Interview - Craig Conway - Actor

RM: I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how art gives us meaning and guides us in life. Has this been the case for you?

CC: As a young boy I always found myself gravitating towards and wanting to surround myself with creative people and events. Even in the many solitary moments of youth whether it be singing, dancing, painting, reading, writing stories, or just in my Nana’s garden pretending I was surrounded by cameras on cranes in a movie. If I was out on my bicycle I would become a detective making sure the streets were clean of criminals, and if there was a mystery to solve then it would be me who would save the day!

In my imagination I would actually go to OZ or be able to fly like Peter Pan. There was no real concern of it being untrue in anyway. The world was a very exciting, beautiful and loving place.  Even though I was surrounded by alcoholism, violent family circumstances and being forever bullied and scared into situations with my peers, I never stopped believing that somehow all would be good.

Portrait by Richard Munn

As I grew so did my ambition to perform and though I loved the craft and learning of the arts and performance, it was clear that for me it was becoming an escape and safe haven where I could retreat and forget my worries and concerns. Through acting I could live out parts of my life the way I believed they should be instead of how they were, but this would only satisfy me to a point.

Now with hindsight and experience I can see that until I was able to face the experiences and resentments of the past there was certainly never going to be any solid future, and no possible way of doing the one thing which all actors crave and that is to BE present.

RM: Thank-you Craig. That’s beautiful to hear. I’m really interested in how we can be present through our art and craft. Could you say something about that?

CC: “BEING” is for me the very essence of what we do as performers. When the actions and reactions of the moment flow without resistance and feed off the immediate surroundings the truth, no matter what is rehearsed, can be seen, felt and embodied again and again.

Being present for me is allowing each new audience, as well as myself, to work together to create “the character” - the incredible illusion of identity, empathy and synchronicity coming together at once.

It may sound contradictory but I believe rehearsals should never try to stage the eventual “performance.” Rehearsals should rather be used to lay the foundations and understand the journey so that the performance can live with each new audience, and each new day the performer should not try to recreate anything.  Instead the performer can inform what they do within the show using their daily experiences, no matter what they have been going through that particular day or even an hour or minute before they enter onto the stage, so that the sense of present purpose is alive in them when the curtain goes up.

Setting a performance up in that way you can pretty much rest assured that the response and reactionary impulses will fire on the truth of that moment and not on the tiring tricks and techniques to try and “pretend” that we are feeling something. The other option, it seems, is trying to convince the spectator that what they are seeing is somehow worth while because of the over effort we are showing through various guises and somewhat embarrassing efforts and gesticulations etc.

RM: What I’m hearing, please correct me if I’m wrong, is a strong combination of structure and spontaneity. Both being well-prepared, but not bogged-down with preparation, and having the freedom and motivation to find something new.

CC: It has taken me many years to understand this kind of practice. Every project and role that I take on leads to my having to start over and learn anew to see how this particular sense of being can manifest with regards to others in the team. It’s hard, but for certain a much easier process all round if I work like this rather than losing myself to the senseless and pointless practice of people pleasing and going through the motions. Doing that creates nothing more than caricatures, not characters.  

I think acceptance of my ever persistent Ego and its never ending want for self sabotage which thwarted me in my previous years from adolescence to adulthood, fatherhood and more recently into and through my years of addiction into eventual recovery has led me to this awareness. Others will say it’s just growing up, but whichever it is I am finding and hoping that this understanding is one which I can keep on pursuing, and allow to unfold.
RM: Thank-you Craig, I’m feeling inspired hearing about this. What projects are you excited about at the moment?

CC: At present I am embracing life behind the camera taking on my first role as lead producer with The Myth of Hopelessness, with director Shaun Robert Smith. We came together on the project after he invited me to act in the film short he had written, but after discussion and development we set out to write a feature version and see if we could get it made. Lo and behold we are now, only 14 weeks later, nearing the end of the feature shoot and getting ready to develop our next feature together.

Again the openness to learning and progressing without letting my ego dictate is something I have to continually keep in check so that the many people involved can allow their creative ingenuity and expression to gel throughout the production. Although I'm leading the production understanding I'm merely a part of a team breathes life into the production.

As well as this I am enjoying and embracing new challenges as an actor taking on varied roles in very different projects within TV, Theatre and Film. I suppose I will never tire of performing. As long as my relationship with my son, partner, family and friends remains constant and of the same importance, then however the river of life chooses to run, I will hopefully be able to flow with it rather than against it and be led to the eventual expanse of the never ending sea of my destiny.

RM: Thank-you for your time Craig.

If you'd like to check out more of The Myth of Hopelessness see: