Clybourne Park | Melbourne Theatre Company

Perhaps one of the most highly anticipated shows of 2011, Clybourne Park is gearing up to be a red-hot favourite at the MTC. The story is simple. A straightforward first act offers us a glimpse into 1950s Chicago where a white neighbourhood is on the verge of fracture as a couple are about to sell their house to a black family. The second act reflects back on the first, but does so by leaping ahead to the year 2003.

The same neighbourhood is now largely black – only the owners of the same house wish to sell. This time to a white couple.

Patrick Brammall, cast as Karl and then later as Steve, relishes the opportunity to play two very different characters who so epitomise the times. “In the 1950s segment, I am the head of a community association and do my best to dissuade this white couple from selling out,” explains Brammall. “But ostensibly while I may appear to be the villain of the piece, at the time people were a product of the system, and if anything Karl is an economic rationalist whose predictions do come to pass.”

Having seen a production of Clybourne Park last year at the Royal Court in the UK, Brammall is tremendously excited at getting to play these roles. “I wanted to play Karl and Steve,” says Brammall. “And when I came back to Melbourne and discovered that MTC were actually putting it on – and that those roles hadn’t been cast – well, it was just meant to be!”

A subject and story relevant to America, as much as Australia, Brammall’s thoughts are insightful as he tackles portraying two very different characters. “I think it’s very easy to look at the first act as a museum piece and then believe that in second half we are witnessing a radical transformation. But the irony is the fact that although Barack Obama has been elected, it is still to the White House.

Clybourne Park is clearly more than a product of binaries: black and white, us and them. “Everyone belongs to a minority and sometimes what underpins all forms of prejudice, whether racism or sexism, is essentially a fear of the other, the unknown.”

Delighted to be working with the renowned Peter Evans, Bramall has found the past five weeks exhilarating. “Peter is a wonderfully creative and collaborative director. He has a strong vision but he doesn’t hesitate in allowing our own voices to be heard. We’re very lucky to have him captain this ship.”