Get to know the people behind the puppets: Meet Nick Pages-Oliver

Nick Pages-Oliver, Performer

Nick holds a Diploma of Screen Acting from FTI (Perth) and a Diploma of Directing from Raindance Film School (London). In 2014, he co-founded Bastard Theatre Company and co-wrote, produced and starred in the company’s sold out debut production, Fish in the Sea presented by The Blue Room Theatre (2015) which was a finalist for the Martin Sims Award (Fringe World). Nick also co-wrote and directed the company’s second work, Two Bees (The Blue Room Theatre, 2015). On stage, Nick has performed for WAYTco, ShakespeareWA, Lockwood Productions, Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, and as part of PIAF in 2014 for You Once Said Yes, by Look Left Look Right (UK) and in 2016 he sang with House Gospel Choir (UK) at the Chevron Festival Gardens. While living in London, Nick co-wrote and directed for comedy web series, Actors on Acting (2013). His film work includes producing and assistant directing the short film What Now? (Watch The Door Productions, 2013) as well as writing, directing and co-producing short films for Filmbites Youth Film School’s advanced acting students. He has been a member of improvised comedy troupe, The Big Hoo-Haa! since 2010.

We are excited to be working with young Western Australian talent like Nick and are glad that he could take a time out from rehearsals to answer a few questions ahead of the Rules of Summer season.

Where are you from?
I grew up in Darlington, in the Perth Hills. It was very lonely, but beautiful and full of amazing wildlife. I went to high school in Fremantle, so the seaside town feels like a spiritual home to me. Whenever I’m walking around Freo with no shoes on (which I do as often as possible), I feel like my life is a holiday.

What character do you play in Rules of Summer/What do you like about playing your character?
I play the younger brother. This year I decided I should engage with my “inner child” and I think playing this role is really helping! The younger brother wants to find the joy in life. He’s cheeky, inquisitive and a big dreamer. He can also get super grumpy when he feels that people are being unfair. I can totally relate to all of that.

Which of the senses could you never give up and why?
Hearing. Music has the power to drastically shift my emotions. I don’t cry in movies, but songs and musical theatre numbers can envelop me and make me well up with tears. Also, I also feel so much peace in nature sounds – especially birds and wind, but I particularly love thunderstorms. When the planet shakes all our tiny houses and reminds us of her power, I revel in those sounds and feel grateful to be alive.

What is a rule that you never break?
Never knowingly kill a living creature if can avoid it.
99.9% of the time, I don’t have to. When I was young, I went to see Seven Years in Tibet with my folks; and I was too young to stay interested in a slow, quiet film like that, but I never forgot the story of the monks building their monastery: moving the soil with their hands, so they wouldn’t kill any worms. That memory (and the episode of “The Simpsons” where Lisa becomes a vegetarian) planted seeds for me as I now live a vegan lifestyle – much less hardcore than I initially thought. For me, the ethos goes further than not consuming animal products: I don’t kill insects or spiders (anymore), even if they are pests.

What is your always rule?
Always be helpful.
This rule reflects my raison d’être. I was taught to value manners as a kid. Nowadays, this reverence has evolved into courtesy and respect for others, and therefore, being helpful. I try to remember that life can be tough sometimes; and mostly, people are just trying to do their best. I don’t want to unwittingly add any more stress to someone’s day, so I try to help however I can. These can be big or small acts: saying “thank you” (and meaning it!) to the people who serve you, washing up someone’s dishes (without expecting it in return), giving people your presence and time, and letting people get in line before you (traffic included). The world can be grey and mean or bright and joyous. I want to be a force for joy by always being helpful.

Why did you want to become a performer?
When I was ten, my dad took me to see a clown, Avner the Eccentric. I didn’t have many friends at the time and didn’t really feel connected to anyone. In the show, Avner brings someone up on stage to help him. On this night, he chose me and I did something that got a laugh out of the 300-strong audience. Feeling that wall of laughter hit me on stage was transformative: validation like I hadn’t experienced before, but also the laughter was a communal catharsis. Perhaps the audience felt a little nervous for me and with a simple reaction, they were able to transmute that uncomfortable feeling into joy. From then on, I decided I would dedicate my life to recreating that moment: using humour to turn distress into joy.

Who inspires you?
People who offer their humanity up as art so that everyone else can recognise what we share as humans: like Bill Hicks, Alex Grey, and Nick Cave. People who realise the impossible for the betterment of the world: like Elon Musk and Albert Einstein. People who are clowns: like Sacha Baron Cohen, Conan O’Brien and Rowan Atkinson. And everyone I work with who isn’t interested in fame.

If I wanted to become a performer what advice would you give to me?
You’re already [the performer] just learn to share more of yourself until you’re sharing all of you. You can practice as many techniques as you want, or research and intellectualise theory and history. But ultimately, your goal as a performer is to use the reality of your unique experiences to reveal them to an audience. Learning how to perform like your heroes will give you useful tools, but the only way you’ll connect with an audience is to perform your own true experience. People will recognise that vulnerability in themselves and will want to see you perform: for that moment where they feel connected to your humanity.

Rules of Summer // World Premiere

DATE: 23 September – 8 October
VENUE: Dolphin Theatre, UWA
BOOK TICKETS online or call 9335 5044