Michael Beckley

Published in The Stage, November ’11

Like many of Australia’s best loved acting exports, including Cate Blanchett and Mel Gibson, Michael Beckley trained at Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art, before becoming a stage and screen performer. Best known for playing Rhys Sutherland in Home and Away, the actor moved to the UK six years ago to try his luck on the English stage and stayed ever since.  This month he will play Bradley in Pulitzer prize-winning thriller Buried Child.

What is Buried Child about?

It is set in the American mid-west in a broken down farmhouse, in the boondocks. There is an elderly man sitting on a couch coughing away, watching television, sneaking drinks and talking to his wife. Bit by bit more layers are removed, you realise this is not a functional family. There’s quite a metaphysical aspect to it because you realise that this isn’t reality as we know it.

What is Bradley like?

Bradley, we believe, is the middle son. The fact that we aren’t sure tells you what kind of play it is. He lost half a leg in a chainsaw accident at some point. Was it self-inflicted? What effect has it had on him? We think he used to be a nice guy. But he is clearly a rather dark, malevolent character.

How will you portray an amputee?

There’s a device which will clamp to my leg to make it look artificial. I’m going to have to learn how to move with that and give that impression. I hope I’m not giving too much away.

Why did you move to the UK?

I wanted to scare the hell out of myself. I was very comfortable in Australia; I had worked in many places, was fairly well ensconced there and had a great agent. I thought ‘I want to go up another level and improve my skills.  I’ll go to England where nobody knows me, where I have to start from scratch’. For the first two months I could barely get my foot in the door, then I had this marvellous week when I got an agent and a part in A Few Good Men on the West End.

Would you like to do more West End shows?

I’d love it. The West End and Broadway are the goals that tell you that you are doing ok – if that doesn’t sounds too arrogant. You think ‘if I am working in the West End I can’t be too crap at this’.

Is formal training necessary?

I think it depends actor to actor – I thrived on it. I did my training more than 20 years ago and I still used things I learnt from it in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest [at Leicester Curve]. There are some actors like Toni Collette, who I worked with when she was 17. We all knew there was something special about her. She went to NIDA but dropped out because it didn’t suit her, but she is great, so natural and confident in what she does.

Buried Child runs at Leicester Curve from November 11-December 3