Saturday, August 21, 2010

Carlee Mellow- INTERVIEWS

Carlee Mellow
Written by Paul Andrew   
Wednesday, 13 August 2008 08:53
Carlee Mellow has performed, choreographed and taught nationally and internationally over the last 13 years in dance, film and theatre. She has worked with companies Chunky Move, Dance Works, BalletLab, Stuck Pigs Squealing and NYID.

This year Carlee will perform in Kage¹s Appetite for the Melbourne International Arts Festival and will create a work for Lucy Guerin¹s Pieces For Small Spaces in December. Carlee also works as Dancehouse¹s Program Producer.

Paul Andrew speaks to Carlee about her current work with BalletLab - Axeman Lullaby.

Carlee MellowIn what time and place does this work unfold?
Axeman Lullaby is fractured and layered when dealing with time and place. There are often 2 realities being played out simultaneously. It could be suggested that the woodchopper represents the contemporary and everyday, never crossing over into the other reality which shifts from a gothic / pedestrian / installation feel into a melodramatic, cinematic ballet performed to a high-modernist score of live piano and violin with costumes that suggest 'early settlers' (1788 - 1850) and/or 'Victorian' (1837 - 1901).

That scene cuts straight into some disjointed dialogue of three women based on an historical event from 1900, retold by Thomas Keneally in his novel 'The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith'. This sends the work into hysteria, an emotional and energetic state devoid of time and place culminating in a scene from Fred Schepisi's film made in 1978 of the same event from 1900. The resolution of the work feels in the moment. The audience experiences it as you (the performer) does.

Wow! So as you can see it chops and changes around a lot. You are asked to stay very active in your navigation of the work as an audience member. For me, that is a sign of good art.

Tell me a little about the Lullaby concept behind this new work?
When we started working with the axes, we found that the sound of hitting the wood repeatedly in very simple patterns created a gentle, rhythmic score - almost like a heartbeat. Add to that the action of the swing of the axe. Imagine the beautiful arc you see as the performer lifts the axe behind them, it swings overhead and then falls to the piece of wood on the floor in front of them or the sensation you feel when watching a simple sideways swing like a pendulum or a ride at the Melbourne Show (the pirate ship!). The combination of the sound and swing, suspend, fall action of the axe creates a visceral experience for the audience, seducing or more appropriately 'lulling' them into the piece.

You have a long and loving involvement with Ballet Lab?
I received a phone call while I was in the Red Rooster drive thru on Warrigal Rd. I guess my memory of the exact location demonstrates how excited I was to be invited to work with company. The first time I was in a studio with Phil, he had us dancing (and partnering) in sleeping bags in the middle of summer. That was 5 years ago...

And your most memorable BalletLab experience so far?
It is impossible to pick one. Our tour to Transylvania, Romania and Bulgaria was full of many odd and crazy incidents. The first time the second cast of Amplification performed at the Arts Market was amazing which was then followed by a sold out season in New York - that was very special. But you know...  just being in a studio with Phil and the amazing dancers he works with is a gift. I really love being privy to the way Phil's imagination manifests into his work and the unspoken agreement of generosity and trust between him and us - the performers.
I love that you can pick up a flier with a 'horror' image on it, read that it is a work by BalletLab, assume it is a dance show, enter the venue, see a room full of wood, and eventually a woodchopper chopping wood!

What do you love about this new work?
I love that you can pick up a flier with a 'horror' image on it, read that it is a work by BalletLab, assume it is a dance show, enter the venue, see a room full of wood, and eventually a woodchopper chopping wood! Phillip thinks so far outside the square. His courage, capacity and tenacity to push the expectations of live performance is very exciting and refreshing and should be supported and encouraged.

And what is challenging about it?
The nature of the performance will be extremely challenging to audiences. It is difficult to categorise and define. You're not really sure what you're watching. I hope people engage with the ride of the show, the visceral and aural experience and don't try to intellectualise it too much. The world of Axeman Lullaby is surreal, theatrical and spiritual with a strong sense of fear underpinning it, a fear that is current and very real in our everyday lives.

Tell me a little about the relationship between the body and the score?
The live music has been written for specific sections of the work. The violin and piano aren't necessarily played in the traditional way. David not only challenges the musicians with his complex score but also challenges the potential of the instruments and the sound they produce. There is a tension and eeriness in the sound, which helps create the melodrama with the choreography. There is also a sense of storytelling, which becomes even more apparent when the musicians and the woodchopper team up to help accentuate and punctuate the dialogue of the 3 women. The full and rhythmic sound during the hysteria supports the choreography and us (performers) in executing it. The music helps drives the work with strategically placed silences to emphasis the frenetic activity with superb dramatic effect.

The last section comes back to the idea of the lullaby. The score and choreography are completely integrated as we shift numerous pieces of wood in various patterns along the floor creating a sound similar to that of gentle waves lapping the shore. It is rhythmic, calming and hypnotic and sends us into the resolution of the piece.

The indigenous back-story to this production?
Phillip's interest in cinema brought the story of 'The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith' to the work. The memory and impact of Fred Schepsi’s film sent Phil into researching the story more thoroughly and with Jacob Brown's (our indigenous performer) addition to the cast; its inclusion into the work seemed a natural progression. Phillip doesn't usually deal with topical or political issues but including this story as a reference or springboard for the work meant that images, interpretations and/or abstractions needed to be portrayed with sensitivity and respect for the indigenous culture. I mean we've only just apologised THIS year for the atrocities against the aboriginal people! I think it’s a brave move on Phillip's behalf to be extending himself as an artist, trying to see where and how his work sits in our current climate.

Do you have a favourite moment in the production?
Mmm. I love my Victorian costume. My favourite costume ever! Designer Doyle Barrow rocks!

Timothy Conigrave-INTERVIEWS

Thieving Boy/Like Stars in My Hands | Fly On The Wall Theatre edit
Written by Paul Andrew   
Thursday, 24 January 2008 00:26
Thieving Boy/Like Stars in My Hands | Fly On The Wall TheatrePhotos - Chris Kapa

Midsumma 2008 is presenting two award-winning shorts by Melbourne born playwright Timothy Conigrave at La Mama’s Courthouse Theatre. Conigrave is best known for his iconic and theatrical memoir Holding the Man (1995), which chronicles his 15-year relationship with lover John Caleo. After sold out seasons in Sydney and Brisbane, the stage adaptation of his great love story in the age of AIDS is a feature in this years MTC calendar, opening in March.

This revival season of two Conigrave shorts is welcome, and timely, an appetizer of sorts. Ironically, almost a decade after his plays fist appeared on Melbourne stages at The Playbox under the magical direction of Aubrey Mellor, HIV infections are on the increase. This season also serves as a memorial to the brief but incandescent career of Timothy Conigrave. An artist who succumbed to an untimely death from HIV AIDS related illness and, sadly, never witnessed the great enthusiasm his works instill in new generations of readers, theatergoers and lovers.

Director Robert Chuter of Fly On The Wall Theatre is well versed in presenting an entertaining melodrama, with lashings of homoeroticism. Thieving Boy, the first short in the program is a prime cut, Conigrave’s earlier work, and is the more naturalistic of the two. It tells the tale of adolescent love, evoking those awkward, fragile yet tender moments of invincible first love.

Moxy (Daniel McBurnie) is a 22-year-old tear away, serving time at Long Bay for a series of car thefts. He is granted special leave to visit home to see his dying father Brian (Chris Gaffney). This is a Christmas that Moxy’s family will never forget. His Mum Jude (Francesca Walters) and sister Tracy (Stephanie Lillis) do their best to make it a jovial affair. A little challenging given that in the aftermath of his stroke, Brian’s speech is severely impaired and what little communication there was in the family, takes a dire turn for the worse. During his leave Moxy also makes a surprise visit to his lover, a young medical student Tom (Heath Miller) who has a summer job as Santa Claus.

Tom (Heath Miller) is more than a little peeved that Moxy disappeared so mysteriously a year before. As the real story of his lover’s criminal activity comes to light, and a few lost love letters along the way, the two awkwardly pick up the pieces, and their relationship gets a second chance. But Moxy has a grievance or two with his Dad. And this unresolved conflict is casting a shadow over the life of their family. Brian was reckless, insensitive and probably homophobic. His dying father leaves behind a trail of anxiety. It's lover Tom, who helps Moxy and his kin find forgiveness within their hearts.

Director Chuter has evinced Thieving Boy as a rather heavy handed melodrama at times, forcing the grief out of the text, leaving aside some of the nuances and subtleties of redemption. That magic that is revealed when human frailty grapples with grief, loss and unfinished business is ably handled by Francesca Waters, whose prismatic performance carries the play to a satisfying close.

While lead actor Daniel McBurnie delivers a believable performance as the angry young man on the cusp of life change, Heath Miller falls a little short in his role, believable, but largely uneven. Some of the wisdom of Tom’s character seems lost in Miller’s gait, and this may well be the anxiety that comes with a short intensive season before two actors find their rhythm, their dance away from the rehearsal space.

Ultimately however, given the heart of the play is the invincibility of adolescent love, casting of these two roles is crucial. These two actors look incongruous together, requiring too great a stretch of faith the make the truth of the play hum.

Like Stars in His Hands is a meditation on love, a play that hums. Terrific casting, strong ensemble performances charged with eroticism, poetry and sensitively directed acts of grand passion in the spectre of illness, grief and loss.

As Simon (David Forster) fades from this mortal coil he finds a muse in the guise of Hindu God, Ganesh. Ganesh (Francesca Waters) dissolves in and out throughout the play, as Simon fantasizes about his failing body’s return to the great collective dust of the cosmos. His lover and carer Marcello (Luke Arnold), struggles to keep faith in final hours of their ill fated love, the challenges of palliative care proving too much at times. Simon’s slow dissent into dementia only aggravates the journey. But its their mutual friend Jimmy who helps to keep an even keel, even if via a radical course of care.

Jimmy (Gary Abrahams) is a photographer whose career is about to take off into the stratosphere. Marcello and Jimmy strike up a love relationship, throwing a curve ball into the three-way friendship. Simon’s dying wish is that Marcello finds love again, even it if is with their mutual friend. For this beautiful dying man, it is a fraught experience, as painful to observe as the wave of Karosi’s sarcomas enveloping his body, as painful to swallow as the handful of toxic drugs that have become his daily regimen.

Chuter directs the play with aplomb. The balance of pathos and humour in check, and the heightened melodrama tendencies kerbed. This short unfurled like a silk flag in a gentle breeze, graceful at times, taut, tense and then free again. Ensemble acting as engaging as observing a slow whirling dervish. And the naturalism, stamina and grace of actor Luke Arnold set him out, as an actor to keep an eye on.

Sadly, Conigrave himself succumbed to HIV AIDS related illness and never witnessed the groundswell of enthusiasm for his writing. Lovingly edited by writer Tony Ayres, these two shorts are a testament, to the creative kinship that emerged during the 1980’s and 1990’s between gay men. Ayres formed a friendship with Conigrave during his final years. And with his adversarial flair and that uniquest of talents, the careful intuiting that is, in a sense a type of posthumous mentoring – by completing an artist’s unfinished opus. We are indeed fortunate that these two works have kept Conigrave’s spirit burning bright, giving added vibration to Australian Theatre heritage, and hastening to remind us of the time when for many, HIV AIDS did equal death.

Tim Conigrave's
Edited by Tony Ayers

Part of 2008 Midsumma Festival

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Frank Thring-Thring is Back- INTERVIEWS

Thring is Back
Written by Paul Andrew   
Friday, 29 August 2008 07:23
3RRR and Hoy Polloy Theatre take a look at the Hollywood actor with the monstrous moniker - Thring The Thing. Paul Andrew interviews Director Wayne Pearn and Actor Michael F. Cahill

The Real Thring Frank Thring - Man or Myth?
Wayne: Frank was real, no question, as the play reveals. There are plenty of stories and anecdotes that perhaps over time have taken on mythical even apocryphal proportions!

Michael: It is certainly very difficult to separate the two and, given the remarkable lack of biographical detail available, one would have to fall on the side of 'Myth'. Frank clearly created a public persona, which he maintained rigorously, encompassing his coruscating wit, the black wardrobe and the outrageous jewellery. Whether that was the man, part of the man, or a way of shielding the man only those closest to him will ever know.

What was Thring really like in life?
Wayne: From what I understand Frank did delight in shocking people. His public persona was a potent mix of the flamboyant, the intimidating and, of course the sarcastic. I wouldn’t say mystery shrouded his life - he was more what you see is what you get and if it makes you uncomfortable all the better. Iconoclast is an apt description.

A generation or two came to know Frank Thring (and his 50's movies) through television appearances on the Mike Walsh show - tell me about this part of his life?
Wayne: He was born with a veritable silver spoon in his mouth and resided in his father’s mansion, Rylands, in Toorak. Frank Thring senior was a very wealthy cinema and theatre entrepreneur who died in 1936 when Frank junior was just ten years old. He started performing at an early age and undertook training with the revered Irene Mitchell. He joined the RAAF and was discharged after six weeks. He then threw himself into theatre taking over Middle Park Rep and rebadging it The Arrow. By the mid fifties he was performing alongside Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in Titus Andronicus directed by the legendary Peter Brook. Kirk Douglas saw Frank in this production and encouraged him to test the Hollywood waters. He cracked a role in The Vikings and made the role of ‘villain’ his own in films including El Cid, Ben Hur and King of Kings. He then walked away from Hollywood and returned to Ryland’s and hooked with the Union Repertory Theatre, which was the precursor to the Melbourne Theatre Company where he performed in many productions. Eventually he moved to his workman’s cottage in Mahoney Street Fitzroy just around the corner from 3RRR where in his later years he became something of a flag bearer for the radio station

And his famous friends?
Wayne: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Tony Curtis, Charlton Heston, Sophia Loren, Janet Leigh, William Wyler to name but a few. Put simply I would say why these folk were attracted to Frank in the first instance was he could seriously ACT. Then they discovered what good company he was.

Do you have a favourite anecdote about Thring?
Wayne: Um, not printable.

Michael: As far as personal anecdotes go I have only heard two. The first I have heard from at least three different people, and it always varies slightly, but revolves around Frank inviting/procuring a young man to come to his Fitzroy digs on a Friday evening. The young man turns up with some unsavoury friends who proceed to tie poor Frank up and rob the place. Come Monday morning the housekeeper arrives to find Frank, still bound to the chair. He looks up and says, "What a weekend!"  The second comes from Bill at Joy FM, who worked for Frank briefly. Bill noticed that there was stain on the dining room carpet at Rylands and, as a conscientious young employee, set about trying to remove it. Frank walked in and bellowed, "What the hell do you think you're doing?? Vivien Leigh spilt that!" The second is by far my favourite.

His sense of camp - was it a generational trait perhaps?
Wayne: Look; I don’t think his sense of camp was generational. It was him and, as touched on earlier, the added bonus was he did delight in shocking people.

Michael: No. It's theatre, darling! I have no idea when 'camp' and 'theatre' got together but, in my experience, there is no doubt that where there is one you will always find the other. It's possibly not as common in Theatre now as it was fifty years ago but it is still there. Believe me. What has waned though is the wit; the bon mot and the cutting remark are all too rare these days.

And his secret life?
Wayne:  Mmmn...Secret. I’m not aware of too many secrets. I think it’s well documented that his fridge was always fully stocked with Ben Ean moselle that was replenished on a weekly basis and he smoked way too much. He liked the interior of his homes to be black, padlocked the doors from the outside apparently. As for his penchant for young men from what I’ve been told they were ‘turned over’ on a regular basis.
Bill noticed that there was stain on the dining room carpet and, as a conscientious young employee, set about trying to remove it. Frank walked in and bellowed, 'What the hell do you think you're doing?? Vivien Leigh spilt that!'

He was also a very saturnine character - all that black - giant medallions - and his infectious lugubrious ness?
Wayne: His theatricality (don’t we all wear black in theatre), his flamboyancy not to mention the intimidation factor!

Michael: I think it goes back to his carefully constructed public face. I think he enjoyed being shocking and, perhaps, regarded as slightly dangerous. But there was also a practical element. Black is slimming and a raised collar does wonders to disguise sagging jowls….

Barry Dickin's script - what circumstances, events or memories inspired this play?
Michael: Barry has clearly used a great deal of biographical and anecdotal sources in the script. Far more than I have been able to find. The play takes us from his birth to his death. There are incidents from his early life at Rylands and meditations on his relationship with his mother and father. It covers his life in theatre, film and TV. But there is also an exploration of the inner life of the man; an imagining of what was going on inside his head. For me this attempt to understand what it was like to be Frank is by far the most engaging part of the piece.

Michael what research have you done to “inhabit” Thring?
Michael: You first need to understand that having spent my entire life in the UK I came into this project with very little idea who Frank Thring was. I remembered him from the "sand & sandals" epics like Ben Hur and King of Kings, but had no knowledge of him as a 'personality'. I have read everything I can find about him, I've watched what few clips I can find from TV appearances, and I've rewatched some of the movies. I've also heard from many people what "Frank Thring" was to them. But I quickly came to realise that all of these sources were solely based on the public persona that Frank created. None of it was getting me any closer to the character. I knew what he looked like; I know what he sounded like. But I'm not an impersonator, and I have no intention of attempting to impersonate Frank. So I have done what I always do and gone back to the text. Barry has already done all the research - my job is to deliver the text and bring the Frank that Barry has written to life as best I can.

In terms of Direction - what metaphor/nuances are teased out of the script - as focal points, universal themes?
Wayne: From my perspective and, this is an important point, it is an exploration of the spirit of Thring. We get to see the inner Thring, reflective and brutally honest with himself. It certainly isn’t an impersonation of him as, let’s face it, Thring imitators are a dime a dozen in Melbourne and the one thing we set out to avoid was it becoming a caricature. That’s a just a cop out. Michael certainly brings a real Thring flavour and flair to the role but his performance is underpinned by characterisation.

How did Frank meet the maker?
Wayne: He was pretty cactus toward the end with regular bouts of ill health and ultimately cancer ripping through him; however, from people I’ve spoken to he was a courageous guy right up until the end.

Who do you imagine the audiences to be, what will they yearn for or long for from this production?
Michael: There are a lot of people in Melbourne who knew Frank. There are still more who remember him either professionally or socially, or as a 'local character'. Many of them will come. Others will come because it's a new Barry Dickens play, hopefully quite a few will be there because it's a Hoy Polloy production. There may be one or two who come to see me! 'Yearn' and 'long for' imply pretty strong emotions and, whilst I'm sure there will be some who come hoping to bask once more in the larger-than-life presence of Frank, I would hope the majority will come with open minds expecting an entertaining evening about a life lived to the full and an insight into what it may have meant to be Frank.

The Real Thring Anecdotes again?
Michael: In 1985 Frank co-authored a compilation of theatrical anecdotes entitled The Actor Who Laughed. In his introduction he includes a quote from Glenda Jackson which, I think, gives the nearest thing to an insight into Thring the Actor as we are likely to find: "It's not a life that I like. I find it deeply unnatural to go to work when most people are coming home. The physical conditions are usually painful and unpleasant and cold and draughty. Why do I do it? The only reason for doing it is the work itself, and if that doesn't have some quality, forget it. Every time you start something it's as if you've never acted in your life before. You have to find it in you every time. What's been done is no guarantee that you'll be able to do it again. The minute I say 'Yes I'll do it', I think 'Christ, I can't. I don't know how to do it.'" For the record, I agree wholeheartedly.

The Real Thring opens September 12. Further information»

Michael F Cahill as Frank Thring
Photos - Tim Williamson

Andrew Bovell-INTERVIEWS

Andrew Bovell
Written by Paul Andrew   
Thursday, 08 October 2009 00:00

Andrew Bovell is one of Australia's most acclaimed playwrights. His award winning play Speaking In Tongues was adapted for the screen, becoming the smash hit Australian movie Lantana, while his work with the Melbourne Workers Theatre Who's Afraid of the Working Class? (co-written with Patricia Cornelius, Melissa Reeves, Christos Tsiolkas and Irene Vela), also adapted for the screen, was recently released as the Ana Kokkinos movie, Blessed.

His latest play, When The Rain Stops Falling, was heralded in its Premiere Season as part of the 2008 Adelaide Festival and after a sell-out season in Sydney, comes to Melbourne as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival. Andrew Bovell spoke to Australian Stage's Paul Andrew.

Andrew BovellWhat inspired you to become a playwright?
It feels like a long time ago. I was drifting toward the end of a Bachelor of Arts at UWA in Perth when I first became involved in theatre. I wrote a short play, entered a competition, it won. The prize was a week's workshop with actors. And that week made a lot of sense to me - the whole process of working with a director, with actors, together uncovering the meaning of a play. I just loved it, I knew it's what I wanted to do. It just took that little bit of recognition and support for me to begin, to make a commitment to becoming a playwright.

I was then accepted into the VCA. It was the early 1980's in Melbourne when a lot of independent work was being made. Coming from Perth, Melbourne was an exciting, wonderful city to be in. The city itself was a huge influence on me - an inspiration. I felt like I had escaped my childhood and was growing up. The VCA - and later being a part of the Melbourne Workers Theatre - were formative, influential experiences for me.

What keeps you enthusiastic about Theatre?
I feel like there is unmapped terrain in theatre. There are still things to be discovered - ways of shaping and creating work - new modes of expression to be unlocked, boundaries to be pushed. It has the potential to be a radical form of art in that can continually question the status quo. On the other hand, if it fails to do this, it becomes deeply conservative and staid. It's an interesting time for me - as audiences beyond Australia have become interested in my work. So I guess there is a sense of possibility too.

Tell me about this play' s early beginnings?
Chris Drummond - see his introduction in the Currency Press edition of the play - wanted to bring together a number of people who he was interested in working with, myself, the visual artist Hossein Valamanesh and composer Quentin Grant. The four of us began a conversation around some big ideas about humanity's relationship to the planet. We took this conversation into a workshop in Adelaide where the first ideas about form, narrative and character began to emerge. Eventually there was a writing phase in which the actual play took shape.

I understand the work's original working title was The Extinction Project - that you took a lead from Tim Flannery's book, The Future Eater's ?
Tim's book was a starting point and encouraged us to think about big ideas. Particularly, we were interested in how man could impact upon his environment and exhaust it's resources.

The pattern of human movement that Flannery identified was really interesting to us. Once a group exhausted the particular resources of a place, it moved on, to another place. But what if there was no where else to go. What then?

Well that's the question we face as a race now. There is no where else to go. There is no other island. Therefore we must adapt or face extinction. So the idea of change - the human capacity to change - is central to this play.

This lead me to thinking about the period of Enlightenment in the late 18th century and thinking about the possibility that we are not entering a dark phase of human development, that instead, we are entering a new period of enlightenment.

Whilst in Paris I discovered a painting by Goya - Saturn Devouring His Children - this strangely brought me back to Flannery's book - the idea of consuming our future. When you look at the play you might wonder where all these ideas lead but the inter-generational saga that the play became had its origins in one question - What is the relationship between the past, the present, the future?
...we stop talking to one another because we have nothing left to say - but having nothing to say to one another is just another way of having so much to say, that we dare not even begin...

Tell me briefly about the play's beginning, a fish falling from heaven?
It's 2039. Gabriel York lives alone in Alice Springs when he receives a phone call from his son who he has not seen for twenty years. He wants to see him very much, however, he feels guilty for having abandoned him as a child. He panics - realizing he has nothing to give him for lunch - that this lack, is a symbol of his inability to look after, to nurture his own child. He goes out hoping to find something for lunch, in the midst of a storm a fish falls out of the sky. It lands at his feet. The odd thing is that he is in the middle of a desert and, in this fictional 2039, fish are almost extinct. So a kind of miracle begins the play. During the play, another character, Henry Law, Gabriel York's grandfather predicts that fish will fall from the sky, it will be a sign that the world is ending. So, the question - Is the fish a symbol of the earth's bounty and renewal or is it a sign that nature is turning against us - a forewarning of the end.?

While writing the play did you have a favourite character?
I was genuinely interested in all nine characters equally. A common element to my work is that there is no hierarchy or importance. The plays usually look at a group of people at a certain time or place, not an individual. Characters in my work aren't there simply to support another character's story. In other words there are no spear-throwers. Every body gets their turn, their moment of revelation or discovery. And a common criticism of my work has been that there is always a long set up while I'm establishing a number of character and narrative lines that will run through the play. Lantana was criticized for this as well. But this idea, how each member of the group impacts differently on other members, is also one of the work's strengths I think.

Set between England and Australia tracing four generations of family between 1959 and 2039 - is this ultimately a play about inheritance - perhaps helping us to gain a deeper sense of social and cultural inheritance than we are now accustomed to?
Yes. It's about the legacy we inherit from our parents and the legacy we then pass on to our children. It's about the damage that is passed on down through the generations, the courage it takes to overcome the patterns of mis-communication and the secrets that can mark a family. Hopefully, this idea of inheritance, of legacy, as seen within the generations of this family acts, as a metaphor, for broader questions of social and cultural responsibility the play raises.

How, if it all, do you feel that Rain follows on from your earlier works - like Speaking in Tongues - for example?
The links between the plays are difficult for me to identify. But both plays work like a puzzle, asking the audience to piece together a narrative to discover the whole picture. Maybe this is a distinguishing characteristic of my work. I am interested in structure, how narrative can be shaped to engage audiences. So time - the temporal plain of narrative - is important to me as a writer. That said, the next play may just happen in one room at one time.

What quality in your play do you feel resonates most with audiences?
Family. There are a couple of things expressed in the play - that we stop talking to one another because we have nothing left to say - but having nothing to say to one another is just another way of having so much to say, that we dare not even begin.

Estrangement between parents and children - that we drift slowly away from one another - is very strong in the play too. This has really caught people's attention - how people seem to relate to this estrangement. I have learned that after seeing the play, people make conscious efforts to reconcile with estranged family members, to say these things that have gone unsaid for too long. There is also another powerful idea being conveyed - no matter how bad the damage of the past there is the possibility it can be left behind in the future.

When The Rain Stops Falling opens October 12 at the Sumner Theatre, MTC, as part of the 2009 Melbourne International Arts Festival.

Australian Dance Theatre - Paul White- INTERVIEWS

Paul White
Written by Paul Andrew   
Thursday, 19 November 2009 08:54

Dancer Paul White has danced for many leading contemporary dance companies including Australian Dance Theatre & DV8 physical theatre. He is the 2008 recipient of the Best Male Dancer at the Helpmann & Australian Dance Awards and the current NSW Elite Champion for FISAF Sports Aerobics.
Paul White has teamed up with choreographer Meryl Tankard and visual artist Regis Lansac to create a new Australian work, The Oracle - a modern incantation of ancient rites and classical male beauty. Paul Andrew gets two minutes with dancer Paul White during rehearsal.

Paul WhiteHow did you come to work with Choreographer Meryl Tankard?
Meryl had seen me perform in an ADT project called Honour Bound, for which I received an Australian Dance Award. She asked me to participate in a three week research period without any specific result in mind. We worked a lot with the images and paintings of Odd Nerdrum and created hours and hours of great images and movement. Wonderful video imagery!

Meryl kept seeing a 'Nijinsky-esque' type quality to my body and movement and came up with the idea of The Rite of Spring. An improvised solo about earthquakes fitted perfectly to music from the Rite: including Magnificat by Joao Rodrigues Esteves in Act One and in Act Two, The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky. It was this music from Nijinsky's work that inspired her more to develop the idea further. His solo is still in the piece today, almost unedited.

This is your first solo work?
True. I had never before performed a solo piece so there were many aspects of the process that were foreign to me, for example the physical strain of rehearsing all day without a colleague to share the workload. However working with Meryl and Regis was a treat. Meryl is relentless in getting what she wants in the studio, which I respect and see as one of the keys to creating something special. It was very much a choreographic collaboration, which pulled for a close relatedness between us and therefore a lot of freedom and fun in the studio. The movement is challenging and at times even frustrating to execute, but I'm always left with that we have created something special.

Your role as “The Oracle” sounds like a demanding and mercurial role?
The piece is full of opposing forces. It's masculine and feminine, it's violent and nurturing, there is strength and vulnerability. The 'chosen one' in the tale of the Rite of Spring is honoured to be selected as the sacrifice but fearful and wary simultaneously.

I think there are very few oracles of our time. As a majority we are all so consumed by our own lives. I've loved delving into a piece with a deep mysticism and richness.

And the score?
The music score had much to do with how we created the choreography. It's incredibly intricate and articulate music that when one hears it played, worlds are created. As a result of working with the many characters of the story in mind, there are many varied physical aspects represented in the performance. Many of the movements in the piece appear as if there are alternate forces at play. I cower in fear, move cautiously, explode through the air, fight invisible forces, and caress the earth.

Personally, this sounds like a very satisfying project?
I am honoured that someone would wish to create a solo work with me, and very proud of what we've created. I see the Rite of Spring as sacred and the opportunity to dance it moves me every time. The choreography is visceral and earthy and often evokes anger, fear and sensuality in me. By the end of the piece having danced the 'sacrifice' I'm exhausted which, as an athlete, is very satisfying.

The Oracle opens December 3 at the Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne. Further details»

Images -
Top Right & Cover - Paul White. Photos - Peter Whyt

Conor McPherson - INTERVIEWS

Interviews- Conor McPherson (Playwright), Ross Meuller (Playwright), Tiger Lillies (Musicians) Jon Halpin, (Actor)

Conor McPherson
Written by Paul Andrew   
Tuesday, 05 June 2007 12:40
Conor McPhersonPhoto - Fionnuala McPherson

Dublin-born Conor McPherson is regarded as one of the UK’s leading playwrights. He exploded onto the world theatre scene in 1997 with the Royal Court premiere of The Weir, described by the Daily Telegraph as 'so good, you walk away feeling positively shaky'. For that production, he was awarded Most Promising Playwright from both London Critics Circle and London Evening Standard and in 1998 won an Olivier Award for Best New Play.

At the premiere of his 2004 play Shining City, the London Telegraph hailed him 'the finest dramatist of his generation' and the subsequent Broadway production in 2006 earned him a Tony Award nomination for Best Play.

Last week the Australian premiere of Shining City opened in Melbourne presented by local company Hoy Polloy Theatre. In July Perth Theatre Company will present one of his earlier works, St Nicholas.

Paul Andrew interviewed Conor McPherson for Australian Stage and asked him about his inspiration as a playwright.

Conor way back whenever, who or what was a key catalyst for your plunge into playwriting?
When I read Death of a Salesman at the age of fifteen or sixteen, I knew there was something about playwriting that attracted me very much. I liked that it had to be concise enough to do its work in a limited time span, but had to quickly go very deep emotionally to have any effect. This appealed to me for some reason. Then when I was seventeen I read Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet and became fascinated by the use of every day language to create a poetic and visceral piece of art. I can trace the beginnings of my own decision to write a play to these two works.

Has Irish mythology inspired you as a writer?
My last play, The Seafarer is based on an old Irish story of the Devil arriving to play cards with a group of ne’er do wells on a stormy evening. I am more interested in folk tales rather than ‘myths’. I like the personal aspect of folk tales which seem to happen to real people as opposed to myths which seem to happen to super human ‘heroes’.

Is there a particular tale that lingers in your thoughts?
I am more interested in historical monuments like Newgrange, a 5,000 year old structure in County Meath in Ireland – older than the pyramids, older than Stonehenge. It is a burial chamber with an opening where the sun shines directly into the structure once a year - at dawn on the morning of the Winter solstice. This is so spiritual and mysterious, the sunlight entering the tomb after the darkest night of the year, and it’s mind boggling how the people who built it had such an understanding of astronomy and time.

You have studied philosophy. Do you feel you have a particular philosophical or moral take on our contemporary way of being?
Philosophy taught me to accept my own ignorance. Being ignorant means you are always learning – or at least trying to. My plays are simply pictures of the world as I encounter it. I try to generate the feeling of what it is like to be alive and knowing you will die – how confusing it is, how interesting, how painful, how beautiful, how funny, how tragic… there is no one message or feeling I am trying to convey.

Is that demonstrated in Shining City perhaps?
Shining City is about what it means to be haunted. By the past, by our regrets, by our wishes for the future, by the stupid things we do, by our own unfinished business.

Monologue has been one of your great joys, why?
I always enjoyed the speed at which a monologue can take you deep into the heart of somebody and its efficiency in bringing an audience somewhere special in the most simple way.

Who are the playwrights you admire most - and for which contribution's that they have made?
I find many playwrights interesting - as writers - because they work in such a constrained way. Everything they do has to be capable of being performed. I like playwrights who seem to struggle with the constraints, where the writer seems to wrestle with the form – Chekhov, Beckett, Tom Murphy.

What fascinates you about the phantasmic and metaphysical worlds?
The unknown is always more beautiful and intriguing than the known. Mystery gets the mind and heart racing.

Dublin is the backdrop - what is the nature and culture of the Dublin that you reveal to us?
Ireland is a young independent democracy, still coming to terms with its freedom. Freedom from poverty, oppression, darkness. It’s hard to be free because freedom entails responsibility. Responsibility requires strength. Strength requires confidence. Confidence requires security. Security requires freedom, and so on… Dublin is a place struggling to know itself, struggling to love itself.

Shining City is a departure from your monologue approach into the two hander. By way of some insight into backstory and method to the actual writing of this play, was this a conscious decision in writing the play - as a two hander - or did the characters reveal themselves to you through monologues at first, that you eventually interwove?
I don’t consciously choose a form. Stories dictate their form. The structure of Shining City reflects the story it is trying to tell, that’s all. The whole monologue thing was never a choice for me. I always just told the story in the simplest way I could. I don’t feel the urge to write any more monologues at the moment. I’m listening to more voices - I hope.

Who inspired the John character?
I don’t really know where the inspiration for John came from. There’s a lot of guilt there. So maybe from feelings of guilt…

And Ian - the therapist character?
Ian, for me, is a picture of the human condition as I saw it at that time. He doesn’t know where he has come from. He doesn’t know where he is going. He doesn’t know how to belong. He is trying to be a good person. He is searching for happiness. But he finds pain everywhere. He may be the bleakest character I’ve ever drawn. He gives so little away. I feel sorry for him. He is absolutely paralysed, but still searches to move on.

Theatre can bring the ceremony and ritual back into our lives, what do you feel?
I completely agree. The ritual of theatre is beautiful. You arrive at the theatre. You get a buzz from being in a crowd. The lights go down, everything goes quiet. The audience have to concentrate to follow the story. They communicate with each other by laughing. They laugh at ordinary things to show recognition. They laugh at extraordinary things to show delight. If the play is really good, and really well performed, they become absorbed into the world of the play. At the end of the play, they clap to physically wake themselves up from the dream-state of the play. It’s a very ancient and perhaps underestimated experience.

Which contemporary playwrights do you keep an eye on today?
I suppose I keep an eye on anything that’s new and interesting. Enda Walsh is an interesting contemporary Irish playwright. Joe Penhall is an interesting contemporary British playwright. There are loads of others. I usually have some idea of what’s going on.

What are you writing right now?
Right now I am working on a low-budget movie that will be shot in Ireland in Spring ’08. I’m also trying to write a new play, but don’t know where it will be performed (or if it will be good enough!) I’m also preparing to direct my play The Seafarer on Broadway. We did it last year at London’s National Theatre and it went really well. So hopefully I can put it back together in a half-decent fashion.

Hoy Polloy presents Shining City by Conor McPherson - until 16 June 2007.

 Ross Mueller
Written by Paul Andrew   
Wednesday, 21 March 2007 04:12
Ross MuellerLeft - Ross Mueller

What do you feel is the difference between Truth and Truthfulness? 

Good question - I think Truth is a fact and Truthfulness is a trait. The truth will not change, but as humans - we can change the way we recall or identify the truth. We choose to be truthful or not depending on who we’re talking to and what we’re talking about.

There is a great line in the play about people believing what is ordinary to be extraordinary - what are you revealing to us?

Claudia is having breakfast with Robert - he is trying to convince her to do another book - she says;

There is no satisfaction in chronicling the ordinary, especially when the entire country seems to think that the ordinary is so bloody - “extraordinary”. Interviewing Pearlman - was like talking to bread. If this breakfast is you offering me another “opportunity” to ghost write for another - baguette like that, I’m gonna be on my way.

Big Brother, New Idea, Current Affair, the Australian cricket team, Today Tonight.
I think we are conditioning ourselves to believe that any photograph in a magazine is a scoop and any quote from a television personality is worth reading and any review printed in a newspaper is written by an expert. Gossip is news and news is pop culture. You put a sports star into the mix and you’ve got ratings and sales.

This play came about as an MTC commission. How does it feel so far?

I was an affiliate writer at MTC in 2001 - under Peter Matheson. I wrote a play called Cold Light of Day. I had a workshop and a reading at MTC and then - at the suggestion of Simon Phillips - I applied for a residency at the Royal Court in London. I was successful and got picked by the RC. In 2002 I went over and spent five weeks working on CLD - we did workshops with Joe Penhall, David Hare, Caryl Churchill etc - I learned a lot and discovered I was doing the right thing - I came home renewed and committed. I wrote a play called Domestic Animals and did it in the Fringe and made 15 dollars. Julian Meyrick saw it and invited me to submit an idea. I wrote an outline for GHOSTWRITER - it was massaged and rejected - I wrote another and another and the company commissioned the idea. I worked on the play for two years - the company rejected it. I continued to work on it - we took it to the ANPC conference in Perth and work shopped it there in July 06 - upon return - the company programmed it.

It has been journey of discovery. A wonderful, painful, exciting, exhilarating, experience of commitment, perseverance and tough skin.

Have you ever been a ghostwriter? 

No. Sorry about that.

Ghostwriters are a bit like the medieval scribes employed by the church or state to tell other peoples stories? 

I like the idea that a complete stranger is employed to the most personal expression of another. There is a need for trust to be established in a very short amount of time.

I think in real life - there are times when we have been more honest with strangers than with our loved ones. There is something freeing about the fact that this person does not hold the emotional baggage over the account of an event - they just wanna know what happened - they don’t judge you - they listen and they compile and they try to understand your point of view. There are rules and a limited time span for the engagement - there is a ritual to be observed - through Q & A. These are the sacred boundaries I was interested in exploring. Claudia needs these qualities from Brihanna, just as much as Brihanna needs them from Claudia. In fact - all the characters in the play make these demands for truth, trust and privacy from each other.

Is the play a whodunit? 

The play is about stories. The concept of a “whodunit” if you like - is a story we are all familiar with - this involves judgement and bias. It was always going to be about stories and so… yes it was always there. Why do we want to judge someone so quickly? - Is it to protect our selves from truth? Is it to make ourselves feel better about something that is wrong with us? Lindy Chamberlain was convicted in some minds long before she was ever put on trial. The idea of whodunit didn’t enter our heads - we decided early and just waited for the judgement. So often now - sections of society ignore the detective work in favour of the punishment - I think that’s the more disturbing thing - we live in a society that has people who want to see other people punished - more than they want to see justice served. Why?

The characters are a great insight into the cusp of Generation X and the very early Baby boomers - what are the major generational differences?

Power and opportunity. I thing you’re pretty accurate by describing Claudia and West as cusp Gen Xers. They are. They are intelligent, creative, responsible, determined and still waiting for something to begin… because the Baby Boomers are still holding the reigns.

When the Baby Boomers are eventually put out to pasture and understand they have to finally - retire - Generation Y will get the chance - because X will be seen as too old. We’re in between worlds, customs and reason. We want answers to questions because we’ve had the time and the education to learn how to ask these things. They taught us and now they hate us. We’re a threat - an intelligence that cannot be denied.

Grief is a popular theme in plays today (and the ancients) is this because we as a society are still grappling with how to grieve- and how to truly grieve?

I think grief is a strong theme because the world is a very sad place. The climate is changing - towers are falling - governments are lying and still surpluses are being declared. People are locked up in the deserts of our world and the question of “why” does not get asked - children go missing and the question of “whom” - does not get answered. 

I feel sadness is a default setting for many of us. Compassion is also an element of what we call grief - it is a state of longing or desire for healing that determines us as human beings. I think the fact that we are trying to examine what grief might be - is a positive step to remembering what it is to be human in a world full of contradictions and lies.

The casting is terrific - was the play written with particular ethnicities or cultures in mind?

None of the characters was written with a specific ethnicity. As a writer I am interested in what this person wants from that person and what will they do to get it. The cast does reflect Melbourne in a wonderful, truthful way. It has shapes and faces that we see in the street. Four individual adult actors who bring a strong heritage of stage craft to the play. They are a pleasure to work with - they are mature and intelligent and committed to telling Australian stories - a dream for new work and new writing. Raj, Margaret and Belinda all worked on the play in Perth. John is the new boy - a marvelous, experienced man, with a generous heart and a protective nature.

Who is your favourite character in the play and why?

I think Robert - for his bluster and pain and then I think Claudia for her quest for an answer and then I think Brihanna for her need to be heard and then I think West for his fury within and then - I think of Megan. Every night when she arrives there is a silence in the theatre and - this silence - this is the very essence of what the ritual is all about. We respect her - we want to hear her and we love her - unconditionally. She has to be my favorite. I think she forgives us all.

It strikes me that the play is magical realism?

I don’t think of style - when I am approaching my work - I am trying to identify dilemmas and demands. I think theatre is a place of possibilities - it can allow for several realities to be served at once - something that film struggles to do - but in the end - it is what it is - a delivery mechanism for a story. The parameters can be blurred if the desires of the characters demand this.

Tell me about the restaging of No Man’s Island in NYC?

There is a company in Brooklyn who is going to stage No Man’s Island. This is a play I wrote in 94 - it premiered at La Mama and was picked up by the Melbourne International Festival. It came about because they were looking for new work - they read a reference to it on and followed an email / google search trail to find the play published in a little shop in Australia. They read it - loved it and applied for the rights. They’re great people. The play is set in a prison. There are two men. They have no idea when they will be released and we don’t know what they are in for - it is explores the way they support each other through a terrible period of time. The company in NY is going to do an awareness-raising programme for David Hicks to accompany the play. It opens in Manhattan at HERE in May 07.

Tell me about your role at and vision for The Store Room? 

I am one of several artistic associates. I think the Store Room is hoping we will make some interesting work - try things that we have not had the chance to try before. I have a play that will be staged there this year - it’s a time of experimentation I suppose.

What advice would you give to someone young or old, who is passionate about playwriting?

Write something that means something to you. It can take a long time to get produced so it has to be an idea that you will believe in five years time. The Ghostwriter has been criticised by some for being underdeveloped and then by others for being over developed.

Clearly the truth lies somewhere in between. Don’t listen to those who don’t understand your goals - try to identify the professional people you trust for feedback. Get with some actors and work with them as much as you can. You are writing for performance. It is not a poem or a book - words need oxygen to survive.

Tiger Lillies
Written by Paul Andrew   
Monday, 12 February 2007 03:36
Tiger LilliesRight - Martyn Jacques sings up a castrato storm with his UK- trio Tiger Lillies to create sublime vaudeville grotesquerie… and take a stab or four at the maudlin mainstream.
Photo by Andrew Attkinson

Martyn what gives you goosebumps?
Listening to Edith Piaf or Jacques Brel sing one of their great songs or me singing one of mine in front of a great audience.

Is there a story behind the name Tiger Lillies?
I think it has lots of connotations and meanings. In our early days people who booked us would hear a CD and expect a woman wearing tiger skins to turn up. But it's also a beautiful flower and the name of a prostitute.

Brechtian is an adjective often used to describe you?
I'm very happy to be called Brechtian probably the piece of music which has inspired and influenced me the most was the Three Penny Opera by Brecht and Weil

"You have to be cruel to be kind"?
I think that there is an element of cruelty in my performance, which the audience seems to enjoy. I think it is an easy and good place to be cruel when you are on stage as this is fiction. I’m always a little surprised when a small percentage of the audience seem to take this cruelty as something more than fiction.

"Truth hurts”?
Again when you sing the truth on stage, then it is relatively easy. I’m not so sure I’m so brave in my personal life when it comes to telling the truth.

Way back - when you were a kid, who, what, when or why inspired you to embrace music?
My headmaster at my junior school is my total inspiration all that I do creatively. He took great joy in teaching us music and art. He was a wonderfully enthusiastic man. I think he had a very happy life and before he died his relatives played him one of my songs, which he thought was beautiful.

You studied opera?
I only studied opera to learn about voice production. I never practiced or was interested in the repertoire. Nevertheless I am an enormous fan of Enrico Caruso

You also studied philosophy?
My study of philosophy was an enormous mistake. Artists and philosophers are like oil and water - though I respect their activity I really learnt very little inspiration from it.

What are you listening to on cd/mp3 right now?

What is your ideal night in?
Sitting on a balcony looking at the moon

What is your ideal night out?
I once went to a club in NYC where on a black and white tiled floor stood 20 men dressed as Bette Davis. That was a good night.

What do you do for kicks?
Smoke a cigar

What did you do for kicks as a kid?
Smoked a lot of dope

What is your definition of happiness?
To live unattached from all things and in harmony with them

Journos describe you guys as "cabaret meets falsetto"?
Everybody calls us cabaret these days. It’s been happening in the last five years. I suppose it sort of fits. I certainly sing with a high voice though I have been using my low one as well of late.

Is there one particular song by another music artist that lingers in your voice box and heart?
Mona Lisa, I don't why

What is your favorite film?
Once Upon a Time in America, I would say why that is great is at least 50% because of the music. Same for The Godfather or Once Upon The Time in the West for the same reason.

What is your favorite colour?
Green - don't know why

If you could have a dinner party or booze up with anyone of your choice, living or dead, who would it be - What would you eat?
Well I could imagine having dinner with a lot of people. I have a nasty feeling with quite a few of them i would be disappointed. I think we tend to build our heroes up. May be eating some fried chicken with Betty Smith?

What is your own personal all time favourite TL song lyrics?
It changes but I like King Neptune from the Sea album

What writer/author/playwright/lyricist inspires you?
I can’t really think of anyone

What advice would you offer to someone who is young, wants to be creative but doesn't know how to be creative?

Don't go to college, don't try to make money from being creative and never try to say exactly what you feel.

What good sense advice would you like to give to yourself?
Ultimately everything is devoid of meaning so don't take anything seriously

Suicide is for....?
People who don't recognize the above!

The Tiger Lillies are performing in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne this week. For more details:

Jon Halpin
Written by Paul Andrew   
Tuesday, 20 February 2007 08:27
The MessiahThe Messiah is the story of two rather incompetent, over-ambitious amateur actors who attempt to produce the ultimate Christmas story with a cast of two, an over-zealous opera singer and very little else.
On the eve of their National Tour, Paul Andrew spoke to the shows director Jon Halpin, Associate Director at the Queensland Theatre Company.

Tell me about the history behind The Messiah?

The Messiah was originally produced in the UK in the early eighties, starring the writer, Patrick Barlow and Jim Broadbent. It was a big hit for Patrick's company, The National Theatre of Brent; they specialize in doing epic stories with only two, and sometimes three actors. He later revived the piece in 1999, with John Ramm in Jim Broadbent's place and it was another big hit at the Bush Theatre. Patrick asked me (once it was programmed at the Queensland Theatre Company) to change the names of the characters, as he plays the same character through all of his productions. That's how the characters of Leslie Barrymore Lockett and Owen Blunt came about. 

Without giving too much away – whats the basic story?
It tells the story of Leslie’s spiritual awakening, and decision to stage the Nativity. He has enlisted the help of Owen to fill out the cast and an opera singer, Mrs. Bird, to sing pieces from Handel's sacred oratorio, The Messiah. Throughout the play, Leslie finds his ambitions falling well short of what he had in mind due to Owen's tradesman-like approach to the craft of acting. He is also hideously under-resourced to pull the show off. There are three wise men in the story and only two actors for instance, and of course his own hubris brings him undone. In the true spirit of the nativity however, lessons are learned and Leslie achieves a mini triumph.

Who are your favourite playwrights?
I love the works of David Mamet and Harold Pinter because of their masterful control of language. Their dialogue is so spare and yet so much is going on. Sam Sheppard writes with a beautiful lyricism that I find fascinating and Caryl Churchill constantly astounds me. Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller both wrote extraordinary plays. Locally, I think Patrick White wrote astonishing plays and anyone who caught Michael Gow's own production of Away last year would agree he's one of our greats.

How did you become a Director?
I began my career as an actor. I'd originally studied and graduated from a psychology degree at the University of Queensland and decided to take a year off before doing post-graduate studies. During that time, I got involved in local productions and realized just how much I loved working in theatre. After a couple of productions, I tried my hand at directing and was astounded at how much there was to know in order to make a production work. I continued taking as many acting jobs as I could, firstly because I enjoyed it so much, but also to work with as many different directors as I could to learn more. I also seconded myself as an assistant director wherever I could in order to gain as much experience as possible. When Michael Gow arrived in Brisbane in 1999, I was lucky to be offered an assistant directing role with him. Following that, and in discussion with Michael, an intern director's program was introduced at the Queensland Theatre Company and I was the first one to go through. I must have done something right, as I was then offered and associate position with the company in 2002, during which I directed three plays for the company.

Have you developed a signature style?
I'm not sure. I probably have, but I don't approach a play from that aspect. I read a play I'm going to direct a number of times and analyze my response to it. I then have discussions with my creative time and then come up with a concept. From there, I try and ascertain what the writer is trying to say and clarify to myself what I want to say.

What do you like to draw out in performance?
Primarily I think it’s the relationships between the characters that are of utmost importance - that's what I look for first. How one character feels about the other or others. This is generally what drives the conflict in a good play and if you can get that right, you have a good grounding for pace and the visual aspects of a production

What has been your focus for performance in The Messiah?
The main thing I've kept in mind in this particular show is that the character of Leslie is supposed to be the writer, director and designer of the piece. Holding on to this, it's a question really of "What would Leslie do?" and then finding ways to undermine his intentions in order for the comedy to come to the fore.

It has been popular with UK audiences - why?
I think the strength of the story and the wonderful characters. Everyone knows a Leslie, someone who insists they are an expert in areas they clearly aren't, and we all have a friend like Owen who is pragmatic to a fault. A spade is a spade is a spade.

What makes “amateur theatre” so alluring and engaging?
I think the spirit in which it is undertaken. When people get involved with an amateur or community shows they are doing it through their love of theatre. Occasionally egos and internal politics get involved as well and that's what becomes enjoyable to poke fun at.

What do you enjoy about working at QTC?
Michael has a great wealth of experience in this industry and has been wonderful mentor to me. He is a successful writer, actor dramaturg and director with a strong commitment to sharing his experience and unearthing and promoting new talent. His ability to get to the heart of a show and to succinctly surmise what the writer is saying or trying to say is incredible.

What do you have in the director's pipeline after this?
This show is my absolute favourite production of all the shows I have directed so far. It is incredibly rare to find a play devoid of cynicism; as this one is, yet avoids the pitfalls of sentimentality. I'm thrilled that HotHouse Theatre has given us the opportunity to revisit this wonderful play. After this, I have two plays for the Queensland Theatre Company coming up, David Brown's new play called The Estimator, and a show called Heroes at the end of the year. Both are wonderful scripts and I hope I can do them justice.

The Messiah is touring extensively. For further information goto