Peter Rowsthorn. Picture: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

Peter Rowsthorn is relishing the prospect of some company on stage when he steps out with the Black Swan State Theatre Company this weekend. Rowsthorn is celebrating 30 years in the entertainment industry this year but has stood alone under the spotlight as a comedian or corporate MC for most of that time.

Making his first appearance with Black Swan, the veteran comedian is relishing rehearsals with the cast of the classic Oscar Wilde comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest.

"I love that repartee you get with a company that doesn't happen in the bulk of my performing life," says the Melbourne-raised star, who now calls Perth home.

"I do love stand-up but while I'm there I can't look to anyone else and say 'Why didn't that joke work?'

"When I get a chance to work with other people I generally jump at it because it is like an indulgence.

"All the responsibility is redistributed around among other people and I get to watch actors who work full-time at being actors and see them develop the play through a rehearsal period.

"Everyone is very happy to be there and very thankful to have the work and they work very diligently on getting it right.

"It doesn't matter where you are - in Melbourne or Sydney or Perth - that is generally the rule of thumb in the theatre. You don't get many shots at it as an actor unless you are extremely lucky.

"That's why I never would have survived in the industry had it not been for stand-up comedy, which keeps me financed."

Best known as the long-suffering Brett in Kath & Kim, Rowsthorn plays Dr Chasuble, an old lecher beneath the righteous Victorian exterior satirised in Wilde's play.

"I'm having a really good time," he says. "I haven't done any proper theatre for about 10 years. I've pretty much been in TV land the whole time.

"The last time I was with (Black Swan director) Kate Cherry was the last time I worked in a proper theatre show."

That was in 2002 when Cherry was with the Melbourne Theatre Company and directing Rowsthorn with Garry McDonald in Neil Simon's Laughter on the 23rd Floor.

"I was a massive Norman Gunston fan," he says of McDonald. "He was one of my inspirations to even begin comedy so I was very taken aback to be in that cast and I absolutely loved it."

While his stage acting CV is short, it is far from threadbare with roles in The Tempest for the MTC, Certified Male and The New Rocky Horror Show.

Rowsthorn is happy to say that his work on the east coast hasn't slowed down since he moved to Perth more than two years ago with his four children and wife, who grew up in Byford.

He will be seen this year in the ABC series It's a Date, a comedy created by Peter Hellier and co-starring Ross Noble, Kate Ritchie, John Wood, Ian Smith, Sybilla Budd and Shane Jacobson.

Nearly 120 years after its London premiere, The Importance of Being Earnest is still one of the wittiest plays in the English language. Wilde's comedy of manners spins around the confusion that ensues when best friends Algernon and Jack, unbeknown to one another, adopt different identities in London and the countryside.

The cast is something of a family affair, with Perth theatre stalwart Jenny Davis playing Lady Bracknell opposite her daughter Rebecca Davis and son-in-law Stuart Halusz.

"The script is pretty solid," Rowsthorn says with dry understatement. "My only reservation was (the risk of) seven people putting on English accents and flopping about the stage but there is some really nice character definition and it has a beautiful variation of styles and everyone has had a good close look at it. When something is so well-written, it falls into place extremely quickly."

He has been enjoying the mouth-feel of the accented language. "My character's favourite line is 'Dear Mr Worthing, I trust this garb of woe does not betoken some terrible calamity'.

"There are so many words coming out of his mouth that it just feels nice. It just feels good."

The Importance of Being Earnest is at the Heath Ledger Theatre from March 9-28.

The West Australian

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