The brief for Simon Burke from director Wayne Harrison is simple: be as inappropriate and as naughty as possible. He’s playing the Devil, after all, in a musical about Satan being taught to tango by a western suburbs dance instructor (Sharon Millerchip).

Faust it’s not.

Sometimes I’m a bit Johnny Depp in Pirates Of The Caribbean, sometimes I’m a bit Frank Thring, sometimes I’m a bit Reg Reagan from The Footy Show, Burke says.

Burke acknowledges that when playing Satan, one can draw from a vast underworld of fictional examples.

There have been at least three musical Devils: Mr Applegate in Damn Yankees, the showman Satan of Jerry Springer: The Opera and The Witches Of Eastwick’s Daryl Van Horne. (Burke says he even auditioned for Van Horne in the Mel-bourne production, but missed out.)

In developing Satango, however, for its world premiere, Burke says the director uncovered a more human angle.

Subtextually it’s about this guy hitting middle-age, who’s played a bit too hard and is in his own private hell, Burke says. So we’ve kind of -˜twin-set’ it in a fancy apartment in Elizabeth Bay, with this guy coming down like a bastard after some rotten, filthy dance party and this girl, this human being, walks into his life and offers some kind of redemption.

Yes, Burke admits, there are definitely some parallels in his own life, although this year has been far from hellish.
Burke has shone in a variety of stunning roles: from C. K. Dexter Haven in High Society, to Mason in Take Me Out. He also hosted the Helpmann Awards, played a ghost in the telemovie The Alice, and is set to play Francis Bacon in a new play for next year’s Sydney Festival.

It’s noted that three of the characters listed above are homosexual (Mason, Patrick in The Alice and Francis) perhaps further indication of a greater acceptance of gay themes in mainstream theatre.

Burke agrees, but feels it’s almost wrong to think of the characters as being connected.

The only thing they have in common as characters is that they’re gay, but as men, as human beings, they’re totally different, he says. The way that they serve the piece that you’re in is completely different.

In Satango though, Burke and co-star Millerchip are playing it heterosexual, albeit sleazy.

I’m appalling, he says, and warns there’s a truly strange seduction scene. Millerchip is a great sport, he says, and in any case they go way back.

They met in a production of Falsettos -“ when Millerchip played one of the lesbians who live next door.

Satango plays at the SBW Stables Theatre until 4 December. Phone 9250 7799.

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