I was very fortunate to lead Razorhurst True Crime Walking Tours in King Cross for a while, having plenty of time to understand Jim Devine’s story before starting rehearsals. Knowing that Jim was originally a Sapper that went AWOL, then met a mid-teen Matilda Twiss (soon to be Tilly Devine) in London and convinced her to come to Australia to help tend to his “Kangaroo Farm”, it was pretty clear where he was placed on the spectrum of morality.
He would control drug addled prostitutes with cocaine, paying their wages in the “snow” to keep them hooked. He and Tilly would have parties (shavoos) early into the morning, then massive fights involving weapons, shooting each other on multiple occasions. Jim would get heavily intoxicated, blow all his money on the punt, then stand over and bash Tilly for more money. On one occasion, he separated Tilly’s jaw from her face with a long neck bottle. She still gave him money and didn’t report the assault. He certainly was a piece of work.
So, I just program that character into my psyche. I’ve played many different people of history, including Lt Peter Handcock, serial killer Lennie Lawson, Defense Attorney Hugh Lusk and career criminal Kevin Simmons to name a few. Building a character is one thing, craft another, yet there is also something to be said for letting all the work go and just being an open channel for the spirit and energy of the individual to enter, as if I’m a radio antenna tuning into their frequency. That’s where the magic happens.
Letting go of them once the job is done is equally important.