Think Tilda Swinton meets Vicki Krieps by way of a young Maggie Smith
A little known fact about me is that the first job I had out of school was a roadie. My first gig was The Doors Experience show on the Gold Coast, New Year's Eve 1994. After that, The Rolling Stones and the Big Day Out, among others.
After managing a punk band and assisting with underground club nights, I moved from backstage to on stage as an electronic music DJ. Not only did I DJ in Beijing for the Millenium, but I was also one of the first women to do so. My interests were in music and performance art until I saw a production of Salomé by avant garde Brisbane based repertory ensemble, Frank Theatre in 1997.
Never had I been so in awe of a performance in my life, nor seen actors more compelling, energised or powerful. As I watched them I said to myself: I want that. I found the director, Jacqui Carroll after the show and asked how her actors were so engaging? The answer: the Suzuki Method of Actor Training. I started training immediately. There was a lot of stomping.
I remained with the company for ten years, playing major roles in their repertory ensemble works such as Lady Macbeth, Juliet, Gertrude and Jocasta. Most of these roles were played internationally in numerous Asian and European festivals.
At fifteen I walked the Kokoda track in Papua New Guinea with my own pack 18 months after major spinal surgery. In 2014, I donated a kidney to my brother and have since become a passionate advocate for Donate Life Victoria. I may look like an English rose, but I have a warrior heart!
Photo: Sarah Walker. Concept: Rebecca Meston (2018)
'Pursey dominated the stage'
What Did She Think? (RIOT, Thomas Ian Doyle)
'Pursey has a stillness that unnerves but brings you in, making you sit forward wanting to know more.'
Stage Noise (Terminus, North of Eight)
'...a scintillating monologue by actor Emma Louise Pursey.'
The Plus Ones (Terminus, North of Eight)
'Actors Emma Louise Pursey, Scott Major and Sarah Clarke show mastery of their craft, drawing on deep empathy with their characters...captivating till the very last word.'
Stage Whispers (Terminus, North of Eight)
'Emma Louise Pursey as Belinda was a standout.'
Melbourne Observer (The Man of Mode, Chapel Off Chapel)
'In particular Emma Louise Pursey as Prospero resonated throughout the botanical gardens and commanded attention as regally as any queen.'
Australian Stage (The Tempest, Melbourne Shakespeare Company)
'Emma Louise Pursey leads as the sorcerer Prospero with a regal composure that appears otherworldly amongst the chaos around her...'
ShakespeareOz (The Tempest, Melbourne Shakespeare Company)
'Pursey has all the power and gravitas Prospero needs.'
What Did She Think? (The Tempest, Melbourne Shakespeare Company)
'Emma Louise Pursey as Candida Nervosa was a delightful nervous wreck throughout the play, delivering a memorable and unexpected rap sequence which had me in tears from laughter.'
Australian Stage (The Four Accordionists of the Apocalypse, La Mama)
'Emma Pursey impressed with her range and versatility, most notably delivering a deliciously terrifying wicked witch in Hansel and Gretel.'
Australian Stage (Grimm Tales, Queensland Theatre Company)
RealTime (The Greater Plague, Restaged Histories Project)
'Roxanne McDonald and Rhonda Purcell, Darren Brady, Simon Hapea, Jonathan Brand and Emma Pursey all excelled'
Stage Whispers (Ooodgeroo, La Boite Theatre Co.)
'Governor General Quentin Bryce said that Emma Pursey did a great job of playing Jessie Street, especially as an old woman'
Workers Bush Telegraph (Oodgeroo, La Boite Theatre Co.)
'Emma Pursey’s performance, as Jocasta, was exceptional.'
The Australian (Oedipus Rex, Frank Theatre)
'The method has generated extraordinarily memorable performances...Emma Pursey in her interpretation of Lady Macbeth.” RealTime (Macbeth, Frank Theatre)
‘Emma Pursey was physically and vocally impressive as the Medium.’ Brisbane News (Rashomon, Frank Theatre)
‘Emma Pursey is striking as the Medium who conveys his posthumous testimony.'
The Australian (Rashomon, Frank Theatre)
‘It actually hurts not to mention all the participants, but time may show that Emma Pursey as the Medium proves the longest lasting in memory.’ Time Off (Rashomon, Frank Theatre)
‘Emma Pursey cuts a dramatic presence as the gothic mistress before a glass cabinet of sound, mixing live from her potions on vinyl.’ RealTime (Fugu San, Lisa O'Neill)
The Brides of Frank Reviews
Independent Theatre Company (Performer / Co-Director):
'The Brides take vapid female stereotypes, inhabit them with precision, and proceed to explode them from within.'
Rave Magazine ('Til Death Do Us Part)
'The sheer inventiveness of each ridiculous scenario indicates the creativity of the minds at play here, and it is this humour and irony that makes the show much more than just a display of impeccable body control.' Rave Magazine ('Til Death Do Us Part)
'Loved to bits...Totally surreal...pure bliss for the open-minded'
Alison Coates, Online Stage Magazine ('Til Death Do Us Part)
'Part rock-eisteddfod, albeit a seriously drug-fucked one.'
Realtime Magazine ('Til Death Do Us Part)
'The cocktail you serve is a touch of snazzy party tricks, physical performing depth and original, intelligent direction. Layered and progressive work...world class.'
Scene Magazine ('Til Death Do Us Part)
'Dear Brides, If you can die from smiling too much, tonight I came close.' Rebecca Meston ('Til Death Do Us Part)
'Enthralling and shocking'
Brisbane Cabaret Festival (The Apartment)
‘Emma Louise Pursey is a world-class actor and performer.’
Dr Jo Loth, Head of Drama, The National Theatre
‘Emma has an energetic clarity as a performer rarely seen on Australian stages.’
Steven Mitchell Wright, Actor / Director, The Danger Ensemble
'Emma has a natural presence on stage that is both sensitive and powerful, with the capacity to create very evocative and emotional performances.’
Okubo Noriaki, Actor / Director / Former Suzuki Company of Toga (SCOT) Principal Actor
‘Emma’s acting is inventive, transformational and emotionally powerful. One of her most striking attributes is the physical mastery she brings to every role she plays – achieved with great economy and always impeccably executed. A joy to work with.’
Michael Futcher, Director, Queensland Theatre Company
'Great teacher and talented actor who I had the privilege of teaching at the Howard Fine Acting Studio Australia. Thank you, Emma, for trusting me because you ended up bringing more to that class than I had ever expected. You "got" me - and I "got" you! I'm serious, when I'm back I want to take some classes with you. So, all you younger, hungry actors need to check out what she offers! She's the real deal!!!'
Marilyn McIntyre, Actor / Acting Coach, Howard Fine Acting Studio LA
'Having had the joy of directing Emma, I can say with utmost sincerity that Emma brings expert skill to both the rehearsal room and the stage. The sheer discipline she brings to her craft is to be applauded, I never left a rehearsal with Emma feeling anything but inspired by her work ethic and commitment to her craft. As well as being an absolute joy to work with, Emma’s presence left the audience absolutely captivated night after night, and I would happily pay big bucks to watch Emma embody any role. A true professional with stunning presence…and a wicked sense of humour to boot.’
Shane Savage, Actor / Director / Howard Fine Acting Studio Australia
'I have had the opportunity to perform with Emma Louise Pursey and to observe her classes. In both roles she brings a unique combination of skill and creativity, and a relationship with time I have witnessed in only the most compelling performers. She possesses rare patience, stillness, openness, and groundedness. Emma is an extraordinary performative presence. Generous, inspiring, and captivating. She elevates the performance of all those around her.'
Stuart Grant, Performer / Senior Lecturer, Monash Centre for Theatre and Performance
‘Emma is fluent in numerous acting methodologies which, combined with her extensive Suzuki training, make her a formidable talent, a sought after mentor and a blessing to an ensemble cast. She is a transformational physical actor and voice artist. Her choices on the floor are organic, centered and controlled, informed and inspired. She communicates with ease and intentional clarity that delivers an astonishing attention to detail. Emma Pursey is a consummate professional whom I long to work with again in the future.’
Dirk Hoult, Actor / Director, Tilted Projects / Lecturer VCA
‘I’ve always been mesmerized how Emma's performances are suffused with the sort of presence that can be traced to an energized stillness. Whether she plays a charged Medium in Rashomon or a subdued reflective Joy Hester, Emma Pursey takes on-stage honesty to a new level. She broke my assumptions about what I thought an actor was to supposed to deliver; I never thought ordinariness could come at the audience with such charm and mystique. The turn of her head, the move of her hand were not ‘fill in’ gestures. These movements were integrated with speech and posture that kept her character charged with an emotionality that could be vulnerable and dense, light or foreboding. Emma’s performances are in no way reactive, but in every way responsive, transcending her daily persona. Her understated mastery is a combo of her innate gifts and her capacity to assimilate and sustain the training methods that channel the core of her being; readying herself for a diversity of character roles.
Peter Berkahn, Writer / Dramaturg