Features/Q&A/Perth Festival/Theatre

No clouds in Rose’s head

5 March 2020

This is the second time that actor Brenna Harding has taken on the role of Rose Pickles in the stage adaptation of Tim Winton’s epic novel Cloudstreet. A co-production by Black Swan State Theatre Company and Malthouse Theatre, directed by Matthew Lutton, the production debuted in Melbourne in 2019, and is currently playing Perth Festival. And Brenna is relishing the chance to revisit her role in the play, she tells Nina Levy.

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Nina Levy: Tell me about your character in Cloudstreet, Rose. What is it about the role that appeals to you, as an actor?
Brenna Harding:
Rose is headstrong and powerful. She’s clever and insightful and doesn’t fit the mould of what is expected of women in her era: she determines her own future, and is unyielding in what she wants. It’s the first time as an actor that I’ve got to spend over 20 years with a character, and exploring how different moments in her childhood play out through her life is incredibly interesting.

NL: This isn’t the first time you’ve played the role of Rose – you played her in the Melbourne season of this production last year. What’s it like coming back to the role for a second time?
It’s been really lovely. I think a lot of the overload of trying to get your head around five hours of theatre the first time was alleviated this time round. We’ve all just been able to play more because we have a deeper understanding of the movement of the play as a whole.

Brenna Harding (left) with Ebony McGuire in ‘Cloudstreet’. Photo: Philip Gostelow.

It’s also been really special to bring Cloudstreet back to Noongar Boodjar, where it was written, is set, and includes the language of. Connecting with the land and being Welcomed to Country by Nana May McGuire has given more resonance to the Noongar culture and spirituality that sits at the forefront of this production of Cloudstreet.

NL: As you mention, Cloudstreet runs for over five hours, albeit with a dinner break and interval. What is it like to perform in such a long work?
On the good days it’s a joy; the story is enough to keep you occupied and enthralled for what never really feels like five hours. Only the harder days you turn to your cast-mates, who in this cast are really like the one big family in the play. Either way you get on the rollercoaster, and jumping off the other end you always feel elated and connected.


NL: The director of this production of Cloudstreet, Matthew Lutton, is a WA boy and much-loved in his home town… what is he like to work with?
I loved working with Matt. His directing style beautifully combines a sensitive understanding of the story and precise vision, with flexibility and joyfulness in execution. He also seems to have an unlimited supply of energy and acuity, and with a play of this magnitude that is the leader you need at the helm.

NL: What are the highlights of being involved in this production of Cloudstreet?
Being part of the Pickles/Lamb family. We go on a two-decade long adventure with the audience every night, and when we’re not onstage we go on numerous adventures spanning Naarm and Noongar Boodjar. Most recently we all got to explore beautiful Margaret River (original home of the Lamb family), staying in one big house like Number One Cloud Street, complete with big cook-ups, ocean swims, and dancing into the night.

Cloudstreet continues at His Majesty’s Theatre until 15 March 2020.

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Pictured above is Brenna Harding (right) as Rose Pickles, and Natasha Herbet as Dolly Pickles. Photo: Philip Gostelow.

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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