Ngoc Phan, actor and writer, The Mathematics of Longing

I find joy being able to create with people who are asking the same questions I am about being a mere but mighty human ...

Someone who truly understands the nuance of human emotion is Ngoc Phan. The actor and playwright has established herself as a strong force in Australia’s arts scene by tackling the roles that tug on our heartstrings and make us feel a true sense of humanity. Her ties to La Boite Theatre as both an actor and artist in residence made her a clear choice to take the lead in Suzie Miller’s brand-new production – one that was actually conceptualised and nourished through the theatre’s HWY program. The Mathematics of Longing is set to surprise, delight and make audiences see the world from a different perspective. We caught up with Ngoc ahead of the world premiere of the show to chat about visual feasts, mind-boggling equations and our capacity for survival.

We’d love to start with beginnings! What first drew you to a career in the dramatic arts?
I stumbled into it, funnily enough. I chose drama studies in high school purely just to hang out with friends but after that first class something clicked. Storytelling made complete sense to me and continues to.

Who or what were some of your formative inspirations that you drew motivation from in the early days?
My mother was a huge inspiration. She used to be a singer and would always play her guitar and sing around the house. Hearing her voice would always send me into my imagination and inspired me to be creative.

We’re really excited to see The Mathematics of Longing – what was it about the show that was of particular interest to you?
I was interested in the big questions Suzie Miller has raised in the play and working with such a diverse group of artists with different art disciplines, in particular The Farm.

The Mathematics of Longing features dance performances, sound design by Ben Ely and set design by Ross Manning – what a combo! In your opinion, what sort of show are we in for?
What a team, right? You are in for an explosion of fine visual art, music, dance and acting presented in a series of vignettes. It will be a feast for your heart and mind.

From what we hear, the story employs mathematics and science to explore the human condition. Did the show require you to acquaint yourselves with some serious mathematical equations?
To a certain extent – luckily we had Suzie in the room to break down the theorems. However, it was more important for us to explore how the maths spoke directly to our search for meaning as human beings.

What do you hope audiences take away from the experience?
A sense of wonder and appreciation of our place in the universe and with each other.

Not only are you an accomplished actor on the stage and screen but you’re also a playwright! Are there any particular themes or topics that you relish exploring as a playwright?
Human survival would be one of them. Whether it is survival from a war or the ruptures that happen in your soul.

What is it about your profession that brings you the most joy?
Being able to create with people who are asking the same questions I am about being a mere but mighty human.

What are you currently finding inspiring about the world around you?
Our demand for human rights and equality.

The Mathematics of Longing is making its world premiere at La Boite Theatre from June 2–23. If you are keen to question your place in the universe, you can grab tickets through QTIX.


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