We caught up with Director of MTC’s Cock – Leticia Caceres
What can you tell us about MTC’s Cock?
Mike Bartlett wrote Cock while in Mexico where they still have ‘cock fights’. He became fascinated with how this blood sport could act as a metaphor for theatre: people gathering in an intimate space to watch creatures tear each other to pieces. Cock captures the spirit of THE cockfight, as three characters battle it out to stake their claim on each other’s hearts.
I’ve tried to honour this through the way we’ve staged this production. It’s very pared back, the actors work their guts out and go at each other with everything they’ve got and the language is used like weapons in this ferocious love triangle.
How did you cast Cock?
I started by casting the male characters first. I wanted to get this relationship right. Tom Conroy (playing John) had blown me away a couple of years back when he performed in Declan Green’s Moth; he was extraordinary. When he delivered his monologue in the audition, I recall being deeply moved by his take on the character of John. He brought something very authentic to the role, and a beautiful mix of sensuality and naiveté, the right touch of courage and fear. He had clearly approached the part with deep compassion. On top of that, he has a wonderful sense of humor and he is quite a looker, so he ticked all the boxes really! Everyone else was cast based on the kind of connection and chemistry they shared with Tom. They needed to not only act with truth, but make us believe that they could have a strong physical connection for each other.
Why led you to directing? Is there anything you wish you’d known or done to make the move from university into the industry easier?
I started directing because I was the actor that was always interrupting the director to ask questions: “why are we doing this? what are you trying to say? what does this mean?”. I drove everyone crazy, so in the end it was easier to direct my own work and answer my own questions.
I wish I’d started directing earlier at uni. I didn’t think about directing as a career option for myself until I was in third year. I wish QUT had of had a more dedicated directing course, I think this could have accelerated things. But I was encouraged by my directing teachers (Sean Mee and Mark Radvan, who were very supportive) and I found my way by making work, and this is really the most effective means of becoming a director.
How did you get your first job as a director?
Michael Gow gave me my first paid job as a director. He offered to be my Mentor soon after he took over QTC. I spent a year following Michael around and then he let me direct a couple of readings. He was very trusting.
Who are your greatest influences? Who do you still want to work with?
I spent six months in Argentina studying under one of the great directors of Latin America (Juan Carlos Gene who passed away two years ago). He was my master. He deeply influenced how I direct. He taught me how to talk to actors. I hear his voice all the time when I’m working. He is unquestionably my greatest influence.
I would love to work with Robyn Nevin.
How does directing for the stage differ to film/television directing?
The stage is much more about language and the body. This means we are asking of the audience to really listen and be much more active in using their imagination. This is why language is so important on the stage and why the body (gesture, shape, spatial relations) becomes so critical. The audience is reading interactions on stage and filling in the gaps, making up the story in their heads, imaging locations, time, mood etc . Theatre can’t afford to be prescriptive as film, its much more evocative and that’s what makes it such a unique art form.
How do you communicate your vision to designers and actors?
We have long conversations about the themes of the work and what we want to say through it. This becomes a very shared process where we all agree on what we all want to say, how we want the world to be reflected through this story on the stage. Sometimes, what translates is a very emotional landscape, that’s abstract and distilled (as is the case with Cock) sometimes, it’s about functionality (we might need a literal representation of a space).
What do you look for in a text to help fuel your vision? How much do current events and your own experiences influence a piece?
I ask three things of a text – Is it entertaining? Is it political? Does it have heart?
What have you learned from previous productions about working with actors?
Semantics is everything.
What do you expect from your actors?
A sense of humour, patience, generosity and a physical precision. I can’t stand it when actors are not in their bodies.
How much do you “direct” your actors and how much do you let them “play”?
It’s always a combination of both. I try to let them play as much as possible. It’s no use if an actor can’t find a moment organically; if you tell them what to do and how to do it, it always looks and feels contrived. What I do is give specific actions to play “attack, distract, seduce, antagonize, vilify”. If you are specific about the intention and the action, then all else is up for grabs.
Can you tell us about RealTV?
We are still very much in operation! We’ve been making work for over a decade together, and we have lots of exciting projects on the boil. We are currently under commission from Belvoir St, working on a play about drugs and globalization. Angela Betzien is really pushing her writing into really extraordinary territory. She’s one of the fiercest playwrights in the country.
Do you prefer to work on classic or contemporary texts?
What are your thoughts on new Australian plays and our upcoming writers and directors? What do our writers need to be writing? What roles/stories do you want to see and direct?
There is some phenomenal new writing at the moment. I’m excited by the way Australian writers are tackling big ideas and contemporary concerns. Savages by Patricia Cornelius which was recently staged in Melbourne and is sweeping all the major awards in Victoria at the moment is an extraordinary piece of writing inspired by the murder of Dianne Brimble on the P&O a couple of years back. She wrote the whole thing in imperfect prose, the actors (five males) morphed in and out of blokes and dogs, and the whole thing was both funny and intensely uncomfortable. It was a fascinating investigation of the male psyche and misogyny in contemporary Australia. I’m still affected by this production, almost a year on. This is exactly the kind of work I crave to see on the stage.
What’s your view of Australian theatre right now?
There is so much great work being made at the moment. I can list a bunch of companies from around the country and artists whose work I wouldn’t miss for the world. Great writing, bold visions, wonderful acting, stunning design.
What are top tips for aspiring theatre directors?
Make work you want to see and don’t worry about anything/anyone else. Build a strong creative team who all share a language. See as much theatre as you can. And direct like a motherfucker. What that means is up to you.
MTC’s Cock continues at La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre until April 12 2014. If you can still get a ticket it will be here.