On the Couch with David Whiteley

David Whiteley Arts Review On the CouchWho is David Whiteley?
I think Bob Dylan was quoting Rimbaud when he said “I is another.” Yeah, well I’m someone else.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
If I could do anything differently I’d just want to do it slower and be more mindful of the time rushing by. With a young family everything is top speed until it stops when they’re in bed and then all you want to do is crash on the carpet. Also I’m now really conscious of how quickly things pass and how fleeting this time will seem in a few years; how these seemingly disconnected moments, dreams and preoccupations will define your life when all is said and done.

Who inspires you and why?
Musicians inspire me most. I’m usually enthralled by something that’s playing in my car when I’m out and about each day. I’m always looking for a new infatuation to plug into. Music defines and shapes everything I’m doing, scoring all the little moments of my life. It makes me want to be freer, explore new ideas, it fires my imagination and it allows me to access emotions. My kids too. Those little people are a font of inspiration. It’s amazing how much you learn about human nature from the little ones.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I think democracy is due for a service. It’s been very rattly these past few years. I think we take our relatively peaceful, tolerant lives for granted. It worries me and I’m sure it worries many people, that an extremely combative and intolerant language has increasingly crept into political conversations. I don’t know if it’s the rise of social media where it seems that ‘anything is ok’, or 24 hour news as click bait, or a gradual disillusionment with the calibre of people seeking public office. I hated the divisiveness of the Rudd-Gillard-Abbott years here in Australia and I feel America is heading (or staying) on the same track toward political stalemate and an increasing prominence given to extreme points of view and populism. One thing I would mandate is that anyone who has appeared on reality television shows or in movies or similar platforms in the entertainment industry should not be allowed to seek public office. It just seems to distort the democratic process.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Our holiday destination for the last few years has been Port Douglas. It’s just easy and the climate is always nice. Great when you have young kids. You can drive up to the Daintree or just lounge around a pool and a fake beach. It keeps the kids amused for hours. We love the seafood up there too, there’s some beautiful spots on the inlet.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
We would take visitors out to a Melbourne restaurant for a lazy lunch or dressed up dinner. It’s just wonderful how seriously Melbourne takes its food, wine and coffee! We’re so lucky. And there’s also the regional destinations like Ballarat or Healesville for day trips, the surf coast and the wilds of Wilson’s Promontory for a longer visit.

What are you currently reading?
I don’t read a whole lot of novels at the moment. I’ve been so busy cramming lines in between changing nappies. For longer reads I use the Pocket app to save articles I find on twitter and elsewhere. When I’ve got nothing else to do I can sit down and read several feature articles in this way on my phone. (For what it’s worth I’ve just started reading Norwegian writer, Karl Ove Knausgaard’s autobiographical series, My Struggle, and I hope to get back to that particular struggle soon!)

What are you currently listening to?
At the moment it’s Bon Iver’s album, 22, a Million. I fell heavily for Frank Ocean’s Blond recently and, while rehearsing Vanya, I’ve been delving into some classical music from Erik Satie and friends.

Happiness is?
Happiness. Happiness is the rehearsal room! Anything is possible and there are no critics in the house just yet. I also love the society of actors. In theatre you get that sense of belonging and family that you rarely find in this itinerant career!

What does the future hold for you?
After Vanya goes up, I’ll be heading back to Ballarat to rejoin the cast of Doctor Blake Mysteries. It’s such a great show to work on. Lots of laughs – and the art and camera department keep outdoing themselves creating the amazing world for us to walk around in! After that, we’re going to have a lovely Christmas with family and next year I’ll be back looking after my little girl and the household while my wife goes back to work.

David Whiteley plays Uncle Vanya in the current production of Chekhov’s play at Red Stitch directed by Nadia Tass from a new translation by Annie Baker. He was a founding member of Red Stitch and Artistic Director from 2005-13. He plays Sgt Bill Hobart on the ABC’s The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Mitchell in The Wrong Girl (Channel 10) and Guy Curry in the film, The Menkoff Method featuring Noah Taylor, released in cinemas next month.

Uncle Vanya is currently playing at the Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre until 17 December 2016. For more information, visit: www.redstitch.net for details.

Image: David Whiteley (supplied)

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