December 2, 2013
It’s 10am and Hugo Weaving is stretched out on a sofa at the end of the Sydney Theatre Company Wharf, overlooking a glittering Walsh Bay, underlining passages of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. He looks every inch the diligent, thoughtful actor he’s reputed to be.
The Sydney Theatre Company seem more than happy to accommodate Weaving’s ambitions. Last year, he played the roguish Valmont in Les Liaisons Dangereuses. In 2011, he enthralled audiences in Chekhov’sUncle Vanya, opposite Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh, in a production that toured to New York and Washington. Next year, he stars in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Beckett’s existential comedy Waiting for Godot sees Weaving teaming up with Roxburgh once again. Working closely together, they hope to unearth Beckett’s humour as well as his poetry.
“We’ve worked out where all the clowning opportunities are. But it’s important that it doesn’t get too funny,” Weaving says. “These two men are desperate as well. The only thing we know about them is that they have abandoned the world – or the world has abandoned them. They seem to exist, just the two of them, in this desolate place with one dead tree in it. And they’re waiting for Godot – whoever he is.”
“No, not really,” Weaving smiles. “I have been in it before and a few things happened but I don’t think anyone actually died.”
Weaving has also had a starring role away from theatre and film. Artist Del Kathryn Barton’s portrait of Weaving, in which he appears to be cuddling some kind of wildcat, won this year’s Archibald Prize. The cat, Barton explained at the time, represented one of the facets of Weaving’s personality.
“It was an African cat,” Weaving adds, presumably a reference to the fact he was born in Nigeria.
An art collector, Weaving says he enjoyed the process of being painted enormously. “I’d always followed Del’s work but never met her until I sat for her,” he says. “We had lunch and we talked and I perved around her studio – I love artists’ studios – and it was a really nice vibe. I was really thrilled for her when she won [the Archibald]. It’s exciting to see someone else’s creative process.”