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Feature | Actor Anna Lise Phillips on Wild

Behind the Scenes / Interviews /

Anna Lise Phillips makes her MTC debut in Mike Bartlett’s play Wild.

Ordinary Joe one day – America’s Most Wanted the next. That’s what happens when you leak top secret Government surveillance. Having blown the world’s biggest whistle, Andrew is on the run, holed up in a Russian hotel room; a political pawn with a target on his back. If you betray your country for the right reasons, are you a hero or a traitor? One thing is certain, you will never know who to trust.

What intrigues you the most about this new script from Mike Bartlett?

When I first read this script I felt like I was on a date where Charlie Kaufman and Franz Kafka were vying for my hand. The wit is gymnastic. But the real coup is that it challenges my belief system. You might need to debrief with a vino after this show.

Have you followed the stories of high-profile whistle-blowers like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange closely in the media? What intrigues you about the lives and decisions of these identities?

I wonder if ‘Whistleblower’ will become a career option for the youth of tomorrow. In a world where fake news and dictatorships seem to be all the vogue, I yearn for those in power to be held accountable, but I wonder, can I ask others to behave responsibly, if I do not? I mean, I’ve only just started using a Keep cup. How do we save the world? And if you play at being God, are you still allowed to be human?

Wild explores themes of power, responsibility and the machinations of global politics in the information age – are these themes you are particularly drawn to?

I love to play. Sometimes I hate being responsible. Sometimes I love power. Politics is portrayed in the media as a playground for grownups. Maybe I should run for President?

We live in an era where the last thirty years have seen extreme advancement for humankind because of technology. The digital revolution has raised questions of our individual rights to privacy verse the rights of the state to surveil its citizens in the name of national security. Does 24-hour surveillance online worry you?

I’m a private sort of person. It surprises some people, as the belief is that actors live in the public eye. Some actually do. Most don’t. Even when a bored shop assistant wants to know what I’ve been up to that day, I have the desire to put them on mute. Yet I’m not plotting to overtake the government, mainly because I’m lazy and think I’m not smart enough. So should I care if my every move is monitored by Big Brother? The trouble is it’s not our every move. It’s an incomplete picture. We are more than the sum of our social media, our phone calls, and our visits to the bank. Can you really know anyone?

You have predominantly worked in film and TV. Your last role at MTC was in When the Rain Stops Falling in 2009 – what are you looking forward to about returning to MTC’s stage?

Am I allowed to say, ‘The Ride’? The truth is that theatre is alive and the show changes every night depending on you, the audience. I hear you breathing in the stalls. I see you with that perplexed expression on your face; absorbing, questioning, relating, objecting, and occasionally agreeing. I catch you between laughs when you think no-one is looking. I feel you hold you breath. You think you’re separate to me because you’re in the dark. But you’re with me and I’m with you. A play isn’t for you, it’s also by you. We’re together now. Don’t be scared.

Which roles have you played previously that will help inform your characterisation of ‘Woman’ in Wild?

I’ve played a healthy amount of characters who consider themselves Godlike. Hubris is intoxicating to watch. Playing C in Tom Holloway’s ‘Don’t say the Words’ is but one example. I’m also reminded of a time in my life when I recreated myself momentarily in a social experiment of sorts.

Some acting jobs require that you spend up to 18 hours a day, 5-6 days a week with the same group of people, and you get to know each other pretty well. But it’s a kind of forced/false intimacy. And pretty quickly we make decisions about each other and put each other in arbitrary boxes. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about!

Of course, the irony is that the people you loathe at the beginning of a job, are your best friends by the end. Anyway, one time, just at that point in the series when we were all starting to take each other for granted, I decided to mix things up a little and tell a story about myself that was entirely untrue.

It involved a brilliant love affair, an exotic wedding, bundles of money, incredible travel, and ended with the devastating death of my one true heart. My colleagues/friends sat silent and completely engrossed in this tale of misfortune and woe as their eyes widened and their opinions imploded. I’ve never in my whole life told such a tall tale. I could see their whole view of me evolve before my eyes.

Of course, I told them the truth after an hour or two. But you see my point, right?

MTC’s production of Wild will be an Australian premiere. What can audiences look forward to in this production?

If we even get close to it, this will be a ride to remember. I’m not going to tell you what to think, or feel, because I know how smart you are, but hold onto your seats because we are going to take you somewhere you haven’t been before. Shhh, it’s happening.

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