A Chat with “Ned Kelly”
Josh McElroy is portraying Ned in the NSW premiere of Ned – A New Australian Musical at the New Theatre from Dec 18 until 22. The musical by Adam Lyon, Anna Lyon and Mark McIntyre was first staged in Bendigo in 2015, where it opened the Ulumbarra Theatre. Since taking the role Josh has explored a family connection to the Kelly gang.
You are portraying Ned - do you believe he was a hero or a villain? And Why?
I think I would need a time machine to provide you with an honest answer. I think if someone were to ask him if he wanted to misrepresented in the Australian cultural tapestry forever or forgotten all together, he would take the former every time.
They say you only truly die when the last person on earth says your name. Misrepresentation rather than no representation is a kind of cursed immortality. His name will be sounded long after mine is forgotten.
So, a hero or a villain? I would say a legend; the rest is yours to construct. (On a side note: I do laugh a lot at some of the writers who pretend he didn't have a bad bone in his body, I reckon he would have chewed them up and spat them out if they had ever met him in his heyday).
I understand you have a family connection - can you explain it?
The McElroys are well known to have come out of Tyrone county in Ireland which is where the Kellys immigrated from. My ancestors, John and George McElroy, were both well-known and documented Kelly sympathisers who were both locked up in prison as a result. I think the fact that my family were actually tied up in the story I’m now telling is something pretty rare and amazing.
What do you like about this take on Ned's story?
I think the music adds another element to the legend that lifts the story into another realm. It adds a unique emotional layer to the story that I think is often lost. The music itself is very Irish, which I think really helps the audience be completely transported to that period in Australian history. Also, we’ve got a 15-piece orchestra, so I am pretty excited. The medium of movement and voice I think lends itself particularly well to the story because of the Irish community’s unique connection to song.
How big a challenge is it musically and dramatically?
It has been a while since I have been in a musical so the challenge for me is to slowly develop my voice back to 100% fitness. The songs are all larger than life and full of emotion so there are some big notes. However, I have full confidence that the incredible production team has prepared all of the cast members, including myself, to overcome all the challenges that come with such demanding and complex score.
Can you tell us a little about the team putting on the musical?
Each and every member of the production team is putting their whole hearts and souls into this production. Everyone is so damn passionate about creating incredible Australian theatre for Australian audiences. Each of them believes in the future of Australian musical theatre as a strong and booming industry and I’m so excited to be a part of a production backed by a team like this.
Book tickets here.