Priscilla Doueihy returns to her role in 44 Sex Acts in One Week for Sydney Festival next month. We have a chat to Priscilla about the show, acting, migrating from Lebanon and much more.
Priscilla Doueihy, you’re returning to the stage for 44 Sex Acts in One Week at Sydney Festival. Tell us a little about the show and your role?
44 Sex Acts is above all a romantic comedy for a generation who dreams of dreams of a world restored to a time when man did not pollute everything, but it is also about the power to reconnect to one’s primitive self. The play is incredibly funny and brilliantly directed in the form of a radio play: the actors also playing the role of Foley artists. I play two characters: one female and one male, and I take great pleasure in making them distinct and different from each other. A little teaser: at some point, the two characters meet and talk to each other… before more torrid events happen between them.
The play is quite an original concept with a very minimalistic set and sex acts choreographed on fruits. Could you tell us how this play differs to other plays in which you’ve performed?
To be frank, I’ve never been in a play which is as crazy and as amusing as this one. The team at the head of the production is a group of the funniest, most ridiculous, talented and charismatic people you will ever meet. Naturally, during the workshops, many creative ideas emerged from what initially seemed to be crazy, even impossible ideas! It’s amazing what minimalism on stage can do to the imagination of the audience. And what fruit can sound like!
The play made its debut at Belvoir Theatre in Sydney in 2020. Has the play changed for its Sydney Festival season?
It’s been adapted to be even bigger and wilder for Festival audiences!
Is there a message or a moral in 44 Sex Acts in One Week?
I’d say that there are two messages or morals in 44 Sex Acts in One Week that the story explores in parallel. The first is linked to romantic life, to love and to power dynamics. The other is the essential message about climate change and how far we are prepared to go to restore nature.
Which audience is it for?
My father loved the play, and my cousin of 15 years did too. I think that it’s a play which thought-provoking, captivating and fun for everyone… I would still say it’s best suited for people aged 15 and over, given all the ASMR sounds the fruit will make.
Priscilla, you came to Australia from Lebanon when you were 13. Tell us a little about your experience of migrating to another country.
I did my schooling at a francophone school, in which we took English lessons once a week. I also watched a lot of films in English and, as I was born in Australia, and we repatriated when I was 1 and my brother was 5, so we spoke a lot of English at home. my brother was 5, we spoke a lot of English at home.
So, I was confident that that I would be able to adapt easily… until we landed in Australia and my cousin borrowed a DVD of Australian comedian, Carl Barron: I couldn’t understand a word, he spoke so fast, and with a typical Australian accent! At that moment, I panicked. Since that day, I have never stopped learning. There are still things I don’t know today, but now I feel confident enough to say, “I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about” when someone refers to a concept that I “should” know. And that’s very rewarding in itself.
You have worked on stage and on screen in Australian and the UK. What’s your career highlight to date?
The highlight of my career has been the people I’ve met and the friendships that have come from each production. Actors come from such different worlds, we have the privilege of learning something new, deconstructing old beliefs and making new friends!
Do you have a stronger love for theatre or screen?
Ohh.…. That’s such a difficult question. I love theatre. It’s my home. It’s the place where I feel the safest, where I can be as strong as I am in real life and I’m allow myself to be so. In the theatre, the audience plays a major role in the energy that animates the space. But I love the screen, the movies and especially the impact they can have on a global scale. I have the opportunity to represent the status of an Arab woman and this is a fundamental part of my acting career. I could not imagine one without the other, and I would like to continue to thrive in both for the rest of my career.
How do you find that theatre and screen require different competences from you?
The screen is much more delicate, it’s microscopic, whereas theatre is more macroscopic in my opinion. Screen work requires juggling more techniques, which feels like flying a spaceship, whereas theatre is about filling the space with your whole body, voice and soul.
How long have you been acting for? When and how did you decide you wanted to be an actress?
I have been acting professionally for about 6 years. I first mentioned that I wanted to be an actress to my uncle’s wife, Emanuela, who was visiting Lebanon from Italy. We spoke together in English because I didn’t speak Italian. It was like our little secret and I still remember it. I was about 9 years old.
Before that, I used to act in front of the bathroom mirror, usually imagining that I was on a lifestyle show to demonstrate the effectiveness of a cleaning product. The product was usually toothpaste.
You speak 4 languages, English, Arabic, French and Spanish. Do you have a language of preference? Do you play roles in different languages? Do you find that you think in one language more than another?
I loved speaking Spanish the first few times I learned it, especially because I had learned Castilian Spanish and I liked to show off my pronunciation. Spanish also has similarities to Arabic, while remaining Latin enough for the rest of the world to understand. I’ve auditioned for roles that require me to speak Spanish, I’ve played characters who spoke Arabic, but nothing yet in French. I would say that my inner monologue is mainly in English until the wrong emotions come out, after which it is then Arabic takes over!
What are your future projects?
I am very excited about the upcoming release of a feature film directed by the very talented Daniel Askill, which features an outstanding cast. I am currently involved in several projects in development!
Do you have a project/director/co-actor you dream of working with?
I WOULD LOVE to act alongside Tilda Swinton, Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, to be directed by Céline Sciamma, Darren Aronofsky and Andrea Arnold… and the project of my dreams would be to work with people sharing the same aspirations as me, to create a timeless work of art together.
Why should people go see 44 Sex Acts in One Week at Sydney Festival?
Because it’s a show that doesn’t disappoint. It’s hilarious, spectacular, provocative and astonishingly really romantic! And the actors are brilliant.
We thank Priscilla Doueihy for chatting to us ahead of 44 Sex Acts in One Week at Sydney Festival next month.
KEY INFO FOR 44 SEX ACTS IN ONE WEEK
WHAT: 44 Sex Acts in One Week, a play at Sydney Festival 2022
WHEN: 12 – 16 January 2022 (NOTE: AUSLAN INTERPRETED SESSION – 2pm Sat 15 January)
WHERE: Seymour Centre, Chippendale, Sydney
HOW: Purchase your tickets via the event link: https://www.sydneyfestival.org.au/events/44-sex-acts-in-one-week
HOW MUCH: Ticket prices are as follows:
- Premium Full Price – $55
- Reserved Full Price – $45
- Reserved Concession – $41
- Under 30 – $39
For events happening this month, take a look at our What’s on in December article.