KEITH Agius is one of those Australian actors who has been a presence on stage and screen for three decades but for the first time in his career, the openly gay actor will finally get to play a gay character in a “once-in-lifetime role”.
Agius, 52, has starred in iconic Australian TV shows like A Country Practice, Home and Away, Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo and films like Danny Deckchair and Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead — and he is now making his Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival debut in the play The Whale.
Charlie is desperate to reconnect with his long-estranged daughter but when he reaches out he finds she is a viciously sharp-tongued and unhappy teen.
Preparing to play Charlie required Agius “plunge the depths” to get into the depressed mindset of the character, including having to wear a “fat suit” to appear bigger. When the action takes place over the space of a week and is set entirely in Charlie’s apartment, the effects can begin to take the toll on the actor.
“It’s exhausts me. You can’t half do it, you’ve got to really dig deep and be totally vulnerable to those feelings,” Aguis said.
“I have to use things in my life to ignite certain moments in the play. There’s a whole lot of things you can draw on, by the end of every show I do I’m physically exhausted and emotionally exhausted as well.”
Agius was attracted to the role not only for its unique story but also because the play is staged in the iconic Old Fitz Theatre in Woolloomollo which, thanks to the work of a dedicated band of people, is seeing a marked resurgence.
After playing straight roles for 30 years, Agius said was happy to be part of this year’s Mardi Gras festival in a play he believes has a universal story, such as dealing with living in the closet.
“It’s really refreshing to play someone of your own sexuality and it’s quite liberating,” he said.
“But also playing a gay man, that a part of a group of gay people that I would imagine that don’t get very much coverage or interest because of their weight.
“I think sometimes we tend to focus too much on the body beautiful and there’s a huge cross-section of our community that doesn’t get represented and I think this is a perfect place for that.”
While the subject matter might be heavy, Agius says the play is done through a comedic lens.
Old Fitzroy Theatre
129 Dowling St (Cnr Cathedral St), Woolloomooloo
Season: On until March 4
Times: 7.30pm sessions
Price: $40 Adult, $35 Concession, $30 Previews and Cheap Tuesday
The Star Observer is a proud media partner of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.