Interview: Rebecca Fortuna on Sybil and style

With Adelaide Fringe rapidly approaching, actors and crew alike are preparing to take the southern hemisphere’s largest arts festival by storm with Faulty Towers The Dining Experience – given ‘The Best Completely Indestructible Show Award’ by The Advertiser at last year’s Fringe.  

Not least among them is Rebecca Fortuna, performing as Sybil this year for the show’s longest run since it premiered at the festival in 2008. Hair curled and lapel primped, she is eager to jump right into the mix and get started. 

Rebecca joined Interactive Theatre International – the company behind the show – in  2018 out of Melbourne’s La Trobe University, where she received a double degree in Law and Arts. Touring credits include starring roles in MedeaRomeo and Juliet, and Messenger Dogs. Most notably of late she featured in Underground Cinema’s interactive show Dirty Dancing.  

Interactive Theatre International’s (ITI) Business Development Manager Jared Harford sat down with Rebecca as she gears up her Sybil for this year’s Adelaide extravaganza. Read on as she tells us about her journey so far, and what she’s looking forward to most.  

J: This is a busy start to 2020 for you, with a run at Adelaide Fringe and a week at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. How many Sybil costumes will you need queued up for all of that? 

R: I have just the one outfit for Sybil, but a couple of different shirts. Hopefully we’ll have a washing machine to keep everything smelling fresh over the course of the shows!  

J: Sybil’s clothes are quite out there aren’t they… How do you feel about donning the colorful frills each night? 

R: I love wearing Sybil clothes. She’s very stylish! She has a lot more style than I do in real life, and really knows how to coordinate an outfit. But for me it’s putting on the wig and heels that makes me feel like Sybil. The wig is the last thing I put on, and when it’s finished I feel pretty much completely transformed.  

J: Where does Sybil stand between the dynamic of Basil and Manuel? How do you see her fitting into the chaos while also keeping them in check? 

R: Sybil keeps them in line by stopping them from completely burning the place down – but also doesn’t really offer any solutions. She comes in and stops them from destroying everything, but then just gives them more to-dos.  

She’s very good at telling people what to do instead of actually doing things herself, which is great. She’ll tell them to fix it, because they made the problem in the first place, which then forces them take initiative!  

J: Sybil is internationally recognisable and beloved, but here she’s taking form in a completely original script. How do you approach this role taking into account that pressure? 

R: I was very nervous to start. In my first show I walked out as Sybil and after saying one or two lines a lady in the audience commented on how well I was playing it off. I was able to feel a little relief then!  

I know people know this character and I know people know the show so well. So, I listened to Sybil on repeat for many months and still do before every show to make sure that I can do it justice. As for the lines from the original show – I know all of Sybil’s original scenarios pretty well. It’s funny when audiences try to trip you up in some way but then end up being wrong. 

It’s more fun when people play along and truly believe that I am Sybil. It makes it more interesting when people will actually have a chat with Sybil as she is, and play with us through the show. Sybil will do it with a smile (naturally) but she can politely tell you to go away – and get away with it. 

J: Compared to some other cast members you’re quite new to the show. How do you feel about taking part in such a big operation? 

R: I certainly did feel a lot of pressure when I first began to take this on. When I did my first workshop we had a lot of the UK cast over as well, who were  amazing to work with—especially the other Sybils. I feel really privileged to be a part of a company that’s been running for so long and with such international acclaim. It was scary at the beginning, but now after almost two years I feel like I’ve earned my place. 

J: Any highlights of the best places you’ve visited so far? 

R: I got to go to Western Australia and tour the coastline there. I hadn’t been able to do that before so I love that the tour allows me to get to all of these new places. Last year at Adelaide Fringe I got to go out and see koalas in the wild for the first time ever, which was so exciting. I spotted one in a tree in the distance on the drive up and made the boys stop the car! So this year I’m hoping to find as many animals as I can.  

J: Are you involved with many other interactive shows or is this your first one? 

R: I’ve done a lot of interactive theatre in the past with Underground Cinema – especially with their immersive Dirty Dancing, which we did last year. Before I head to Adelaide Fringe this year I’m doing another ITI show called Confetti & Chaos*. I play the bride/crazy auntie/incompetent waiter – I’m ecstatic to be playing multiple roles, because that’s not something I’ve done to this level as of yet. 

J: And how do you feel going into Adelaide Fringe this time around? Are you looking forward to this run? 

R: I love Adelaide Fringe. It’s cool to do a run at the festival because you really get to know the staff where we’re working. Shout-out to all of the staff at the Stamford Hotel! It’s nice to build a rapport with them and not having to travel from venue to venue.  

The staff are able to get comfortable with the show and get in to the spirit and play along as well – we form a little family there. It’s also just been nice to be at Adelaide Fringe in general because we get to visit other productions. We’ll, for example, finish a show and run downtown to get to someone else’s – helped by the fact our venue is quite central to the main sprawl of shows. 

J: Aside from finding the Koalas, are there any other must-sees in the city that you would recommend before we go? 

R: Koalas are the main thing for me, yes! But there’s some great beaches. My birthday is actually over the course of the show at Adelaide so I’m really excited to choose what we do that week. For anyone wondering it’s 28 Feb!  

Rebecca will be playing Sybil in Faulty Towers The Dining Experience as the show returns for its 13th Adelaide Fringe, 21 February-15 March in Stamford Plaza Adelaide. For information and tickets, go to Adelaide Fringe or www.faultytowersdining.com.

Confetti & Chaos is in Peakhurst and Warrawee in New South Wales in February: www.confetti-chaos.com  

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