Rob MacLeod at the Potato Shed. (Ivan Kemp) 250403_01

Thespian of half a century and Potato Shed manager Rob MacLeod shares his love of theatre with Luke Voogt.

Tell us about you…

I live in Clifton Springs and I’m 60-years-old. I was brought up on a Batesford hobby farm with sheep, chickens, a donkey, many cats and dogs and about two dozen fruit trees. I spent weekends playing at the local tennis association, attending church and exploring fox holes in the Moorabool viaduct. I attended Geelong College from prep to year 12.

When I turned 17, I successfully auditioned for the National Institute of Dramatic Art, so I packed up and left the quiet farm and moved to wild and wacky Sydney.

How did you get into acting?

One of my earliest theatre memories, besides nativity plays at Batesford public hall, is visiting Lamplight Theatre in Moorabool Street and, later, the Gay Nighties Theatre in Pakington Street in the early ’70s. I was in awe of these two guys who created theatre, stories, songs and costumes for a small audience in a small space. I realised that was what I wanted to do, and that is what I have attempted to do for the next 50 years or so. A range of different jobs followed: I was stores clerk for NSW Premier Neville Wran and assistant front of house manager at the Capital Theatre.

I was a cook in a Jesuit training college, catering manager at Impressions Nightclub and the owner of Strand Chocolates and Insomniacs café in Carlton. A series of nightclub events and producing independent theatre took up most of the ’80s.

Returning to study arts at Ballarat University led to the formation of Storybook Theatre – a company presenting family entertainment around Victoria for much of the ’90s with hundreds of performances. A short stint on Neighbours as Bob the Butcher, and Dead Dog Man on The Bob Morrison Show reinforced my love of theatre acting over television.

How did you become involved in the Potato Shed?

I was in Ballarat running Grainery Lane Theatre and Gallery and my mother called and said, “they’re building a theatre in Drysdale, you should move down here and run it.” I moved back to Geelong and in 2002 I saw a job advertised at the Potato Shed, so I drove out to Drysdale and had a look around one morning at 6am. I instantly fell in love with the place, peering in the windows looking at the empty foyer – it was just as the sun came up over the hill. I was interviewed a few weeks later and have been working here ever since. Every memory of the venue is a great one, every performance is special and different, and it’s a joy to program and present arts to the community!

What are your favourite things to do locally?

The sense of community is what I love about regional Victoria and Geelong has the added bonus of the bay and the You Yangs. The Bellarine Peninsula has a certain serenity about it, even suburban Clifton Springs has a rural feel, with wildlife and quiet times valued daily. I love Geelong’s cafes.

How are you coping with COVID-19?

Having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, I’ve been mostly housebound since March 14, 2020. We have postponed, cancelled and refunded so many productions, and local dance and drama schools, arts practitioners and community groups that have suffered over the past 18 months may never recover. But I feel confident that we will come out of this OK – I know the Potato Shed will – when we were permitted to open people flocked back!

What’s something about you that people might not know?

I love my doof doof – electronic dance music – there’s nothing better than going to a huge party with 20,000 like-minded people all tuning in with a DJ. It’s like being part of a huge mediation. The last big party I went too was Transmission – Awakening in Sydney in February 2020 and I hope to be there in March 2022!