A PLAY based on the lives of residents at Reid’s Guesthouse, The House At The End Of The Line, will open at the Mining Exchange tomorrow.
Writer and director Tracy Bourne wrote the play while spending a month at Reid’s Guesthouse, where she got to know many of the residents.
“It’s a play based on real people. I want the audience to get to know them and relate to them,” she said.
“They were all people I really liked. I wasn’t disgusted by them at all. I liked them.”
Thomas Banks, a 23-year-old with cerebral palsy, plays one of the main characters, Gabriel.
His character is a young man with a disability who moves to Ballarat for the love of his life, whom he met over the internet.
“I don’t want it to be patronising – the ‘oh isn’t that sweet? Two people with a disability have fallen in love’,” Bourne said.
“I want it to be a real romance.”
Banks said: “Because everyone falls in love.”
Banks said he was very similar to his character, and could relate to the young man in his 20s who liked having his freedom, drinking and partying whenever he liked.
Banks has been acting for seven years and enjoyed playing the character.
“It was tricky to find truth in the character. In the play he’s a straight man and in real life I’m gay,” he said.
"People tend to shy away from hiring people with a disability to play someone with a disability"
“People tend to shy away from hiring people with a disability to play someone with a disability. They prefer able-bodied actors to act out the disability,” Bourne said.
“But I’m not often comfortable watching that. This is more natural.”
Banks said his needs as an actor were no different to anyone else’s.
“The director thinks that it would be easier to have someone without a disability because there’s no communication barrier or they don’t need to pay for accommodation," Banks said.
"But the reality is that if someone was coming from somewhere else and didn’t know Ballarat they would do the same thing."
The entrance to Reid's Guesthouse. PICTURE: ADAM TRAFFORD
Despite the in-depth issues the play delves in to, Bourne said the cast had worked hard to make sure it was theatrical and entertaining.
“It does have big issues, but it’s part of the the theatre and has very funny moments.”
Banks, along with other cast members, visited Reid’s Guesthouse and met the residents and some of the people their characters were based on.
“It was a little bit scary going in but when you’re there and you meet the other people who live there you realise that they are just like everyone else,” Banks said.
The kitchen inside Reid's Guesthouse. PICTURE: ADAM TRAFFORD
For Banks, his biggest challenge of the play has been the on-stage communication.
“The experience has been really challenging as an actor because of the fact that there was so much dialogue.
“In my other work there’s always been a projection or another actor to repeat what I was saying, or some other form of communication,” he said.
“So it was important to use my voice and work out ways to make sure the audience understands what I’m saying.”
Ballarat Station seen from the guesthouse. PICTURE: ADAM TRAFFORD
Although it presents obstacles, Banks said he loved acting .
“I love the moment when it’s five seconds before the start of the show and the audience is there. I love that emotional kick before it starts.”
Banks is from Geelong and is staying in Ballarat during the rehearsal period.
“I guess the play feels like family because it’s all about relationships,” he said.
“It feels like home in a weird way.”
With the exception of one child actor, the entire cast are professionals.
“I want the audience to be sucked into the characters and relate to them,” Bourne said.
Bourne said she hopes the play has a life beyond this week and that residents from Reid’s come and watch.
“Some of the residents have loved seeing their own lives turned into a play,” she said.