From the vivid imagination of Perth’s Will O’Mahony comes his sixth play Coma Land in its world debut at the State Theatre Centre. It’s a story set between life and death, celebrating children, differences and parental love in a funny, enlightening piece of theatre. NATALIE GILES spoke to one of the stars, Amy Matthews, about the play, moving to Perth and the power of theatre.
After a theatre and television career spanning 15 years elsewhere in Australia, Matthews has spent the last 18 months establishing herself in Perth and is now making her debut performance with Black Swan. Previously, Matthews appeared in several iconic television shows, including a Logie winning five year run with Home and Away, Blue Heelers and Packed to the Rafters, as well as touring with Bell Shakespeare Company. She followed her partner to Perth after they secured the role of artistic director with Barking Gecko.
“We wanted an adventure,” she says. “We were ready for a change, and the creative community over here has been fantastic. We’ve found that the comedy and live music scene here is really fostered, creatively here it’s all happening, and I’m really excited to be here. It’s been a good decision.”
Matthews doesn’t see the tyranny of distance in Perth being an obstacle to her career in 2017, thanks in no small part to the arts embracing the use of technology in the audition process. Fortunately for those who are somewhat isolated in Western Australia, actors are no longer required to be physically present to audition for roles. “Self-taping, for instance, is a big thing now, whereby you can be anywhere in the world now and lay your audition down on an iPhone and send it off around the world at the click of a button, so it’s not as limiting as you’d think, what with technology moving at the rate it is.”
Describing theatre as her favourite medium across a broad career, Matthews explains that “…getting that immediate response from an audience, and for the audience to become a part of the community and almost a character within the show is a really wonderful experience. It’s such a special medium, where we can explore things without editing or the other things you are able to do with TV and film, and it’s all live – it’s very special.”
Coma Land centres on Boon, a child genius, who as the name of the play suggests, is trapped in a coma. “It’s been notoriously difficult to discuss,” Matthews explains, “it takes place between worlds, between wake and sleep, and is full of really interesting characters whose stories intertwine. It contains a lot of otherworldly, magical elements. Ultimately the story is a thread that is bound by parent/child relationships and acceptance and letting go and each character deals with those elements as they move through the play. The less said the better, but if you’re up for a night of unique points of view by local talent, this is for you.”
Matthews plays Jinny, a party planner and the gayby of two fathers, which required some research by the actor, who clearly adores the character she plays. “She’s really fun and open hearted, and I hope that she rubs off on me in some ways. It’s not often that you want to be the character that you’re playing, but Jinny is certainly an example of that. I love her.”
She goes on to further sing the praises of six time playwright and local talent, Will O’Mahony, describing him as an amazing talent that we may soon see snapped up and away from Perth as his career grows.
“Will has a really unique voice, and we’re so lucky to have him here,” she says. “I feel like he’s done it again with this play, which is something that is so unique and strange and wonderful. I hate to say it, but I’m sure other states and cities will be calling him soon, so this is an opportunity for audiences to see some of his early work. He’s one of the best writers we have here, so I’m very happy and so proud to be a part of his sixth play.”
Coma Land runs from July 20 to August 6 at Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre.