Show artwork for Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Karl Richmond in rehearsals for The Lifespan of a Fact. Photo: Charlie Kinross
MTC Foundation

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Karl Richmond shares what making theatre means to him and reflects on his journey at MTC so far, which saw him navigating lockdowns and experiencing the joy of returning to the mainstage.

By Karl Richmond

Whilst my first professional involvement with Melbourne Theatre Company was during my time on The Lifespan of a Fact in 2021, my first encounter was when I had just started acting. I was about 18 years old and very lost in the world. A dear friend at the time asked me to see her student theatre production of The Tempest (serendipitously starring a young Anchuli Felicia King as Ariel). From there I became obsessed with theatre. I asked the cast ‘How does acting work?’ and a few of them pointed me towards MTC, which was the first time I learnt theatre was put on in Australia. I then sent a terribly worded email to MTC asking for a job. Of course they said no, but they kindly replied saying that I should go to drama school and come back to them, that was eight years ago now. 


‘All I can say is, [theatre is] one of the greatest joys I’ve ever come across, and I have a dream to make shows so amazing the entire world shows up at once, but I can’t do that alone.


Thinking on my work with MTC, my mind first lands on the kindness of the workplace. It feels remarkable to be in a company that is so warm and generous throughout the entire office. However, the thing I often find myself gravitating towards is the deep strive for excellence. Excuse me if this is impolite, but having just come from drama school, I can admit that we as young University students are somewhat bred to be wary of the larger companies. There is this expectation that the larger the company is, the less likely they are to care, but that’s not true. From the top to the bottom, everyone is trying their hardest to put on the work that this city deserves. It’s been very humbling to learn that there is no us and them.

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Karl Richmond (right) with Kevin Hofbauer and Lucy Durack during rehearsals for Touching the Void. Photo: Charlie Kinross

For me, MTC is one of the leaders of the arts community. The reason I love working here is that I have the opportunity to be at the centre of what comes next. There is a great buzz around Anne-Louise Sarks taking the reins, and whilst I don’t know what the future of the company holds, I know it’s exciting. Of course I have my own opinions about what art should be, and they are always changing. We all know we are moving into a more diverse age, and that’s important to me. I need to acknowledge though that I’m a direct benefactor from a change to diversity on our stages, so I feel like I may have conflicted interests when it comes to discussing it. What I would love to see is theatre that bridges the gaps between worlds and people that includes everything we have and everything that’s yet to come. 

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Karl Richmond in Touching the Void. Photo: Jeff Busby

Absence only makes the heart grow fonder, right? Amongst the disaster of the last two years, I’ve managed to find myself a lot of time to train alone, either through books or writing or simply day dreaming. So whilst the lockdowns were excruciatingly boring and depressing, I don’t know if I’d be here without them, without that time to think and ready myself as an actor.  

Returning as an audience member is different though. I’m not sure how you all feel but I’m very hungry to see us start to build afresh and push as far as we can as a community. I want to see the edge of what’s possible on stage.

At the end of the day it’s up to each individual to decide what theatre means to them. I’ve been working at it for a few years now and still have no concrete answer as to why I need it in my life, I just know I do. Scientists can tell you why we need storytelling from the point of view of evolution, and philosophers can tell you why we need it for societal reasons. All I can say is, it’s one of the greatest joys I’ve ever come across, and I have a dream to make shows so amazing the entire world shows up at once, but I can’t do that alone. 

Published on 22 February 2022

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