Blonde, beautiful, and a damn fine actress, Felicity McKay has all the makings of a new young Cate Blanchett.
A big call yes, but that was our impression after seeing her wow audiences at Black Swan Theatre Company’s Venus In Fur, a sexy exploration of domination and power, directed by Lawrie Cullen-Tait.
Coquettish, ambitious, irritating, alluring – and able to swing into three different accents – she commanded most of the attention over talented co-star Adam Booth. He stars as Thomas, a playwright auditioning a sensuous young wannabee, Vanda (McKay), who gradually casts a spell over him.
So what’s Felicity’s story? We met the 21 year old at a Perth café to find out.
Felicity, where are you from originally?
I grew up ion a wheat and cattle farm, n a country town called Warren near Dubbo. So my childhood was spent riding motorbikes and horses on a farm. I ended up in Perth when I came to study at WAAPA for three years. Now I live in Sydney.
Where were you when you found out you had the role in Venus in Fur?
I was in a class at WAAPA , about four weeks before graduation, when the tutor told me.
So everyone was listening in class?
Yes, it was really exciting – I’d really wanted the role – and everyone was excited for me. We’re a really close bunch.
Did you already know Adam?
No, and we never auditioned together either. I only met him when we met late last year to pose for promotional photographs! He’s extremely hardworking and humble. I think he’s helped bring out the best in me. And Lawrie the director has given me a lot of creative guidance. She’s a very intelligent, nurturing mentor.
Wonderful that you had your first professional job on stage just before graduation. What drew you to the role?
Just the content, and the fact that I had to speak in three different accents. Coincidentally, I’d read David Ives’s play a few months earlier and I thought it was brilliant. The thing I was most nervous about was nailing the accents, and having the lines down word for word.
It’s certainly a big part. How long did it take to learn your lines?
About five weeks.
And how did you nail the accents?
Well, my grandmother came over to visit me in Perth and we were staying at a hotel and she told me the lady at the front desk had an eastern European accent. So I went down and had a chat and asked if I could study her accent. We became quite good friends! I’m going to go and give her tickets to the show. I also watched some old Marlene Dietrich films and even some Czech ones. Black Swan also had a dialect coach, Julia Moody, who was a great help.
Were you always in plays at school?
Yes, I loved drama at school. I was also quite studious – and the school captain! After getting 98 in my final exams, there was a fair bit of pressure from my school to continue my studies at uni and perhaps go into something medical, or scientific. But even though I ‘d enjoyed maths and science, I wanted to follow my acting dreams.
Was your family encouraging about this?
Yes they were, thankfully. Especially my gran, who’d often take me to the theatre. I applied to get into NIDA (the National Institute of Dramatic Art). I didn’t get in so I decided to take a year off before trying again. So I travelled for a few months, but I also took acting lessons by an assistant to acting coach Lynette Sheldon. She gave me free classes because I couldn’t afford them! And then I found out about WAAPA, and started learning monologues for auditions, then got in and so I moved to Perth.
And are you glad you studied here?
Oh yes. The teachers are outstanding. The class is intimate enough for them to be able to understand you as an individual and figure out what you need to continue to grow. I learned so much about things like dialogue, introspection, and accents.
Your Venus In Fur role is pretty raunchy, you’re not wearing much a lot of the time. Did you work out a lot in preparation for that?
No! I just tried to eat a bit more healthily?
You crack a mean whip on the stage. Did you have to learn that?
No, I used to crack the whip on the farm. Dad taught me that!
Have your parents seen you in this play?
No, they’re coming over some time, to surprise me. They’re not telling me when and I won’t know until after the performance!
What’s next for you?
I want to continue to work in Australian theatre and maybe one day go on to the UK and American stage, as well.
What about film?
I’ve always loved the theatre. While film is a completely different medium, I’m also very up for exploring opportunities there.
Well we can’t wait to see what’s next for you Felicity!
Venus in Fur, by David Ives, is on until February 8.
Theatre Images: Gary Marsh Photography. Portrait Images: Peter Rigby