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David Aston: From The Matrix to the PumpHouse

Flagstaff Team

Learning lines and finding the character are the biggest challenges faced by Milford actor David Aston, and both are put to the test in Heroes, currently showing at the PumpHouse. The comedy centres on a trio of World War I veterans, each damaged in different ways, who sit on a terrace, outside a French home for returned soldiers, plotting how they will break out of the institution. Will it ever happen? The men are not physically capable of it. “ That’s the play,” Aston says in the perfectly enunciated tones of a professional actor.

Heroes was originally called Le Vent des Peupliers – The Wind in the Poplars – but, when playwright Tom Stoppard translated the play, written by Gérald Silbleyras, it was decided it sounded too much like The Wind in the Willows, so the name was changed, Aston says. “That’s a shame, because it’s all about those poplars… ‘Somewhere over the poplars’. “The suggestion is that once you get over the ‘rainbow’, you will be happy, but will you? There’s nothing there. There are more hills and more valleys – it’s a fantasy,” Aston explains. Aston and his wife, Moira, moved to their stylish 1960s apartment about four years ago, downsizing after their four sons had left home. Over the years, Aston, who started his career at Theatre Corporate under Raymond Hawthorne, has since subsidised stage acting with waiting on tables, teaching English as a foreign language, voice-overs, and advertising. Aston is arguably best known in Australia as the face of Macquarie Bank. Over 10 years, he made around 15 advertisements for the bank, which, in acting terms, was a well-paid gig. His film-acting has included a speaking role in The Matrix, which was filmed in Australia. Actors there are unionised, so the odd cheque, albeit modest, still rolls in, he says.

Now, at 65, Aston hasn’t taught for eight years and, when not involved in Heroes, he is putting his energy into a company, set up in 2017 with acting friend Paul Gittens, called Plumb Theatre. Their goal is to provide intimate, emotionally charged theatre that makes the audience think. Ultimately, they would like to find a permanent venue. “We are committed to carrying on and finding a venue. We are starting from nothing.” With Aston’s combination of skill and passion, their dreams surely will come true. • Heroes, produced by Tadpole Theatre, is at the PumpHouse until 17 November.

This article originally appeared in the November 8 edition of the Rangitoto Observer.