Actor mark Raffety has a fascination
for the dark, "I really relish walking in the bush at night when
its really dark and you can just see the faint outlines or glimmers
of things," he says, eyes wide with enthusiasm. "In my minds
eye I see emanations, Its kinda fun." He smiles. "I
dont know about you, but my unconscious is not a big white room,
its kind of a dark place and things come out of it."
Its somehow fitting, then, that he plays Dr Darcy Tyler on Neighbours.
Dirty Darcy, as he is known to the shows devotees,
is the soaps dark side (in so far as a show can have a dark side when
a plot summary reads: Harold and Drew realise something is up
with Lou. Leo discovers break dancing.) Darcy schemes and manoeuvres
his way around Ramsay Street, a sinister presence at every barbeque.
"Im slippery," Raffety says of his nom de neighbours.
"My character will say one thing, think another and maybe do a
third thing. To play someone like that, to build subtext within the
performance of the character , as well as within the storyline its
fun. Theres an edge to Darcy."
Raffety will talk your ear off about acting, but he keeps his personal
life to himself. "I like mystery. I dont necessarily like
to divulge too much about myself because my job is to be someone else,"
he says declining to reveal his age. "Im relatively shy.
You Wont ever see me with my mum in womans weekly,"
he avers. Perhaps, but you can see him in Black + White stark naked.
Even stripped bare, the real Mark Raffety is somewhat elusive. By his
own admission the shoot "was more like we were improvising a story,
or characters, or moods. It was acting". Acting, it seems comes
naturally to him, in part due to his lack of firm roots. Born in Portsmouth,
with a father in the navy, he and his family have travelled around the
globe. "I have a fluid sense of self, if you like," he says,
in an accent containing traces of his English background, "because
I can imagine that Im from a lot of places."
From his first work on tv commercials, he has always worked for money,
even in theatre. "Youve only got so much time and I just
lucked out I guess, and managed to score jobs that paid," he says,
also admitting that he didnt do any formal drama study, other
than a few acting workshops. Appearances on Xena and Hercules, a French/Australian
kids show called Deepwater Haven and a Canadian/New Zealand production
called Gold all helped him to learn on the job. Working on Australias
most popular soap, with its consistent schedule, swift production
and tight budgets, Raffety gets as much training as he could want. "The
pressure to channel through an awful lot of work is enormous. Its
almost close to theatre. You have to be in the moment. "he says
"You cant do a retake on stage and its very hard to
do a retake on Neighbours."
Away from the set, Raffety says hes "studying all the time.
Ill maybe watch a film five or 10 times just to see whats
going on. Or watch a scene 30 times and see how its done, and
get the script and pull it apart, read books about it and find out how
they approach it. Its never-ending. "Perhaps this is why
his conversation is peppered with quotes garnered from celebrity biographies,
like those of Frank Zappa or Steve martin ("He said some people
have a way with words and some people have not way") and hes
erudite on the artists that he admires. He has opinions on David Lynch
and on Francis bacon, and opinions on Lynchs opinion on Bacon.
Lynchs films are a particular passion. "The acting , the
story, the art direction, the sound: its hermetic. Outside of
the frame you know theres a world existing there, "he says
describing scenes with a vivid recall. "You look at something like
Blue velvet I mean really. Its a masterwork in my opinion. You
can peel that film away and there are jewels in there."
Raffety has directed three short films of his own to date, each reflecting
a somewhat twisted perspective. Salty, concerning a butchers suspicious
method of, er handling the meat, has been shown internationally, winning
festival favourite at the Exground Festival in Hamburg. Naturally, hed
like to direct a feature. "Its a cliché: what
I really want to do is direct, Every actor says that! I think
actors mean they want to produce. Because its the people with
the money that basically have the control".
Raffety names Nil By Mouth - a film directed by an actor (Gary Oldman)
- as one containing a truly inspirational performance. "That performance
by Ray Winstone was just about the best thing Ive seen anyone
do ever!. You might be repelled by the character he plays - cos
he has played some repellent people - but you cannot help but be moved
by these characters as well. I dont know why great work has to
be wrapped up in angst but it just seems to be."
It all seems a world away from Ramsay Street, one cant help notice.
Darkness, angst, Francis Bacons controlled desperation:
isnt humour important too ? "Of course it is! Its not
just dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, "he says concerned that he might
be mistaken for a morose soul, "If it hasnt got a laugh ,
its not worth looking at. I had a great laugh in Nil By Mouth,
there was funny shit in there as well. "Somehow, thats even
more disturbing .
Clearly, Raffetys off-centre tastes are more a fascination than
a reflection of a grim mind, and this comes out in his enthusiastic
discussions about the like of Lynch and Bacon, "Its the same
universe that those two guys are plumbing and I guess what theyre
communicating is something that I, for some reason, dig. And I think
thats a childlike thing: in darkness , theres mystery and
in mystery theres imagination . "What next? Dirty Darcy slapping
on an oxygen mask and menacing the girls ? Only the shadow knows