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Bondi actor Jay Ryan is preparing for a role that would do Sybil proud. He will play eight characters ‘ three women, four men and a trannie ‘ in The Packer, the critically acclaimed show that will debut at the Old Fitzroy Theatre on April 22.

Written by award-winning New Zealand playwright Dianna Fuemana, this production has played to sold-out houses at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, New Zealand and Melbourne.

The story of Shane, a ‘white trash westie’, takes place over 24 hours in the suburbs of West Auckland. The up and coming MC hip-hop artist has a manic depressive gin-addled Australian mother, an ex who claims to be pregnant and a best friend who is in love with him. Then he falls in love with the beautiful Niue Island girl next door, and all hell breaks loose.

Ryan says the play is a social commentary on the state of West Auckland and the culture of the suburbs ‘ a world overwhelmed by Ice, or P as it’s known in NZ, racial intolerance, insecurities and problematic family ties.
But it is also a land surrounded by beaches, the location where Zena, Hercules and The Piano were filmed, and New Zealand-born Ryan’s old home.

He admits playing eight characters in a one-and-a-half hour production that includes break-dancing is very physically draining.
‘I’ve been in training for the last four weeks,’ Ryan said.
‘Because I’ve done the show before, the characters are cemented in me. They’re based on people I know or who are in Dianna’s life so I’m familiar with them.
‘Playing female characters is fun. It’s not drag ‘ you have to find the truth of the character, respect it and believe you are a depressed 50-year-old or a 22-year-old astute uni graduate.
‘The show’s very frenetic. I change characters, doing two and even three-hander scenes. My flatmate’s going crazy at the moment ‘ she keeps asking if she has to put up with eight characters in the flat for the next six weeks.’

The Packer, directed by Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, will play at the Old Fitzroy Theatre, Cnr Cathedral and Dowling Sts, Woolloomooloo from April 22 to May 10. Book on or 1300 GET TIX.