By ANDREA LOUISE THOMAS
Actor/producer Ross Balbuziente was born for the stage. The acting bug bit him in high school and he never looked back. He studied drama and then went straight into professional acting work. In 2006 he co-founded shake & stir theatre co. Now celebrating their tenth anniversary, shake & stir are bringing Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights to the stage in spectacular fashion. Balbuziente is playing Heathcliff to rave reviews. I spoke with him prior to Wuthering Heights arriving at Frankston Arts Centre.
MINT: What’s it like playing one of literature’s most complicated characters?
BALBUZIENTE: It’s a hell of a ride, but also incredibly fulfilling. You don’t often get to sink your teeth into such a complex character. I get to do it once or twice a day! It’s emotionally and physically draining, but you’d shortchange an audience if you didn’t go as deep as you can in each performance. You have to bring 100% especially when you’re playing such an iconic character.
MINT: How did you prepare for the role?
BALBUZIENTE: A lot of foundation work was done reading and re-reading and trying to find justification and understanding of what he wants in order to really delve into the conflicted mind of this poor guy who is often completely misunderstood.
MINT: This is a highly technical production. Do you find any of it distracting?
BALBUZIENTE: Technically it’s pushing the boundaries, but we were really fortunate to have had all of that technicality in the rehearsal room right from the get go. There’s a really beautiful harmony with our design team.
MINT: How do “the elements” play a part in Wuthering Heights?
BALBUZIENTE: All four elements feature live on stage speaking to the internal/external conflict. These characters are hell bent on keeping the tempestuous weather outside, but it comes into their homes and infects their lives and their minds and for some it’s their ultimate demise. Then there are other liberating moments when the characters run outside into the weather. It’s always playing to the question of what happens when the outside comes inside figuratively and literally.
MINT: What’s the most challenging aspect of this production?
BALBUZIENTE: Maintaining focus for every performance and really trying to dig deep into the emotional blackness that Heathcliff definitely experiences.
MINT: You’re also the Co-Artistic Director of Shake and Stir, what doe this role entail?
BALBUZIENTE: The artistic director makes all artistic decisions for the company. We program every single thing. We also lead our very dedicated team of 15 full-time people. We’re all in it together. We each take different roles to create, be that writing, directing or acting.
MINT: Why Wuthering Heights?
BALBUZIENTE: It’s a classic that we collectively love for a lot of different reasons. Gothic literature really speaks to us and excites us. We love the book so we remain incredibly faithful to the original. Artistically we then put a whole other spin on it and a) re-imagine the book for some or b) introduce this epic saga to others.
MINT: What’s next for you?
BALBUZIENTE: We’re back in Brisbane for a production of Samuel Beckett’s End Game. That’s our newest work. We’re doing that at QPAC (Queensland Performing Arts Centre).
See Shake and Stir’s incredibly talented team bring Wuthering Heights to life at Frankston Arts Centre on Friday, May 13 at 12:30 pm or 7:30 pm.
Bookings: 9784 1060 or thefac.com.au