Nothing, a theatre show described as The Hunger Games meets Lord of the Flies with a Nordic Twist, is currently playing at Riverside’s National Theatre of Parramatta and staring Actors Centre Australia 2021 Graduate Joseph Raboy.
“I treated the audition like it was a class or rehearsal at ACA. Ready to just go for it and be willing to make mistakes and ready to let go of what I had prepared at home. ” – Joseph Raboy
You may have also seen Joseph earlier this year in Red Line Productions Ate Lovia.
Nothing runs from September 1 – 10 at Riverside’s National Theatre of Parramatta, and we recently caught up with Joseph to talk about the show, life after graduation and give some advice to current ACA students.
Tell us a bit about the show and your character.
There are only 2 actors in this production and there are 25 characters in this play. I have been given the gift of getting to play 16 of the 25. Without giving too much away about the story, the premise is about a cohort of Year 7 students living in Denmark. One day, their classmate named Pierre Anthon, gets up in front of the entire class and their teacher and announces that “Nothing matters”. Pierre walks out of the classroom and decides to no longer attend school and chooses instead, to sit in a plum tree to do nothing. His classmates’ feelings and thoughts regarding his statement and his bravery to defy what the grown-ups have taught them their entire lives is what sets forth the story of the play.
His classmates go to great lengths to prove to Pierre and to each other that life is meaningful. They decide to give up things of importance from their own lives and place it in a sacrificial ‘heap of meaning’. What starts off as an innocent child-like game takes a deadly turn.
How did you get the role? What was the audition process like?
The executive producer of the National Theatre of Parramatta, Joanne Kee, watched me in a play I did earlier on this year for Red Line Productions called Ate Lovia. She invited me to audition for Nothing. The scenes they had me prepare for the audition included the introduction of most of the characters as well as a very vocally, and emotionally demanding scene from towards the end of the play. So, I knew I had to go into the audition having made choices that were bold and brave. I did this during my preparation leading up to it as well as adapted and adjusted in the audition room depending on what the Director (Erin Taylor) and the Executive Producer asked more or less of. I had to really distinguish the characters vocally and physically because the casting brief stated that they needed actors to be capable of swiftly and distinctly transforming due to the numerous characters. Characters that vary in status, beliefs, wants and desires. I was naturally nervous for it as I knew it’d be a challenge. However, challenges excite me as it’s an opportunity to grown and learn; even more than you would, if it were easy. So, I treated the audition like it was a class or rehearsal at ACA. Ready to just go for it and be willing to make mistakes and ready to let go of what I had prepared at home.
I got a call the very next day from my agents saying that they were offering me the role.
How did you find the overall rehearsal process?
When I first read the play, I had a lot of questions that were burning inside me. Such as how are we were going to tackle such a different form of storytelling with so many characters and only two actors. In all honesty though, what helped me ease the fear that came along with the unknown, were the members of this production team. Every single person in this company is ridiculously talented and I’ve been fortunate enough to get to work with and learn from all of them. There was absolutely no ego from anyone, despite how brilliant they all are at what they do. I felt so safe to really push myself as an actor. Even with the morbid themes that we tackle in this play, we’d always check in on each other; during rehearsal and outside of it at our lunch breaks.
How is this Series/show different from other theatre work you have done?
I’ve never had to play 16 characters in a two-hander play before; but there’s a first time for everything, right? I felt so honoured that they entrusted me with this.
What have you learnt at ACA that has helped you to prepare for this role and a project such as this?
I am nothing (pardon the pun) in this industry without what I’ve learnt from my mentors at ACA. I was able to utilise so many of my favourite classes during rehearsals and for the first few performances of Nothing. Laban and Character class with Johann Walraven helped me find and differentiate these characters physically. Voice class with Jennifer West has built my foundation for the dexterity to tackle such a mammoth of a text and all the different voices that this play requires the actors to present. Language Power with Adam Cook has helped me investigate the dialogue and every single word, as well as the ordering of those words. Examining it all with the lens of constant questioning as to how it relates to each character’s inner psyche.
The stage is built in the shape of a steep hill, reminiscent of a child’s playground. So both Alyona Popova (my cast-mate) and I have to have our cores and our legs engaged the entire time so that we don’t slip off when we’re crawling, kneeling, sliding, running or even just when we’re standing still on the set. Suzuki Training with Shy Magsalin as well as Combat and Movement Classes with Tim Dashwood and Nigel Poulton has aided tremendously for the physical agility that this production’s clever set design demands for.
When Nigel taught us for Tai Chi class, the thing that has always stuck with me that he said was that “your breath will save you”. Whether that’s when I’m blanking on a line in rehearsal or just feeling anxious, I consciously tell myself to breathe through it. I also felt more confident to make offers regarding the blocking of each scene from everything I learnt in Stagecraft Class with Johann W. and Troy Harrison.
Even Camera classes helped me find the ease into jumping straight into realism after sitting in the land of heightened, existential dialogue only moments before.
What advice would you give current students of ACA?
Life can be tough, especially whilst studying an Acting Course in the midst of living in a Covid day and age. However, I’ve found that the more clarity and freedom I have in my real life and with my state of mind… the more liberated I feel when I’m acting. So, in a 3-year bachelor’s degree where you have to be emotionally vulnerable and available to others at 9:00 am on a Monday morning… I promise you, that it’s far easier to do that if you’re emotionally vulnerable and available for yourself outside of class. That’s no easy feat to attain. Especially alone. So be brave and reach out and ask for help when you need to. You might just gain a friend to remind you that “there’s always a glow at the end of the tunnel… Enjoy the glow”.
What was the highlight of ACA for you?
There are so many highlights of studying at ACA for me. One that instantly comes to mind is playing Konstantin in Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull in 2020. I am so grateful to Adam Cook for believing in me enough to cast me in such a demanding role.
I’d also deem the fact that I gained some life-long friends at ACA, who I know will always have my back, to also be pretty high up on the list of highlights.
What’s next for you?
This October, I’ll begin shooting my scenes for a feature film produced by Oscar Nominee and BAFTA and SAG Award Winner… Dev Patel himself! The film is called KNOT. I’m not allowed to say too much of who my character is and the role he plays in KNOT. Though, I am allowed to reveal (since it’s now public knowledge after IMDB announced it), that the cast members starring in the movie with me include Joanne Samuel (Mad Max 1979) and Harish Patel (Eternals 2021), just to name a few.
I also recently wrapped filming an Action-Drama Web Series entitled Suka. ‘Suka’ means ‘Love’ in Malaysian and ‘Bitch’ in Russian. It’ll be an interactive Web Series set in Australia where the audience will get the opportunity to choose what choices certain characters make. E.g. ‘They pull out the knife and attack’ OR ‘They grab the gun and run’. Like the double meaning in the title suggests, this series leans into the crossroads of choices and meanings and leaves the fate of the characters in the hands of the audience. So, us actors had to shoot several endings to certain scenes. Some of the actors starring in Suka with me include Ethan Browne from Home and Away (2020-2022) and Paul W. He from the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s – Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021).I have to go into the recording studio in October to do some ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording) for Suka. I assume that it’s for my knife fight scene so that they can record and add more grunts and screams to help tie it all together.
Suka is expected to complete post-production in January of 2023 and will premiere not long after that.
Riverside’s National Theatre of Parramatta presents
By Pelle Koppel
Adapted From The Novel By Janne Teller
Directed By Erin Taylor
With Joseph Raboy and Alyona Popova
Playing Now. Closing September 10