Arts editor Harry Sanderson spoke to Ben Sutton about his role in the upcoming world premiere of ‘Coma Land’ by the Black Swan State Theatre Company.
Harry: Hey Ben, thanks so much for speaking to me. So tell me a little bit about Coma Land.
Ben Sutton: Yeah sure. So its a world premiere, the third play written by Will O’Mahony. It is a comedic and somewhat magical story about a child prodigy. It is set in kind of a world of in-between. There’s an array of unlikely characters, including a piano prodigy, a girl who wants to fly and a man with a a dark history. It sort of deals with the relationships between parents and children, how things can get muddled between generations.
H: Awesome. So I’m correct in saying that you play a Panda?
B: Yeah, a a giant panda called ‘Cola.’
B: Yeah, its cool. He’s having his sperm taken out.
H: Oh. Is it your first time playing animal?
B: Uhh… hmm. Yeah, I think it might be actually.
H: Cool. So how did you get involved in the play?
B: It was a fairly standard process for me – I had read the script, really liked it, auditioned and was lucky enough to have been chosen. It is my debut with Black Swan, so really excited to see it open.
H: So I understand that by trade you are a stand up?
B: Yeah definitely.
H: So this play is obviously comedic, or has comedic elements. Is that always going to be a factor in choosing your roles, coming from a stand-up background?
B: Yeah that’s interesting. I trained at WAAPA, and out in the industry gravitated towards comedy. So most of my time is spent on comedy, but occasionally I get asked to do more dramatic stuff. For instance I was in a film, These Final Hours, which was a very dramatic scene.
H: Oh, I love that movie. I didn’t realise you were in that.
B: Yeah. So in that scene things were much more dramatic, but then I do love drifting back into the comedy after its all over. In a way I feel like I need both to survive.
H: Are you using the same skills on stage when doing stand-up and when performing theatre? I feel that might seem like an obvious question, but then I think there are some important distinctions – I imagine that in stand-up there’s much more improvisation, and a much more total control over your own words.
B: Yes and no. I think overall many of the skills do carry across. Will is the writer and we’re lucky to have him in the room with us, because sometimes we think of things that need to be added or something that isn’t working. Its a new play so he’s always happy to try things out on the floor and make adjustments. So on the one hand yes, it is less autonomous that solo stand-up, but on the other you maintain some sense of flexibility in the material. Or I did in this case, anyway.
H: Any there any trends in comedy you like right now?
B: Hmm. I really like Bill Burr. I also went to see Chris Rock when he was here. But I’m a bit picky with stand up, even as I love so much of it. I love all the classics.
H: When you’re writing stand up or rehearsing for a play like this, is there any other art you like to engage with to inspire you?
B: Hmm. That’s a tricky one. I definitely don’t block myself off from everything, but I do think that most inspiration sort of comes from working with the material on the floor. I think subconsciously, you’re drawing from everything, but no nothing comes to mind that I specifically used.
‘Coma Land’ opens on the 20th of July. Find tickets here.