måndag 17 februari 2014

Xavier Samuel on the cover of 'Rip It Up' Magazine

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With Interviewer: Just hanging out with #XavierSamuel to see how rehearsals for #TheSeagull are coming along.
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WHO: Xavier Samuel
WHAT: Adelaide Festival 2014:The Seagull (State Theatre Company of SA)
WHERE: The State Theatre Company Scenic Workshop (Adelaide Festival Centre)
WHEN: Fri Feb 21 – Sun Mar 16

While on a break from rehearsal for The Seagull, Xavier Samuel sits down with Rip It Up to talk about returning to Adelaide theatre.

You could be forgiven for thinking that you’re just talking with any other talented young Adelaide actor who is as nervous as he is excited to get upon the local stage. Except, of course, that he isn’t just like any other talented young Adelaide actor.
Xavier Samuel was our very own ‘guy from Twilight’.

While this may set him apart, his role as an unruly baby vampire in Twilight’s third chapter Eclipse does not define him, although it did help propel him into Hollywood. He has worked steadily since, with his next big role set to be this year’s war drama Furyopposite none other than Brad Pitt — “the coolest guy on the face of the planet”, according to Samuel.

While he admits that he was happy to be “killed off” Twilight, as he could dip into the mania surrounding the franchise, yet withdrew before it consumed him like its main stars, theTwilight association has shadowed him since. So much so, the tag is even featured on the poster for the State Theatre Company’s interpretation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull.

“There are a lot of parallels,” Samuel says matter-of-factly about the connection between Twilight and The Seagull, a play set in the Russian countryside at the end of the 19th Century.

“There’s something cool about bringing people who may or may not have been involved or seen theatre to be re-introduced or introduced through [the connection with Twilight].”

The other tagline being propagated is that this is Samuel’s return to the South Australian stage. Considering he trained at the Flinders University Drama Centre (where he was ironically told “not to touch” Chekhov as it was too “dangerous” due to the delicacies and subtleties hidden within the subtext of the words) his first “proper gig” was in Adelaide in 2006 for Windmill Performing Art’s children’s play Two Weeks With The Queen.

“Knowing you were a part of someone’s first experience of theatre felt nice; that you’ve potentially ignited an imaginative journey in someone, or that it was met with such enthusiasm… And then I skipped off to Sydney and did a really dark show called Osama The Hero.”

Samuel’s film choices seem to meander between genres, flirting with all there is, including horror (The Loved Ones, Bait), comedy (A Few Best Men) and dramas extending from the controversial (Adoration, 2:37) to period pieces (Anonymous)
to sport (Newcastle, Drift). Samuel assures that he isn’t trying to check projects o his list to put feathers in his cap, but rather enjoys the thrill of a challenge.

“That’s kind of the way you want to live, right?” Samuel muses.

“I think in any line of work you want to be challenged and you want to be pushing the envelope or trying to venture into unexplored terrain. I want to be challenged and terrified.”

This thirst for terror has led to his return to the theatre, in front of a home audience, no less.

“I haven’t done theatre in about four or five years – maybe longer – so it starts to become a thing that’s scary, so that’s when you know you should be doing it. The difficulties are where you learn. Things that are hard are important, I think.”

Given all the opportunities and challenges that working abroad can offer an actor once they gain Hollywood’s trust, it seems strange timing for Samuel’s return to Adelaide. However, he assures that his decision to partake in Australian – and Adelaide-based —projects are not a token gesture, but a considered career move.

“I think it is important [to still work in Australia] but I don’t want it to seem like a contrived, obligatory thing. It’s not like that at all.  ere are some extremely talented directors and actors in Australia you genuinely want to work with and I think that it’s something that’s on par with anything else in the world. I think that Australia is making some of the best theatre in the world and that shouldn’t be unacknowledged. Having said all that, to remain a part of an industry which has supported me in the first place is something I’m interested in too. You strike a balance.”

Samuel emphasises that he chooses all his projects based on who is the driving force behind it, which led to his partaking in The Seagull for the 2014 Adelaide Festival.

“I don’t really have a grand plan or any prerequisites. It’s always about the people who are at the helm of it. Someone like Geordie [Brookman, director] for example was leaving Flinders as I was arriving and his reputation was still present. I was studying the productions that he directed and the way that he brought energy to his productions. I always looked forward to – or hoped to have — the opportunity to work with him and now that it’s presented itself in such a perfect way, it’s fortuitous.”

For as much as he loves a challenge, Samuel is thankful to have Brookman and his team guiding The Seagull, within which he will play tortured playwright Konstantin Tréplev in an adaptation written by celebrated Australian playwright Hilary Bell.

“It’s been going really well and [evolving] organically. Geordie is a really open-minded kind of guy so everything seems to be happening quite easily. The material is so intense at times, and also very funny. I was surprised at how funny it was. I’m a little suspicious about it going so well.”

For those who feel that that they may not be able to relate to a character piece about people in the Russian countryside in 1895, Samuel assures that care has been taken to update the material without losing its context.

“Geordie’s not too interested in keeping it in its original context of the period when it was written. On the other hand, he also didn’t want to do a fully- edged, Australiana, out the back with the barbeque [version]. We struck a balance and went with a 1950s vibe. That’s really just a framework for it to become a universal story.”

Break A Leg!

The opening night of the original production of The Seagull in 1896 in St Petersburg is one of theatre’s most famous failures, with the audience’s hostility causing the lead actress to lose her voice. Is Xavier Samuel worried history will repeat itself for the Adelaide run?

“Knock on wood!” Samuel jokes, banging his fist on the coffee table.

“At the time that the play opened people weren’t really ready to deal with that kind of a show. It was ahead of its time.”

Instagram: lachstock | Scans/Transcript/Outtake thanks to xaviernews

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