We asked Director of La Boite & Brisbane Festival’s A Doll’s House, Steven Mitchell Wright, to drop everything and tell us about the show and his process and he did! Hooray! You HAVE booked now, haven’t you?
Steven, why do we need to keep revisiting A Doll’s House?
We don’t need to but the work is rich. It’s deeply relevant still. The work has undeniable feminist readings. I believe (despite recent social media phenomena) that we are in a world that still requires an argument for feminism and equality. Nora’s position within this work is not just about an individual but also an entire culture.
For me, it’s also a story about individual happiness, and about the sacrifices we make for other peoples happiness and the cost of our own. Particularly in Love and the ways that in relationships we can love someone so much that we lose ourselves or when we spend so much energy on making sure our Love is ok that we forget to make sure our lover is. I’m not sure that will ever fall out of a place of relevance.
What’s different about this production?
Well, Lally made it a bit of a musical. Well, not a musical, a show with songs. For me, the inclusion of songs shifts the form in a really challenging way. I abhor domesticity in theatre and I don’t really believe in realism so that makes this production different to the way it is often perceived and presented in the majority of the works theatrical history. That said, Mabou Mines and Pan Pan have both presented very experimental versions of A Doll’s House in Brisbane in the last decade or so and our version is in no way that irreverent… but it is also not a domestic sitting room drama, we are playing with time and space in a different way.
What was your first experience with the play?
I believe I read it when I was at university but I have little to no recollection of having any feelings about it. I saw Mabou Mines production at Brisbane Festival many years ago but really my first deep engagement with it was reading it last year when we were in early discussions about programming the work for La Boite.
Can you relate to any of the characters?
I relate to all of them, I think that’s one of the greatest things about the work and one of the reasons the work has endured time.
What do you think made Lally Katz the ideal writer for this gig?
Well, I don’t think there is such a thing as an ideal artist, the creatives on the work make them what they are. Had it been a different writer it would have been a different show entirely. What I think is great about Lally though is her rhythms, her sense of poetry and the idiosyncrasies she writes with, it marries with my philosophies. I don’t like watching theatre that asks us to forget that the actors are acting. I like theatre that is undeniably theatrical and Lally’s writing is great at keeping the theatrical bouyant and the poetic in her work is unexpected. I’ve been an admirer of her work for a long time so it’s an honour to be working with her.
What do you think would happen in the sequel? What does Nora do next?
I think the power in A Doll’s House comes from the potential and possibility at the end, I would never speculate as to what becomes of Nora, I think that could kill and crush A Doll’s House.
Which directors do you admire and why?
I feel like I’ve answered this question for XS Entertainment before, and I’m scared that my answers haven’t changed. Jan Fabre, Robert Wilson, Simon McBurney, Robert Lepage, Tadashi Suzuki, Barry Kosky, Anne Bogart, Tim Etchells – I admire them all for different reason – largely they give me something to aspire to.
Locally, Daniel Evans‘ work constantly inspires and challenges me. I’m really interested in the work of The Rabble and The Hayloft Project but I haven’t seen enough of their work.
What made you start directing and keep directing?
I think I started creating first, I wanted to be a maker largely because I wasn’t seeing much work that excited me and I wanted to perform in work that excited me and audiences. So I started making work and directing them so I could perform in them. As my work matured and I was able begin to articulate my process more, I found performing and directing became too complicated and was doing a disservice to the work and the other actors. I’m not sure why I kept directing, it’s in my blood I think. I don’t have much of a choice about it.
Describe your creative process and the rehearsal process for a production such as this.
I don’t know that I’m the best person to describe this – my process on this show was an evolution of some ideas I’ve been playing with in different processes over the last few years. This process has been very different for me as it’s the first time in years that I’ve been on the floor with a completed script at the beginning of rehearsals so I’ve had to reassess and relearn some processes.
I asked the actors to give me a line each to answer this question.
Hugh Parker said, “an intense physical work out that forced me to examine where I was skipping in my own process”.
Helen Christinson said, “an incredibly free process that was supported by foundations that encouraged creativity, specificity and nuance.”
Chris Beckey said, “it was a process that afforded me the opportunity to explore the minutiae of the text and it’s physicality, a luxury that few processes afford an actor”
Cienda McNamara said, “working for specificity and when you think you are being specific, you need to go specifikerer”.
Damien Cassidy said, “a rigorous commitment to placing the mundane and the default and the familiar with a precise yet fractured quiet virtuosity”.
What’s the significance for you of the inclusion of A Doll’s House in the Brisbane Festival program?
It’s lovely to be programmed as a part of the festival. To be programmed along works of national and international significance. It gives local artists the opportunity to be involved in the international conversation, to contribute to our greater ecology.
What’s next for you?
I am directing a work as a part of Awkward Conversation curated and artistic directed by Daniel Evans at Metro Arts. The piece I’m directing is currently embargoed so I can’t spill that but it’ll be announced shortly and I’m really excited and terrified by it. After that it’s basically next year and The Danger Ensemble (the independent company I Artistic Direct) are going into development for a large new work for 2016 and you may see some of our existing works getting a redevelopment and another presentation.
I’m also looking to get back on stage next year as a performer and some conversations around that have also begun.