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On Centre Stage By Douglas Kennedy 

Steven Tandy: Staying Power

Actor Steven Tandy has spent a lifetime chasing an elusive theatrical dream and – despite the ups and downs of his precarious profession – has never lost the faith.

The 60-year-old stalwart had a charmed introduction to the profession graduating from NIDA and securing the role of Tom Sullivan in one of the 1970s most popular TV dramas, The Sullivans.

The Sullivans, which ran from 1976-1983, was a much loved story of a middle-class Melbourne wartime family and enchanted audiences thanks to top-notch production values and a stellar cast, including Paul Cronin as patriarch Dave Sullivan, Lorraine Bayly as his wife Grace and Tandy as their second son.

There was much to admire in the one million dollar series with its immaculate attention to detail, but something I appreciate more is Tandy’s tenacity since The Sullivans carving out a career for himself in one of life’s toughest professions.

In the past 30 years Tandy has stuck to his guns in a grinding round of auditions, which have brought both highs and lows, winning and losing a myriad of small and large roles as well as directing opportunities.

NW2P 5Tandy has stuck to the old maxim that there’s no such thing as a small role and now he’s been given the opportunity to play one of the most enduring villains in the history of the British theatre.

The actor, who spent 13 years clowning as the commissioner in the Warner Bros slapstick stunt show Police Academy, is playing Sir Giles Overreach in Philip Massinger’s 17th century classic A New Way to Pay Old Debts at the Brisbane Arts Theatre.

NW2P 5Massinger, who was born in Salisbury in 1583 and died two years before the start of the English Civil War in 1642, wrote more than 50 plays, but only Old Debts survived and still has the occasional outing.

Indeed, apart from Shakespeare and the occasional Marlow – generally Doctor Faustus – there’s little staged from before the Restoration as director Ron Kelly points out in his program note.

Like Shakespeare’s arch villain Richard III before him, Sir Giles is an actor’s gift and Tandy grasps it with both hands playing the role of the scheming  corrupt corporate for all its worth until his final undoing and decent into madness.

The play, with its emphasis on duplicity and the evil things man will stoop to in the quest for power and money, is a familiar one as Sir Giles exploits and cons everyone including his own nephew and daughter.

Old Debts has a large cast, who give their all under Kelly’s direction, but it’s Tandy’s star that shines and he deserves all the kudos that goes with it.

There have been several occasions when companies have given Tandy a good break – such as when he appeared in Shaun Charles’ Last Drinks at La Boite about Brisbane corruption unmasked in the 1980s which earned him a special Gold Matilda – and he’s always come good.

Let’s hope Old Debts and Sir Giles puts this tenacious actor centre stage in the minds of directors and casting agents after Old Debts closes on August 24.

In a final note it would appear that Ron Kelly, who is also BAT’s artistic director, is keen to showcase talent from the professional sphere as Tandy’s role comes shortly after Carol Burn’s acclaimed production of Picnic at Hanging Rock at the theatre and that can only be good for both BAT company and audiences.

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