Garry McDonald claims to be the inventor of a new acting technique.
``It's called the rhythm method," said the former star of television's
Mother and Son. ``It's when you go into a production very excited, but you pull
out at the last minute."
McDonald's joke is a response to a particularly painful episode. In June
last year he quit his starring role in the Sydney Theatre Company production
Howard Katz, claiming his performance as a showbiz agent suffering a mid-life
crisis threatened his own mental health.
McDonald, 55, has long suffered depression. He endured a public breakdown in
1993 while trying to reprise his television character Norman Gunston. When he
quit his role as Katz last year he said: ``When I started working on it I all
too easily slipped back into what I knew was the beginning of a descent that I
could not easily return from."
Bille Brown took on the Katz role a couple of weeks before opening night
and McDonald returned to therapy and his home in Berry.
``I found it [recovery] a bit harder this time," he said. ``The first time
I was so hungry to fix what was wrong I lapped it [therapy] up. It took about
three months this time."
McDonald was back at the Sydney Theatre Company's wharf headquarters this
week rehearsing for David Williamson's new play Amigos, which opens next month.
Looking relaxed under a fedora hat, he said depression was the main reason he
quit Howard Katz. But he revealed he had also been unhappy with director Michael
Kantor 's interpretation of Patrick Marber 's play.
``I wasn't crazy about the concept, but I didn't voice that," he said. ``I
was acquiescent all the way."
McDonald said informing Kantor of his decision was difficult, but ``once I'd
done it I felt tremendous relief".
McDonald said Brown's experience of the Katz role vindicated his decision.
``I've since heard that Bille Brown walked the streets for hours after
opening night because he couldn't wind down," he said. ``It was an
extraordinarily huge part."
McDonald is looking forward to the opening night of Amigos.
``The real thrill is that it's 2 1/2 weeks into rehearsals and I'm still
here," he joked. McDonald plays Stephen Ryan, a member of an Australian rowing
team dubbed ``the four amigos", who won a bronze medal at the 1968 Olympics.
They're all comfortable in middle age when Ryan, a reclusive writer, re-enters
their lives and threatens to ``throw the cat among the pigeons".
McDonald said he has related to most of the characters he has played and Ryan
was no exception.
``Even Norman Gunston started to get me down because I started to identify
with him," he said.