THERE is a certain moment in an actor’s career when they realise their age has changed the type of roles they can now play.
Perth actor Benj D’Addario had this clarity at the start of working on Black Swan State Theatre Company’s production The Lighthouse Girl.
“It’s funny how you move into the father role; I’m the lighthouse keeper and not playing the young soldiers anymore,” D’Addario, a father in real life to two sons, said.
“I have young actress Daisy Coyle on stage who is my daughter and it’s a big challenge having to really find that connection with her.”
Written by Hellie Turner and based on the novels Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy by Albany author Dianne Wolfer, The Lighthouse Girl follows young girl Fay (Coyle) who lives in the lighthouse on bleak and blustery Breaksea Island off the coast of Albany with her father (D’Addario).
Set in 1914, it is the story that inspired PIAF’s 2015 Giants event where Fay was the last contact soldiers stationed offshore had with Australia before heading to war.
“She connects with them through morse code as they’re leaving for Gallipoli and the front,” D’Addario said.
“The last thing they see of Australia before they either go to die or to be changed men is this little girl on the rock, telling them she will send their messages to their loved ones.”
The play is a significant one for Curtin University and WAAPA graduate D’Addario, not only for its moving historical nature but also because he lived in Albany until he was 18.
The production will fittingly have its world premiere in Albany on April 21 and 22 before a season at Studio Underground from April 28 to May 14.
“Having grown up in Albany, all of this is familiar and it’s fantastic to take it down there and open it; I haven’t performed there since I left,” D’Addario said.
“They talk in the play about its grey, windy, unyielding weather and I just know what that’s like in my bones. I know that rugged granite coastline that they’re living on and it’s going to be very special to take it there.”
D’Addario said WA playwright Turner had invested a lot of time and creativity into writing The Lighthouse Girl and he felt privileged, and also a little nervous, to present this timeless story.
“We’re all quite familiar with the Anzac landing and troops departing, leaving as young boys and coming back as broken men, which is really sad,” he said.
“This individualises it and not only tells the story about Fay but two young men from Victoria.
“It’s the individual stories and is not too epic in what it’s trying to do; it’s really focused on the characters.
“Every time we read it in rehearsals everyone had to bring out the tissues. It’s always a sad story when young people go to war and to see this personal journey on stage is going to be touching.”
What: The Lighthouse Girl
Where: Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA
When: April 28 to May 14