Don Bridges – Actor

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“Laughter is always the best medicine.” And, with a potential cast of asylum patients who can’t speak or even sing in Italian, COSI is bound to be a night filled with laughs … and potentially some tears. Don Bridges, who plays Roy, talks to us about the upcoming production of COSI FAN TUTTE which will visit the Glasshouse this month as part of their On Tour Program.

>You are coming to Port Macquarie as part of the On Tour program, to perform in the theatre production of Lewis Nowra’s ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’. How did you get involved in theatre and this production of Cosi?

I started in theatre at high school and then went in and out of theatre and television for many years. Theatre has always been something I have come back to.

I’ve worked for Melbourne Theatre Company over the years and have done about 30 shows with them. I have worked with most of the major companies around the country and it is lovely to get back to the stage. I am really enjoying Cosi and can’t wait to bring it to Port Macquarie.

> Tell us about your role and the character you play?

The character I play is Roy and I have figured out that he is bipolar, or what used to be called manic depressive. His mood swings are really huge. He can be depressed one minute and very high the next. He spends most of his time in his manic phase and he’s pretty full on.

> How does one prepare to play a manic depressive?

I actually have a very good friend who is bipolar. I have known him for some years and know his moods.

I also did a lot of research and reading on it, and we had people come to speak with us and tell us what to do and how to prepare to play our characters. We gained a lot of background material through research on the internet.

Don Bridges

Don Bridges

> What is Roy’s role in the production of Cosi?

Roy is obsessed with Cosi Fan Tutte the opera, and has convinced the social worker at the asylum to do the play and get a young director to come in. Roy decided that they are going to do Cosi Fan Tutte even though none of them can sing or speak Italian. But it doesn’t phase him, he pushes ahead no matter what. He’s very enthusiastic and draws everyone along.

> What do you think makes Roy so passionate about Cosi Fan Tutte?

He is quite delusional and he has delusions about his childhood, seeing it very differently to what he actually lived. He thinks he lived quite a privileged life and was brought up with Mozart, this being the chaos in his mind.

Through all those years, having spent that time in his mind, is the reason behind why he is so passionate about opera and so determined. It is about love for Roy.

> Which character in the production is your favourite, and why?

For me it is Roy, but they are all fantastic characters. There is a beautiful character called Henry who, even though he doesn’t say much, has such a powerful presence on stage. Henry is beautifully performed by Jim Bailey, which gets me every night. There are some beautiful characters, they are all great, every one of them!

> As you touched on before, a lot of the characters do have some intense personality traits and personal issues like nymphomania and pyromania. Do you have to be compassionate about these conditions or does the play embrace them and make them a bit more fun?

The play is very, very funny so it does embrace these conditions. We as actors have to embrace them as well, just enjoy them and what it is to be in that condition. We often seek the joy of what it is to be in this condition. We do take the audience on a terrific ride and they laugh a lot.

> What do you enjoy most about being on tour with Cosi?

We get to travel a lot, and see some fantastic places. We are a really happy company of people, driving around in a couple of vans, so we get to spend time with everyone and get to know each other really well. Seeing the countryside and meeting the local people in the different places we play is great.

> We imagine the rehearsals were quiet funny for the play?

They were very fun, but very intense. We had a 5-6 week rehearsal period, working 7-8 hours a day. It was pretty full on, but because it is a big day we needed that amount of time to perfect it!

> The characters are pretty intense. Do you find it hard slipping in and out of your character?

They are intense and it does take time to come down after the show, so it is always nice to head off for a quiet drink, try not to act like my character … and return to myself.

> Do you prefer comedy to more serious roles?

I do, I have played a few serious roles over the years but there is nothing like standing up in front of an audience and making them laugh. It is a joy! You come off at the end of the show and you’ve sent a group of people out into the night with smiles on their faces.

> Have you played in Port Macquarie before?

Yes I have. I’ve been there a couple of times, performed Shakespeare out at Cassegrain Winery, and last year I did a play called ‘A Bright and Crimson Flower’ which was one of the early shows into the Glasshouse. It is magnificent! Anybody who hasn’t been there before should come along!

> While you are in Port Macquarie will you get a chance to stay in the area, or is it a flying visit?

I believe we are there for two or three nights. We are definitely looking forward to coming to Port Macquarie. I have told the others who haven’t been to the area what a nice place it is, so we are looking forward to it … and particularly playing in the theatre because it is a great place.

> The wrap of the synopsis of Cosi and the ending is that Lewis becomes quite touched by the patients and the people he meets while he is in the mental asylum. How do you think that will affect the people here, and what will the audience take away personally from this enlightening moment?

I was talking to a women who saw the show who said it had taken her quite a while to switch off afterwards, as a lot of things were running through her head about the characters and what was ahead for them in their lives.

There’s a lot in the play about sexual politics, and the politics of the early 70s, when the Vietnam War was happening and things were very different.

We had some Year 11 kids in last night who were amazed that there had been such a thing as conscription.

> Final words?

Come along to the theatre as you are in for a great night!

> Thank you Don.

COSI FAN TUTTE will be playing at the Glasshouse on Friday 14 May at 8pm, and Saturday 15 May at 2pm and 8pm.

Book online now or call the Glasshouse Box Office 02 6581 8888

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