Ultimately though, it’s all about imagination and play, the most important skills we have.”

Gasp! is on at the Playhouse, QPAC from 17 November to 7 December. For more information (and to access a special deal for bmag readers), visit our event guide.