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On The Ball - Ona Nurkkala Interview

Author: Darryn King
Monday, 23 June 2008
Alan Ball is the mind behind the mesmerising American Beauty and the HBO series Six Feet Under. He's also an acclaimed playwright, and Sydney audiences will get the chance to experience four of his one-act plays in the Darlinghurst Theatre production, Ball Game. 3D's Darryn King spoke to producer and actor Ona Nurkkala about a delightfully dark and neurotic night of theatre.

For those who may not be very familiar with his work, can you tell us about Alan Ball's writing-
His style of writing is quite provocative, dark and witty. He often shows the dark side of everyday situations - you know that saying, 'Every cloud has a silver lining'- I think Alan Ball's cloud has a black lining. It's normal everyday life, but it's also what goes on behind closed doors.

Four one-act plays and four directors- Sounds like a logistical nightmare-
Oh, it is, absolutely, in trying to get everyone to have meetings in the same place at the same time. We have to book our meetings many weeks beforehand! We actually have a few actors doing a few shows, and one actor who's doing a TV show at the same time, so that's another thing. You have to be very flexible.

And three of the actors are also producing the show, including yourself-
Yes. I think it comes straight from the need to create your own work. There are too many actors in Sydney and not enough work, and you don't want to wait around at home waiting for your phone to ring - you want to create something yourself. It empowers you. Usually as an actor if you get a role you follow the directions of the director, but when you're producing you get to choose what play you're doing, where you're doing it, and who you're doing it with.

Speaking of empowerment, the female actors outnumber the males here - these plays aren't just women's entertainment though, are they-

No, not really. The boys are playing multiple characters. Each of these plays is a boy-girl play, except for the last one, which is two girls and two boys, so it's not as feminist as it sounds!

You've done theatre, film, television, stand-up comedy- but you've also translated a couple of plays from Finnish to English-
Yes, I translated a couple of plays - it's a big job, especially translating expressions. It's quite difficult but it's very satisfying when it gets put up.

It takes a special kind of skill to translate a play - does it come from a love of language- And is that what drew you to Alan Ball-
Yeah, I'm a sucker for sharp, witty dialogue, and these plays are full of it. There's nothing better than good banter. I think I like that more than poetry.

Some of Alan Ball's most interesting writing is when characters are coming into conflict - is there a lot of that here-
Oh definitely. There's lots of confrontation, and battles of the sexes. What men are supposed to be, what women are supposed to be - and what they want to be but they can't. There's a corporate couple negotiating their marriage like a business deal; then a power-hungry couple at a restaurant trying to get power over each other- Of course, it's Alan Ball, so there's always naughtiness. With the play I'm in, there's the whole gender-bending issue, which could be a no-no for schools. There's a bit of murder and the language can be a bit rough- I think it should be fun!

WHAT: Ball Game
WHERE: Darlinghurst Theatre
WHEN: Thursday 26 June - Saturday 19 July
MORE: darlinghursttheatre.com.au

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