This image: Jeremi Campese, Ryan Hodson, Hayley Pearl & Meg Clarke
Featured image: Jeremi Campese as Bobbie

I’m Bobbie. As in Bobbie Dazzler, my Nan says, although I don’t know who that is. And this is my brother Hench. He’s got a face for radio.

YEN poignantly explores a childhood lived without boundaries and the consequences of being forced to grow up on your own.

Hench is 16, Bobbie is 14. They’re home alone in Feltham with their dog Taliban; playing PlayStation, streaming porn, watching the world go by. Sometimes their mum Maggie visits, usually with empty pockets and empty promises.

Then Jenny shows up.

New Ghosts Theatre Company in association with KXT bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company present the Australian premiere of Anna Jordan‘s ground-breaking YEN from the 27th September – 13th October 2018 at Kings Cross Theatre.

We had the opportunity to speak with Jeremi Campese (Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Moth, Intersection Chrysalis, ATYP and DNA KXT bAKEHOUSE) who plays Bobbie.

SAG:  I am so pleased to be able to speak with you.  I have followed your career for some time… I loved your work in MOTH (SAG Review)   So vulnerable there and I really like the way you are able to put forward a new kind of young man.  Is that something that’s important to you?

JEREMI:    I think, in particular, today.  Yeah it is absolutely.  I mean I’m only 20 and so it’s very difficult hearing stories about people my age from all sorts of things. Like perhaps the boys being the victims of bullying or inciting the bullying.  I think it’s probably one of the most important things, especially for artists… especially male artists, to consider, the stories of boys becoming men.

Which is really what YEN is about.

It’s about those middle stages as early as 13-24 up to early twenties.  That’s such a defining period in someone’s life.

SAG:     This play has such a reputation for being truthful to that.  It’s a 14 year old you are playing as Bobbie isn’t it?

JEREMI:  Yeah very young.

SAG:    What kind of preparations goes into a transformation like that?

JEREMI:     Whoa. Before I even jump into the character, I want to get a gauge of the kind of life that he’s living.  So the information we’re getting about his socio-economic background and where he lives in London … Like it says he’s at an education unit which is sort of like a school for troubled kids.  So working inside the culture before digging into the character.

And when I get into the character, for me, it’s all about text, what the writer has given. It’s so well written and so delicate and so nuanced in the writing which means everything you need is there.

SAG:     And how did you get to this place yourself?  You did the Eisteddfods I saw.

JEREMI:    It’s been a strange sort of journey, I used to play Cello as my creative outlet and I did that for a really, really long time.  It wasn’t until I was 16 or so that acting came upon me.  And that sort of took over, I guess.  I had done a lot of Eisteddfods for cello and then I noticed there was acting … and I figured that I should just try something!

And just do it.  And develop those habits of looking at monologues and picking them apart and working on them and working with good texts and so on.  It’s there that I met Rob Jago who brought me into ATYP.  And that’s how it all started.

SAG:    We love ATYP (Australian Theatre for Young People) they seem to give the most solid bedrock to their alumni.  Did you find that in this emerging career that you have?

JEREMI:    They are so down to earth and such an amazing group of people that you don’t really notice the talent that does come from there.  Because they are just so actual and accessible.

SAG:     Do you have in mind the kind of roles you would like to play as your career matures?

JEREMI:     Oh it’s totally a cliché but I have always yearned to tackle the classics, Shakespeare.  Like an Iago.

SAG:     So the more dramatic roles or do you see yourself as one of the fools?

JEREMI:      I’ve certainly had, in the case of MOTH and now of YEN,  some the characters I have been lucky enough to play have been so nuanced and so diverse in their ability to be really, really comedic but at the same time extraordinarily tragic. So I really don’t mind either way and would like to try both.

But my leaning is definitely towards tragic and dramatic sort of roles.

SAG:     I suppose that is the framework if you have in the back of your mind to be a role model for young men and women who might become theatre makers.  Have you got any advice for them from your experience?

JEREMI:   Oh .. Do It. Pursue It.  And pursue it hard.  I guess one of the big things, especially when you’re young, is learn and go to theatre.  Sometimes I meet people who want to do theatre but just see enough of it.  And it’s just so important to keep up to date with what Australian Theatre is doing.

And if you get the chance to take a workshop with an experienced, mature actor … take it.  Because there is so much to learn about the craft.

SAG:    I see that the production is donating proceeds of the school and matinee performances  to  Blue Knot

JEREMI:     It’s definitely a really important angle for the play to be looked at and perceived through.  Because it is about what happens in volatile domestic situations and it’s such a beautiful portrayal of that.  The story is ultimately about the boys and how they grow up but it’s never justifying the way they are or anything like that … just putting reality on the stage.

And so it’s such an important angle for people to see, not just looking at the headlines of terrible situations and judging them for that but understanding the people.  That they are people who can be helped and their situations are not inevitable, not predetermined.  There are things we can do about it, to prevent things from happening.

SAG:    And do you think we will leave the theatre with a sense of hope?

JEREMI:     Ahh. I hope so but yes and no.  The second act gets pretty dark and that is ultimately the biggest impact.

SAG:    I am so looking forward to seeing it.  But before I let you go, Ihave to ask … are you looking forward to ever doing a show where you get a really nice costume?  I only ever see you in daggy short and grubby T shirts and such.

JEREMI:  (Sighing) Well … YEN is going to be no different!

New Ghosts Theatre Company [Facebook] in association with KXT bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company [Facebook] present the Australian premiere of Anna Jordan’s ground-breaking YEN from the 27th September – 13th October 2018 at Kings Cross Theatre.