Brooke Satchwell, actor, The Play That Goes Wrong
I firmly believe we are at an incredible moment in time where the pendulum swing is beginning to redress the imbalances borne of history to date.
For more than 20 years we’ve been blessed to watch Brooke Satchwell grow through our television screens. Since becoming a soap TV darling on Neighbours through to more mature roles in shows like Wonderland (and even a comedic turn on Black Comedy), Brooke has proven herself to be one of the best performers on Australian stage and screen. Being an actor isn’t all spotlights and red carpets, though – things can go awry. This idea is the key theme of Brooke’s latest role as Sandra in the comedy The Play That Goes Wrong – which is hitting QPAC this month. We chatted with Brooke ahead of the show’s launch about growing up on TV, her most cringe-worthy moments on stage and her inspirations, motivations and words of wisdom.
Give us an insight into young Brooke Satchwell – were you an avid performer from an early age?
I loved stories – reading, writing, creating! The space and silence I experienced growing up in the natural wonder of rural coastal Victoria had a magical influence on my imagination. I was constantly creating performances for friends and family, photo shoots and adventures – directing my sister and cousins – crafting from behind the scenes.
When did it click that acting was something you wanted to do for a career?
It was August 1996 – I was sobbing in Glen Waverley Macca’s drive-thru in the passenger seat of my Mum’s car. I had just finished my call back for the role of Anne Wilkinson on Neighbours. I was fifteen and had glimpsed an opening into a world I had absolutely no comprehension of and no concept of the tools and rules required. Yet I was conscious of the enormous opportunity and adventure potentially revealing itself – there was a lot of overwhelmingly mixed emotions. I understood this was a chance to engage my love of storytelling, sharing and connecting on a level expanded beyond my wildest dreams – equally recognising that it might not be mine.
Starring on a popular television show through most of your teens would have been equal parts thrilling and challenging. What do you remember most fondly about the early days?
It certainly was ‘Alice through the looking glass’. I wen’t from mopping floors for four bucks an hour in our local milk bar after school – knowing nearly every customer that walked through the door – to managing eighty hour work weeks, daily round trip travel of up to four hours, school work, press interest and fascination from those around. I remember it was the mid-nineties and ‘everyone’ didn’t have ‘profile’ online. Luckily for me, the period I was on Neighbours coincided with the most beautiful, warm hearted, joyful grouping of people both on and off screen. They have remained family to me to this day.
We’re very excited to catch the Brisbane run of The Play That Goes Wrong – what was it about this production that interested you?
The sense of joy and play – both on stage and off. This production is so wonderfully immersive for audience and performer alike. We spend everything in the tank on stage – emotionally, physically and vocally – and somehow the audience gets swept right up with us on this anarchic, silly, helpless and abandoned wave of hysteria. It’s a ride and a release of spectacularly innocent and irreverent joy.
You play the role of Sandra – what can you tell us about her character and her role in the show?
I love this monster! Sandra is the archetypal diva, aching to be ‘discovered’, completely lacking in self awareness with limited vision beyond the end of her own nose. Embodying some of the more physical and ‘seductive’ elements of her persona has proven immensely challenging – I appear to have deeply ingrained resistance to some of the behaviour and it has been very rewarding to break through those barriers and judgements and embrace the difference.
As the tale revolves around a theatre production that is plagued by a comedy of errors, we were wondering if you had any tales of cringe-worthy onstage mishaps you’d be willing to recollect for us?
During a production of The Tempest in the Botanic Gardens in Sydney we did one night find ourselves performing a heavily edited version of the play when one actor launched into dialogue that effectively cut an entire act! There was a mad scurry backstage to find the appropriate props and costumes and adjust to the expedited cues. The audience paid a lot less for parking that night.
You’ve spent a lot of time on stage and the screen – what do you love and hate the most about each medium?
I love both the immediacy of theatre – the high-wire act of stepping out into the darkness with no safety net other that being completely present to the moment. Film and television offer a different kind of intimacy and the challenge of battling any myriad of elements Amazing Race–style to execute the day’s call sheet. I really cherish the camaraderie of a great cast, crew and catering.
What do you look for in a role when weighing up whether or not to take it?
Working in such a transient industry with a career that began by chance encounter, I find my reasoning and choice making has been motivated by many varying aspects of life or self development along the way. I chose to stay and build a career in Australia as opposed to abroad and, at intervals, choice has had to bow to necessity. I am incredibly humbled and happy that I have managed to carve out roles consistently over the years and every opportunity has allowed me to build a platform from which I am now beginning to enjoy far greater personal and professional freedom of choice. I am very inspired by the opportunities of the present!
You are a tireless campaigner for several humanitarian causes – what is one issue that you think deserves more attention within Australia?
Our natural resources and our people are our richest possessions – rooting out the habitual misconception and capitalistic thinking that is reducing these treasures from their optimum brilliance and longevity is crucial. Preservation of the unique riches and freedoms we are fortunate enough to share must be given the priority, respect and immediate action warranted. The Great Barrier Reef, Adani, racism, domestic violence – the list is extensive with issues. There is a lot to be done, but I firmly believe we have the capabilities, so long as each and every single one of us takes ownership.
Finally, what motivates you on a daily basis in your life and work?
Curiosity, challenge, purpose and joy are driving forces. I am fascinated by people, and I firmly believe we are at an incredible moment in time where the pendulum swing is beginning to redress the imbalances borne of history to date. I am searching for opportunities to serve and inspire, connect and support. The love I feel for my friends and family gives me great strength and grounding.