Melbourne actor Keith Brockett is set to return to his school days in the new play Student Body.
Brockett, best known for his role as flamboyant gay librarian Ky Lee in ABC comedy The Librarians, will play 22-year-old Kai Chai, a character who, though similar in name, is a world away from the Middleton Interactive Learning Centre in the new play by award-winning writer Alana Valentine.
Student Body centres on the lives of four international students who are studying in Melbourne. Kai, who comes from Beijing, is completing his Masters in Business, and gets a shock when he experiences both overt racism and physical violence.
“He’s as fresh off the boat as you can get and comes to Australia with lots of idealistic, preconceived ideas about what the country is like,” Brockett explained.
“As the play progresses, he encounters the darker side of intolerance, which is in most societies, and he gets beaten up.”
In some ways, Kai’s own situation mirrors that of Brockett’s, who left his family in Malaysia to complete his studies in Melbourne.
“Fortunately, my own experience was not as violent as Kai’s, but I see a lot of similarities,” Brockett said.
“Coming to an English-speaking country, you are forced to start from scratch and face a lot of obstacles immediately. For me the transition was not as bad as it could have been, but some of the cast members in the play have experienced some really terrible stuff like people driving past and throwing things at them from cars.”
This is not the first time Brockett has taken on such a serious role. In 2008, he played the lead role of John Lee, a gay Asian man accused of murdering his white lover in a public toilet, in Porcelain as part of Midsumma Festival.
“My secret love will always be for theatre — that’s where I started my training,” Brockett said.
Still, we may see him back on the ABC for a fourth series of The Librarians where Ky was last seen marrying his boyfriend Darren.
“I hope we can do more,” he said. “We’re still waiting to find out. Nothing is certain at the moment.”
Filming the wedding scene was a highlight for Brockett.
“It all seemed so real,” he said. “Lots of people just ad libbed. It was like a big party.”
Brockett also promised there are plenty of laughs to be found in Student Body, a play he believes has a wide appeal.
“What people will love about it is the struggles the four characters go through to find acceptance,” he said.
“It goes beyond race, gender or sexuality — everyone wants to be accepted.”
info: Student Body is at the Union Theatre, University of Melbourne, March 17 – 18, 24 – 25, 1pm and 8pm. For bookings, call 03 9397 601.
By MITCHELL JORDAN