This year, beloved Logie and AACTA award-winning star Claudia Karvan will make a return to theatre, in her first stage appearance in 25 years. Karvan will star in the dazzling and devastating play from the man who also wrote Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, in a new production directed by Mitchell Butel. Karvan plays the fabulous and ferocious Stevie in Edward Albee’s The Goat or, Who is Sylvia.
We chat with Claudia about her return to the stage, the thrill of theatre and the landscape shift of turning 50.
This show is bringing you back to the stage after 25 years. Why this show?
Edward Albee’s writing is awe-inspiring. This play is unlike anything I’ve seen before. Its empathy, humour, devastation and love blows you away, so when Mitchell Butel from State Theatre Company South Australia suggested we do something together, Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? was at the front of my mind. The study of this family in crisis is so nuanced and funny and painful. It’s a fully gratifying night out at the theatre.
You turned 50 in 2022 – how did you celebrate?
I had a weekend away with my daughter and a bunch of close girlfriends. We ate, read, played games, did yoga, swam. It was exactly how I wanted to celebrate this time; calmly.
What does turning 50 mean to you?
It’s funny, 30 or 40 didn’t feel like turning points but 50 really does. I feel ultimately relieved to be here. I feel empowered and content and free.
Fifty also happens to coincide with the almost end-of-parenting-school-children for me so there’s a significant milestone there, where one’s responsibilities are diminishing. The landscape is definitely shifting and it’s an exciting time of life.
Which TV role do you get recognised for the most and where’s the strangest place someone has recognised you?
The funny thing about getting recognised is how surprising the role is that you’re getting recognised for. The checkout guy at the supermarket was raving to me while I was doing self check-out the other day about a little known telemovie I did on SBS called Saved. A burly, tradie guy will wax lyrical about Spirited, a very romantic series about a woman in love with a ghost that I did for Foxtel’s Women’s channel. But Puberty Blues, Secret Life of Us and Love My Way are probably the most common shows talked about.
I was once in the bathroom of a cruise ship in Patagonia and an Argentinian woman recognised me from Never Tell Me Never, a telemovie I’d done 25 years earlier. That was bizarre. Or even more bizarre, a 12-year-old boy recognised me the other day from The Big Steal. I was 16 years old when I acted in that movie. Weird. How does a 12-year-old even find that movie, let alone recognise me 34 years later.
What do you find so thrilling about the theatre?
Theatre can be transcendent. And more and more so since our lives can become so convenient and isolated. The thrill of sharing a story with live humans is incomparable. Sometimes theatre can feel quite challenging because it asks the audience to bring something to the experience. It’s not entirely passive. It’s a life affirming act.
What can audiences expect from The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?
Audiences can expect to belly laugh and gasp. It’s a very clever play but also a visceral one. It engages your mind and your heart. I doubt anyone will forget it.
What was your last experience of Adelaide and where are you hoping to visit when you arrive?
I was in Adelaide for an extended period of time about 100 years ago (the mid ‘90s) when I filmed a Paul Cox movie here. I really enjoyed being in Adelaide. I’m hoping to hang at the beaches and eat like a horse. The food here is excellent.
The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?
10 – 15 February 2023