Posts Tagged ‘Director

31
Jan
13

Strange Attractor – Sam Coward

Strange Attractor

Strange Attractor

A Chat with Sam Coward

 

It’s hard to catch my husband for more than 2 minutes at a time so we’re lucky we got this much out of him.

This weekend is your last chance to see Sam in what he says will be his final role on stage for a while. And he’s good. And I’m his biggest critic. You should see this production, it’s good; it’s Simon Denver’s staging of Sue Smith’s bold Australian play about a Pilbara community rocked by the unexpected death of their mate, Gus, played by Sam.

 

Tell us about Gus

Gus has a fairly fast decline from being enthusiastic and somewhat superficial about his role as the safety officer. He’s got an IQ of 133. And then all of a sudden we see his decline; he’s obviously been in the job too long and he sees the de-civilisation in the camp that brings him to breaking point. He resorts to drugs and alcohol, which leads him to doing something stupid. Perhaps if he weren’t depressed he wouldn’t have taken the risk, which ultimately led to his death. Did the drugs and alcohol make the risk possible?

 

How much has the environment contributed to the death of Gus?

Gus is a good man. You see him trying to fit in and he’s an Alpha but it’s not about intellect in that environment. It’s as superficial as “might has right” and it’s a Neolithic hierarchy. Placed in those extreme environmental conditions, combined with a lawless and loveless mental condition, basic instincts govern.

 

Are there any answers by the end of the play?

By the end we learn that relationships are all that matter but people are still going to be attracted to the bright lights and the promise of money. They’ll put themselves into shit conditions to make a lot of money fast. The resource boom FIFO jobs are traps. They sound like they’re a good thing for the family, they’re sold attractively but these jobs are just cheese in the trap. The alcohol, the drugs…

There must be people who find the lifestyle attractive. It’s empty, shallow, and it’s easy until you stop and think about it. It’s purely about the wants. There’s no love, there are just connections.

 

What’s it like to play a dead guy?

It’s funny. Because you’re one of the guys but you’re not performing as one of the guys. They’re all talking about me but I’m not there talking with them. I have a different relationship with them.

 

Tell us about working with SRT

The company is cavalier, crazy and raw. Whether the success of their shows is by accident or design we’ll never know. Simon says the success of a show is 99% casting and he’s right; that’s what we see him do.

There’s a high degree of trust in the SRT process, where actors in the fold are trusted and it’s more a baptism of fire for the newbies. Weaknesses are exposed, ridiculed, and laughed about until they’re not weaknesses anymore. It’s survival of the fittest. You can either work the way we work or you can’t. There’s no management and no handholding. Everybody knows what he or she is doing and they expect you to do the same. When you join SRT for a production it’s sink or swim.

 

So describe the rehearsal process…

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh. You mean Bump In and Tech? That’s it. No, really, that’s it.

 

Is this an important play?

Yes, it’s very relevant; it takes an up close look at the impact of the FIFO phenomenon on Australian families. There’s so much perpetuated about the mining culture and this is a glimpse at the truth.

 

What’s this about a Boys’ Shed at Noosa Arts Theatre?

The Mens’ Sheds comprise men over 60 who hang out and build stuff. The proposal is to start up a boys’ arm of the Mens’ Shed to provide role models for the sons of FIFO fathers, as well as opportunities to learn and apply new practical skills. It’s an old school idea for a new generation of Lost Boys.

 

What about a Girls Shed?

Well, they’re everywhere…salons, stores, and coffee shops.

 

Righto… What’s next? The Pirate Show is ongoing, at least until the 22nd. What do you have on after that?

Soiree_2013The Pirate Show is the first theatre restaurant concept the Sunshine Coast has seen for years so we hope to bring you a return season later in the year. We have some other concepts up our puffy pirate shirt sleeves too. Next Saturday 9th February the Sunshine Coast Theatre Alliance presents their annual Soiree, a night of fun and great food, and the season launches from our Alliance theatre members. Check out livetheatre.com.au for details on how to book and how to get involved at your local community theatre.

 

Following that, I’m involved behine-the-scenes with Noosa Arts Theatre’s West Side Story, directed by Synda Turnbull, and I’m directing opening and closing pieces for the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival and Floating Land. And you know XS has a heap of other projects, which we’ll reveal details about later in the year.

 

Book online for Strange Attractor

 

Book online for the Sunshine Coast Theatre Alliance Soiree

 

Find audition info for the Noosa Arts National One-Act Playwriting Competition and West Side Story here

 

 

 

18
Nov
12

Steven Mitchell Wright: Children of War

Children of War

On Friday night at La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre in Kelvin Grove, an epic theatrical event took place.

 

The Danger Ensemble’s production – La Boite’s final indie installment of the year – Children of War opened.

 

We asked Director, Steven Mitchell Wright, a few things about theatre, life and art…

The world is no longer safe from art

 

Can you tell us about your new production, the epic mythical mash-up, Children of War

The work is a part of a larger play cycle that Chris Beckey and I have been collaborating on since late 2009, We have been drawing on different sections of The Illiad and The Orestia across 3 different projects, In God We Trust, i war and Children of War. This particular section of the story investigates the lesser known characters on both sides of the Trojan War. To say that seems almost a blaspheme, that is to say that, that is certainly where we started, but the life of the work has developed it’s own voice, Chris Beckey has shaped the work in a way that sits in a timeless space, the innate history and passion embedded in the myth collides headlong with the brevity and energy of today.  
 
The work is huge, it’s completely unashamedly epic. It has to be. In a lot of ways it is a departure from the kind of work people expect of me as a director and expect of us as a company but we never promised anything, we allow works to find their own voice and that voice dictates the form and style of the work.

What inspires you to imagine such stories and variations on stories? 
 
As a company, we pursue relevance and excitement, I think the fundamental question of why? why this story? why now? why these actors? why this space? why bother? It’s those questions that drive the variation on the stories we explore, it’s about aggressively pursuing the now and the why.
 
Your dreams must be in vivid colour! What’s your process and approach as a director once you’ve seen the possibilities of an idea? Can you describe your directing style?
My directing style is probably best described as a combination of giving the actors and creatives a lot of freedom to discover their voice and reasons for doing the work and then a demanding exactitude for detail and clarity of choice after that exploration has completed. On the floor I am, quite extreme, I find myself going from very quiet and internal to extremely animated. When the energy in the room is working I often find myself pacing or swaying.
 
Children of War
Do you bring the actors or the creative team in first? 
 
Actors, I always begin with actors in the space. Whenever possible. It goes back to that pursuit of relevance. I think the voice of the work has to be found through the actors before it is shared with anyone else. I look for the heart of a work through the actors choices and instinct.

You are up to some more incredible things next year, which we are not allowed to talk about yet! What can you tell us about, in terms of upcoming projects/ambitions/ideas?
 
Ha! I can’t say a lot about next year, except to expect two new works from us. Both very different to each other and again different from what we have produced this year. In writing this, I realise just how different the works are, one is very much about reality and real-real life and the other explores more fantastical and escapist ideas.
Do you think it’s a responsibility of the artists to experiment in form, content and delivery? Do you think this is happening enough (in Brisbane, in Australia), and what is it that helps to grow audiences (in Brisbane, in Australia)?
 
I think it’s a responsibility of artists to continue to build our culture, to broaden our understanding of ourselves and the world we live in, I also think it’s our responsibility to respect audiences enough to challenge them somewhat. To assume that an audience is not ready for experimentation is simply patronising. I think all work is in a way an experiment, there is a hypothesis entering and sometimes a conclusion drawn at the end of it all. I don’t believe all artists need to be overtly experimental, they need to service their work and they need to speak to an audience.
 
How do you wind down after a show (each night and at close of season)?
 
Often very briefly, this year has been insane and by the end of the season we are usually already in rehearsals for something else. I’m actually fairly terrible at taking down time but I’ve been working on it, I’ve been spending more time with friends, music and vodka. I struggle to wind down because I find the energy of a work has a roll on effect for me, I am motivated by it and it drives me into the next thing. I am aware that this isn’t sustainable long term though, so I’m aiming to catch up on cinema, television, books, music and lovers over Christmas.
Children of War
 
What are you reading?
 
The Bible, actually…
 
What’s on your playlist a) in the rehearsal room b) in the car c) in the kitchen at home?
 
Godspeed! You Black Emperor is a staple to my life. Children of War has forced me to listen to a lot more Ke$ha and T-swizzle (Taylor Swift) than ever before.
 
For my enjoyment I’ve been listen to Fleetwood Mac (I got kind of obsessed with them during Loco Maricon Amor), Mirah (recently introduced to me), Amanda Palmer’s Theater is Evil album (which is a nice departure from her other stuff, has a depeche mode kinda vibe) and The XX’s new album (which I don’t love, it feels like a sequel to the previous album…)
Children of War
 
Who would you most like to work with one day and why?
I would love to collaborate with a lot of musicians, A Silver Mt Zion and The Faint spring to mind – I’d love to make a musical with them. I’d love to collaborate with The Blondes on a show. I would LOVE to work with Pamela Rabe and Paul Capsis. Jan Fabre. Michel Gondry. Lars Von Trier. The list could go on.

What strengths have this current group of performers brought to the production? 
 
The actors are amazing. They are actually just incredible. I am not going to say much more. Come see it.
Children of War
 
Do you seek out specific feedback from those whose opinion matters to you? Throughout the process? How does that help or hinder the process?
 
It depends on the process, sometimes, with this project I did. Sometimes, I don’t feel ready for people to see the work until we are in the theatre and with all the elements in place. Often when devising and presenting from a devised space without a scripting process, I don’t bring people in.. when working with a script I feel more comfortable bring people in to give feedback. It’s about energy, it’s also about where the actors are at. 
With what will Children of War leave us? Are there lessons for us?
 
I don’t believe in telling anyone what they SHOULD leave a work with, I know what I see and find in the work, and I know how I’ve shaped the work and I know what the heart of the work is at – I don’t really believe that my role within theatre is to teach the audience anything. There is a lot in the work and I suspect different people will find different things. If people are engaged, if people are moved then I have done my job.
 
An incredible opportunity exists for performers, writers, directors and teachers to take part in an upcoming workshop with The Danger Ensemble’s Artistic Associate and the writer of Children of War, Chris Beckey, who will lead participants in consideration and exploration of topics relating to his work as a writer with The Danger Ensemble and Vanguard Youth Theatre. Be quick and book or miss out!
COST: $50 (Full) $20 (Concession) or $10 for patrons who have already purchased a ticket for Children of War (14 Nov – 1 Dec)
LOCATION: Theatre Rehearsal Room, Judith Wright Centre Level 3 
DATE/TIME: Tuesday, 27th November from 4pm – 6pm
18
Apr
11

INFLUENCE: AN UPDATE

Interview with the director: Sam Coward

Sunday 17th April 

Influence opened in Noosa on Friday night. You’ve had 3 sold-out performances to start the season. How do you feel? 

Very satisfied, especially considering where the show is at, where ticket sales are at and the level at which the public and critical responses have been. We’re in a good place!

Were there any obstacles or hiccups to overcome to get to this stage? 

It’s been a relatively painless process. Illness at the eleventh hour made me a little nervous but generally speaking, with the level of competence in my cast and the level of wisdom in Williamson’s words, it all went pretty smoothly.

Opening Night highlights?

It was the first time in a long time that I’ve been able to sit in the bio box and see the audience’s immediate reactions and feel the buzz – it was electrifying and very satisfying.

So what’s your role during the run?

Because I’m a control freak and because, for the technical accuracy of this show, a degree of intimacy with the script was required, I decided I wanted to manually operate the lights for Influence.

When did you stop giving notes?

 Today. Today the show reached a level that I felt couldn’t be enhanced or improved upon. This is not to say that I won’t be giving any further notes during the run, this just means I’m giving no more notes, at this stage, until further notice.

What’s your favourite thing about this show?

I would have to say that’s it’s probably that the end result is so close to the vision I had from the outset. This production has stayed true to the original picture and it’s exciting to see that a) we’ve been able to do that and b) other people like it too.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

I would have put somebody else in the box early enough to learn the cues.

I really think the time invested in character early on is shining through now. We used the time we had very well. The performances are genuine. 

I’ve felt very confident, almost relaxed, which is really rare. Usually tech week is all horror but it was seamless. It’s been a relatively easy ride. I feel like I just had to sell the vision and then discuss characters with the cast, design…in fact, the biggest part of my job was at the front end. 

The playwright, David Williamson, is attending on the final night, a special gala evening to celebrate his 40 years’ involvement at Noosa Arts Theatre on April 30th. How do you feel about him seeing the show?

I’m very excited about that actually, because from our first discussions with him, he was intrigued as to how we were going to do this. Even Michael Futcher acknowledged that he’s not heard of anyone trying to do a Williamson in this way. I’m interested to get David’s reaction and I hope we can do his 40 Year Celebration justice. I’m quietly confident that we will. The way in which we are staging Influence is truly honouring the text and trusting that Australia’s greatest playwright is acknowledged as such for a reason. I don’t have to hide anything or do anything with smoke and mirrors because it’s enough on its own. And while I’m arrogant, I’m not arrogant enough to think there’s anything I can do with it that will improve on what’s already there. So with a text and a cast of this caliber how could I go wrong?

What’s next for you?

Hmmm. It’s a mystery.

David Williamson’s Influence continues at Noosa Arts Theatre until April 30th. To enquire about any remaining tickets, please call the box office (07) 5449 9343

24
Dec
10

Uncle Vanya

I’ve been catching up on the the last couple of episodes of Rake and whilst watching Richard Roxburgh, it occurred to me that I really should tell you how wonderful it was to see him on stage as Uncle Vanya, for STC, last week. Interestingly, my mum (and others) didn’t agree; she took issue with (Director) Tamas Ascher‘s whole vaudeville-esque approach and is of the opinion that something (or someone) akin to Roxburgh’s Rake character, Cleaver Greene, would make a more likable fellow in the title role in Chekhov’s classic play. To me, Roxburgh played a Vanya on the verge (some would say broken already) and shared with us the full gamut of human emotion, winning our sympathy early…well, clearly, not my mother’s sympathy! But that’s ok! Because this is Theatre! This is Art! And we are each entitled to our own opinions!

Interesting to read, as I do, some other opinions. Let’s look at them later, shall we? The overall impression I got from this production was that it was reinterpreted and staged to entertain, rather than to educate, a new Chekhov audience. This was, I think, Chekhov’s original intent (the humour is very much embedded in the text) and has been forgotten by various companies (and universities) over the decades, who have given us the impression that the classics should be highly regarded, carefully considered and deeply felt, rather than recognised, appreciated and enjoyed. I was so glad to see (IMHO) STC treat it as a gift to be enjoyed.

My opinion about Cate Blanchett hasn’t changed. I admire and adore her. She is surely one of the most consummate actors of our time (this, when Judi Dench has been named best stage actor of all time). Her beauty is incandescent, her voice is sublime and her collective skills – employed seemingly effortlessly – to portray even the slightest hint of emotion, both on stage and on screen, cannot be contested. As Yelena, Ms Blanchett was beguiling and SO beautifully bored. In fact, I have decided that it is my ambition to be that beguiling AND that beautifully bored one day. Also, I would like, one day, to casually and seemingly effortlessly fall backwards through an open doorway without causing any injury or humiliation to myself or to anybody else whatsoever. Just saying.

It was a treat to see John Bell as the Professor, Jacki Weaver as Nanny and Anthony Phelan as Telegin. In fact, Mr Phelan reminded me of a delightful, gentle friend, with whom I used to work, so tender and amusing was he. It was a disappointment to me that Hayley McElhinney, with her long list of credits, including the honour of being one of the 12 contracted to The Actors Company, completely lost the depths and layers and contours of the final monologue, which I have always loved as it is written and loathed as it is delivered, in that classically-trained, dark and dismal, typically university-interpreted Checkhov voice; empty of the hope that underlies the acceptance of the working poor that life does indeed go on and thus, work must also, quite simply GO ON. There was the hard determination in her voice but none of the subtle, gentle joy and love and light simultaneously, which I have always felt needed by the end of Chekhov, in order to let us leave the theatre looking forward to the next day rather than dreading it. And I wanted her to have loved and lost and retained something. I’m thinking of Pippin’s Grand Finale. Not because I think every show should finish with flash pots and glorious death but with the hope that there are still the simple joys to be found in every day, if only we look for them, even in the face of despair. And after her tumultuous journey, I expected more…contrast.

To put Cate Blanchett on stage with Hugo Weaving was pretty much a stroke of genius. For me, the relationship between them MADE this production. What I want to see in any production is the connection between the characters and for each, a clear journey. The connection between Blanchett and Weaving was pure magic. Each had a journey of epic proportions, made up of the most minute detail. To join them for 4 acts meant a masterclass for actors, for the cost of a coveted ticket.

The tickets were booked a year in advance, as part of an annual sojourn to Sydney “to see Cate”, which, each year, involves my mum, my sister, various friends from editing and publishing as well as a bunch of other friends, who are now known in literary circles at least, as The Family Law.

We did not get (we did not try to get) anywhere near Oprah while we were there but we did spend hours wandering through Annie Leibovitz‘s life, at the MCA, which was inspiring and incredibly moving. In a room holding a series of photographs of her dying father and another series of her dying long-time partner, Susan Sontag, I was moved to tears and unable to look away…

This Vanya failed to stir in me the same emotions. Despite this, I loved it. For me, that is great theatre. For Jason Blake, of The Sydney Morning Herald, same (read his review here). Not so, for some of his readers and these are the comments I find fascinating. Hint: read Blake’s review first…

Then read…

Couldn’t disagree more with this review. The production was a travesty of Chekhov’s work.

The adaptation, with indulgent Shakespeare references to boot, managed to lose all the depth of the Russian original replacing it with a Carry On! version full of slapstick. All the beautiful monologues washed over the audience and many of us left feeling gravely disappointed. Checkov should give you a kick in the guts by the end but all the beautiful monologues washed over to nothing and I left the theatre feeling gravely disappointed.

Bill Peters | Sydney – November 15, 2010, 8:29AM

And…

Some sanity – thanks Bill Peters!

I sadly feel as though many theatre makers are guilty of grossly underestimating the sophistication of their audiences and therefore feel the need to ‘panto’ shows up. You do not have to be a theatre buff (which I am not) to realise when you are being condescended to and when this occurs walking through the liminal door that good theatre (so I am told) should open is next to impossible.

The sycophants in the crowd irked me no end. It is as though they are all playing the part of theatre goers, all in on this bizzare conceit instead of ever truly engaging with the work. My relief upon leaving the theatre earned my sanity five stars!

Chris Hanrahan | Sydney – November 17, 2010, 3:51PM

And…

Embarrassingly, those ‘sycophants’ in the crowd were my fellow students from NIDA.

They were laughing up at every opportunity so people would look at them.

I too was bored with this show. If anyone saw the production from Maly Theatre a couple of years ago you’ll know what I mean. That production had me in tears, digging around in my bag for tissues, a cloth, anything.

I think everyone’s a bit starstruck.

NIDA Grad | Sydney – November 19, 2010, 8:07AM

 

I was determined to get over my starstruckedness because, let’s face it, I’m a forum bunny and you can imagine how excited I was about being there on the NwtA (Night With The Actors). I actually had a question! So I asked it! I asked, after a lot of other fussy queries about the inclusion of Shakespeare and about working with a non-english speaking director, about the company’s general approach to text and to working with each other. It was was important to me to verbalise what we have been getting nearer to defining as XS Entertainment‘s approach to our own creative process. Who better to answer than the Co-Artistic Director of the Company, Cate Blanchett?! She said, “Text is the bedrock. And then, as actors, we each bring to it what we will.” And I am so glad it is as simple as that!

After, of course I was totes inspired to spend a heap of money at the bookstore downstairs while my sister and co posed for pics outside by the poster…

I’m finally posting this on Christmas Eve and I hope Christmas and New Year’s Eve are wonderful for you. Poppy and I have just watched It’s A Wonderful Life and it really is the ultimate reminder of the season.

Next week, keep up with what’s happening out at waterlogged Woodfordia by following XS Entertainment on Twitter!

07
Dec
10

The New Dead: Medea Material

I saw 3 shows on the weekend so I’ll tell you a bit about each one, over two posts. If I tell you a lot about any one of them, I will come across as being completely impossible to please. Wait. Too late?!

The truth is I am more easily pleased than you would think.

If a production delivers all it has promised to deliver, I’m a happy camper (and by “promised” I mean promised by the media too, inclusive of press releases and the early/out-of-town reviews. And by “camper” I mean theatre-goer, except when, once annually, I actually mean “camper”; the Woodford Folk Festival variety). If not, that is if it doesn’t deliver, I have to wonder why not.

For example, the show I saw on Friday night at La Boite – the last show of their Indie season this year – failed to deliver, despite being touted as one of the must see shows of 2010. In Brisbane, at least. And it should be noted that The New Dead: Medea Material came to Brisbane after seasons at NIDA (2009) and the Adelaide Fringe Festival (2010).

Kat Henry, Director and Artistic Director of Stella Electrika, has an impressive body of work behind her and a whole host of exciting projects ahead of her. I had (very) high expectations of her show.

Heiner Muller‘s text is extraordinary. I wanted to hear it more clearly and react to it more extremely. I wanted to be shocked and horrified and, well…SHOCKED. But there was all this stuff that got in the way of me feeling anything much besides a kind of fascination in the result of the creative process.

We know the story. The story is shocking. It was entirely appropriate to tell the story through a combination of electro-rock-pop-or-something, theatre and dance. It felt like there were many tricks tried and many attempts made to shock –  in fact, just about every device known to theatrical mankind was used, though rarely to great effect. The anime porn, for example, flickering across the screen, was a distraction and what’s more, it was completely superfluous. Guy Webster and Kimie Tsukakoshi had already demonstrated their ability to morph into dancers and I was baffled as to why, as opposed to sitting still and posing, locking eyes only, while the anime figures onscreen made a mockery of their passionate gaze, they did not use their bodies in some Matrix-cum-Karma Sutra inspired porn piece! Was that just me?

For Lucinda Shaw, despite her apparent energy, the show seemed to start half way through it, with the commencement of her stand-up routine. Even then, she took a moment to settle into the accent and never seemed to quite settle into the routine. It was a clever device that didn’t quite work because she appeared to be uncomfortable in it. In fact, she appeared to me, to be uncomfortable from the beginning of the show, with her anxious, frustrated scratching and scoffing of corn chips. In class, I refer to this style as “anxious, frustrated acting” (Julia Roberts’ name often comes up at this point) and I challenge actors to find a more organic, interesting state of being. Interestingly, this role was played originally by Emma Dean.

I loved that Kimmie’s role required her to skate (though, for what purpose, across the space to start? To show us that she could skate?) and dance around a pole a bit BUT – and it’s the same point – why include it if it can’t be convincingly used? USE the pole! The routine was lackluster, underestimating (I’m betting) Kimmie’s ability. Regardless, if Jason were the man I thought him to be (no, not Bernie from Powderfinger, though you would be forgiven for thinking so), he would have left the drum kit for dust and fucked her right then and there on the floor. I’m sorry but there it is. Or was…not. SHOCK VALUE.

The device that really worked for me was the video footage (captured by Alex Duffy) during the final moments of the show, it’s an oldie but a goodie; it made the final horror all the more horrifying. Truly chilling, as it ought to be. Now, THAT is the kind of challenging theatre I had been expecting to see – and feel – all night.  That reminds me…watching Guy watching the screen at this point and earlier, watching him watching Kimmie across the space, we saw his best work; he was focused, connected and he was real and vulnerable.

In short, I didn’t feel that the characters were completely developed, nor that they had any real or lasting connection with each other. Having said that, all three actors are clearly multi-talented and did well to wade through all of the excess, all of the tricks…I’ve even thought of Barnum since.

The clever ideas in this production were like red weed, growing and spreading uncontrollably over everything that was good underneath. I wanted to see more of the good, organic stuff. I wanted to see a selection of the devices used to enhance the text, rather than distract from it.