What do you get when you send Shakespeare to Ancient Rome?
In Kieran Bullock’s new play The Ides of March, William Shakespeare prepares to write Julius Caesar by travelling back in time… only to find himself witnessing the assassination of his subject and becoming the chief suspect in the ensuing investigation.
Ahead of the show’s Fringe World season, Seesaw caught Melbourne’s Kieran Bullock in this century, for a quick Q&A.
Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be an actor?
Kieran Bullock: I caught the performing bug very young. My dad used to watch a lot of BBC comedy, particularly The Two Ronnies. I would study my favourite sketches and perform them at family events.
S: Tell us about your training…
KB: I have a Bachelor of Creative Arts from Melbourne University, majoring in creative writing and minoring in a few other faffy arts. I performed with university improv. and theatre groups on the side and soon realised that being a writer and performer could easily go hand in hand. I have combined formal with on-the-job training.
S: Describe your artistic practice…
KB: Simply put, I love telling stories, whether that’s down at the pub with a pint in hand or writing a short story, film or play. Most of my work is heavy on narrative and character, and I find that the form (play, short story, novel) tends to be embedded within the idea itself. With The Ides of March I knew right away that it would be a play, despite having never written for the stage before.
S: What do you love most about what you do?
KB: The thrill of making people laugh is hard to beat.
S: Career highlight so far?
KB: I had a bit of an epiphany in London a few years ago when I saw the West End production of The 39 Steps – a comedy play based on the Hitchcock thriller. I’d been dabbling in stand-up comedy with limited success, and seeing that show made me realise THAT was what I should be doing – high energy, character-driven comedy theatre. I returned to Melbourne and immediately went about staging a production of The 39 Steps for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, which was a big success. Taking the stage as Richard Hannay for those ten shows will always rank as one of the biggest thrills in my life.
S: Career lowlight?
KB: Probably the night I gave up stand-up. I had a horrible gig in a horrible venue and I realised I genuinely didn’t have a passion to succeed in that industry. I felt deflated and lost. Going to London a few months later changed all that.
S: Funniest career moment so far?
KB: On the preview night of The 39 Steps I knocked over a prop, a bottle of scotch. In spite of a hasty black-out mop, I slipped in the next scene, going head over heels and cracking my head on the stage. I bounced straight back up – the show must go on! But I couldn’t proceed because the audience (gleefully wise to the unscripted sequence of mishaps) were in thunderous hysterics.
S: What made you decide to give Fringe World a whirl?
KB: We were mad keen to start touring the show, and you can’t argue with Perth in the summer! First stop Perth, next stop Edinburgh?!
S: Tell us about your Fringe World show, The Ides of March
KB: It’s a four-person play about William Shakespeare time-travelling to ancient Rome to witness the assassination of Julius Caesar. Shakespeare is immediately set upon by the local constabulary, and the villainous Brutus, who’s desperate to pin the murder on the suspicious foreigner. It’s stylistically inspired by The 39 Steps, with the four actors using a handful of props and costumes to bring Caesar’s Rome and its crazy inhabitants to life.
S: Aside from your show, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe?
KB: I am very keen to explore more of Perth – I’ve been once before, but spent all my time at the WACA watching cricket. Fringe-wise, always keen to catch some local stuff – you never know when you’ll be back. I’ll be definitely checking out the Big HOO-HAA the brilliant Perth improv group whose continued success spawned a Melbourne chapter, of which I’m a member!
S: What is your favourite part of the playground
KB: Hard to go past a good swing – you’re basically flying!
Pictured top: The cast of ‘The Ides of March’.