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Portraying eight characters in a one-man play is the perfect way to showcase an actor’s versatility. When those roles are of three women, four males and a transsexual, the task is not easy.
For New Zealand-born actor Jay Ryan, The Packer is an opportunity to show his talents stretch further than the “young, goof-ball role” we’ve seen on our screens.

“I’m 26 now, going on 27, but I still seem to be playing 19- and 20-year-olds,” he says.

Australian audiences may recognise Ryan from his time as Jack Scully in Neighbours or his more recent role of Billy “Spider” Webb in Channel 9’s Sea Patrol.

Ryan’s endeavours to explore his profession aren’t new. Award-winning New Zealand playwright, Dianna Fuemana wrote The Packer in 2003 with Ryan in mind.

While the play explores the theme of “westie” culture in New Zealand, they’ve had no trouble in taking it to other parts of the world.

“With something so specific to a culture of West Auckland in New Zealand, we worried whether people would get the intricacies and jokes and places, but it seems this west culture is universal,” Ryan says.

Ryan has performed the play in Melbourne, Auckland and Edinburgh and says Sydney has been on the cards for a while.

“People have been relating to it even though it’s on the other side of the world,” he says.

When it came to drawing inspiration for the characters, Ryan didn’t have to go far, having grown up in the west of Auckland himself.

“It’s a special place to grow up in, there’s never a dull moment,” he says. “With a lot of the characters, I take pieces from people in my family, my friends and I feel like I know these people, that I’ve met them through my life.”

He used traits, including his mother’s nervous twitch in her foot and the Islander accent from his sister’s Tongan father, to incorporate into his characters.

It’s been three years since Ryan last performed The Packer and this time he’s working with fellow Sea Patrol actor Jeremy Lindsay Taylor as his director.

Acting was a passion Ryan developed early in life. He started performing at about the age of 10 and by 15 had been chosen by a youth theatre company in New Zealand with which he spent four months a year touring and training with professional actors.

“It really showed me this is what I want to do,” he says. “The rest of my time at school I longed to go back to theatre for the long days and working with a team of actors.”

More than 10 years later, he’s living in Bondi and has a role on a prime time network drama. But it’s not all as glamorous as it may appear.

“People have this illusion that you’re on one huge network drama, and that means you’ve made it, that you must have a nice car and house,” he says.

Ryan says the reality is much different. While he might work four months of the year, there are another eight months to find work and in many cases, it’s a struggle.

Even his parents aren’t immune to this concept, questioning his need to borrow $100 here and there for petrol.

Source: Daily Telegraph AU

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