Hotel Sorrento at Riverside Parramatta

What a joy it was this week for Carly to give Dennis Coard, currently starring in Hotel Sorrento which next week comes to Riverside Parramatta, a call and hear all about this wonderful show! Have a read below:

Dennis Coard

What brought you to this play at this theatre? Where did your involvement with the project begin?

HIT [the production company taking this show on tour] did the play many years ago now and I saw the production and I really liked it and I really liked the role of Wallie but I was too young to play him back then. Then they decided to celebrate 100 HIT Productions and they decided to use Hotel Sorrento to celebrate that as it is a play that has really endured…it’s still around…and so I was really thrilled when I was offered the role of Wallie.

So, it’s come full circle for you then

Yeah, it really has! And it has had over 50 productions and it has been translated into other languages so it really has joined the ranks of iconic Australian plays now.

Absolutely! It has definitely made its way into our own Australian cannon of works! It’s a great example of an Australian…’dragedy’ would you call it? A bit of comedy, a bit of tragedy?

Yeah definitely. It has comedy, it has tragedy but it also has a real thriller element too…there is a big secret that everyone is keeping…and I’ll keep it until people come and see the show…no spoilers =).

Throughout the process, what has been the greatest challenge and the greatest moment of joy thus far?

Well for me it is just so well written by Hannie that my character, Wallie, just sounds like a knock-about Aussie bloke. He’s the kind of guy who just probably enjoyed the company of his mates far too much and didn’t really see that his wife also had needs and wants and dreams. So whilst being a good bloke, he wasn’t quite as understanding…he’s a good mate and a good dad but probably not the best husband. But the finest quality that he has is loyalty and he is loyal to his family, to his friends and to his country so he values loyalty very highly.

 

That’s a great quality to show for sure and I guess that really bringing that out in this character has really been a joy for the process. Finding a way to show the good in someone that really you could say ‘oh but he is a poor husband’…I guess that really gives you an opportunity but is both challenging and joyous to bring out

That’s right, yeah, absolutely! Every character in the play, their flaws are shown as well as their qualities, their shortcomings are on display…because that is human. No one is perfect. It’s a good play for that balance, very good!

Troy, Wal, Pippa and Hilary Moynihan (Saxon Gray, Dennis Coard, Joanne Booth, and Ruth Caro). Photo Credit: Cathy Ronalds

 

What about this piece makes it perfect for today’s audiences? And especially for the Sydney theatre scene – the play is set in Victoria but, as you have already mentioned, it is an iconic Australian play…What should audiences look forward to? What is the relevance of the play today?

It is set in a seaside town in Victoria but it could be any little town anywhere that really loves the place that they live and work and play in. They are sort of like, ‘why would you want to go to a capital city,’ is what they say…they say, ‘why would you want to go to Melbourne?!’ But lots of people love where they live and see no reason to go to the big smoke. Anyone can watch and enjoy this play. It is also a play that really looks at how Australia and Australians look at themselves and the world. For a long time we had a real cultural cringe where we didn’t think that our culture and our stories were worth being shown on the world stage. Well, we are certainly getting over that now – in film, in TV and on stage – we are matching it with anyone else in the world.

So back when this is set, 1992, they were still just finding their feet and taking their rightful place in the world.

 

I hadn’t personally actually considered that aspect of this play; that it is really a story of Australia’s coming of age as much as the family, and as you say, this real overcoming of our own cultural cringe…that’s a really nice aspect to consider.

That’s right, and I mean, back when the play is set in 1992, it’s really just the start of people going overseas to hit the big time when you felt that Australia just wasn’t big enough and you had to go to America or England. Well, that is sort of still the case but now you really can do very well and be very successful here in Australia as well.

Talk to us about working with this company – it’s great to see a mix of familiar faces and emerging talents throughout the cast and crew. How have you enjoyed the process thus far and how is to be a part of this team? Have you worked with anyone before?

Most of them are new to me actually. I have worked with Jenny Seedsman before, who plays Marge – I have been on stage with her in Melbourne. But all the others…it is my first time working with them and it has been absolutely wonderful.  Kim Denman, Dion Mills, Ruth Caro, Joanne Booth, Saxon Gray and Mike Smith, as well as Jenny and I, make up the cast. It’s directed by Denny Lawrence who I have also never worked with before. I have actually worked for HIT twice before though – I toured with Australia Day a couple of years ago and with a David Williamson, Let the Sunshine, before that.

So nice to be back with the company then and back out on tour…

Yeah! I really applaud Christine Harris – this is her 100th touring show! I am so glad that there are people like her around because she puts on good Australian plays with good casts and takes them out to places that would just never see them on stage otherwise. We go to some big venues but also to lots of smaller ones. We started off with several [shows] around Metropolitan Melbourne and then did a lot around regional Victoria. Now we are in Canberra for 6 shows and after that Sutherland and then 7 shows I think at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta.

 

I completely agree with you there! There is such a movement at the moment to take works all around Australia and really ensuring that audiences in regional towns still see the same quality and range of works and I think that that goes back to what you were saying before about us overcoming that cultural cringe. We are really now proud to show what we can make on home soil and with local grown talent. So, I completely agree with you that it is so important!

Yeah! And those three plays that I mentioned, there is a David Williamson, a Jonathan Biggins and now Hannie Rayson. So every time that I have toured its been an Australian, absolutely homegrown play, with an Australian flavour and an Australian cast.

Hotel Sorrento - July 31st till August 4th at Riverside Parramatta

Have any characters in this show left you with a message or a new thought? Is there a something about Wallie that will stay with you beyond the run of this production?

I think…he is a very optimistic character and as I said, that loyalty that he has to his mates and to his family is very admirable. I have just really liked playing him and every night I cant wait to get back on stage and be Wallie again. It’s been really good!

And then with HIT, there have been so many great tours. My wife is Debra Lawrance and she toured Driving Miss Daisy for HIT Productions – so there is a lovely American play as well that they took around a lot of Australia – and then there have been so many new works too. I really applaud them for that! I hope that there will be many more!

One other thing – Hannie has written a play that is for 8 people which is usually very hard to tour, so I am really glad that Christine Harris has taken a chance on that. What is nice is that there are 4 good roles for men and 4 good roles for women. There’s a really good balance! Both of our crew our women, the playwright is a woman and four good characters in the play are women so it’s a show with a really good balance.

RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS.

Favourite production you have ever seen?

Driving Miss Daisy

 

You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?

Belfast, Northen Ireland – that is where I was born

Dream show to perform in?

Richard III

Plays or musicals?

Plays…I am not much of a singer

A hobby you have beyond the theatre?

I love wood working and I still play soccer

What’s next for you after this show?

I am touring some of my own plays – I do one man shows. One is called Life’s a Gamble and the other one is called The Fall of the Roman Umpire.

Okay, so we have to look out for those next

That’s right =)

Dennis, thank you so much – thank you for your time today! We cannot wait to see the show!

Hotel Sorrento plays at the Riverside Theatres in Parramatta from July 31st until August 4th. Get your tickets here today!

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