Unlike some actors who live in the spotlight, Darwin-born Anna Lise Phillips is a private person. “I don’t even like it when I go into a shop and the shop attendant asks me about my day,” she says. “I feel like saying ‘it’s none of your business. Why would I tell you about my day? I don’t even know you.’ So the idea that my computer is watching me 24/7 and my phone is listening to me, and there are people out there with access to private details about my life – it’s a bit terrifying.”
British playwright Mike Bartlett’s Wild deals, in part, with questions of privacy and the rapid growth of surveillance. It takes place in a Moscow hotel where a man is hiding after whistleblowing on the US government and its mass surveillance of citizens.
Phillips plays a mysterious woman – called simply ‘Woman’ – who arrives and tells the man she’s from Wikileaks. Phillips says she was captivated by the play’s wit from the first page but is reluctant to reveal the twists and turns of the play.
“It’s kind of like Black Mirror on stage, except at the end you don’t want to slit your wrists,” she says. “Hopefully you don’t have that feeling where you think ‘oh god, the world’s an evil place.’”
Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of Wild marks Phillips’ first play in five years; she’s been based in LA for the last six, working across film and TV. But although she’s known for roles in Animal Kingdom and Devil’s Playground, Phillips actually got her start in theatre.
“Entering into the film and television world in my early twenties was exciting because it wasn’t a world that I knew of before that time,” she says. “I grew up in Darwin and we weren’t making any content apart from news. But I’m a massive fan of writers, and the great thing about theatre is that the writer always comes first.”
Wild is directed by Dean Bryant and also stars Nicholas Denton and Toby Schmitz. It plays at MTC's Southbank Theatre from May 5 to June 9.