Steve Rodgers: What’s the first memory you have of seeing live theatre?
Kate Champion: I was lucky enough to see Lindsey Kemp, the mime artist who taught Bowie, when I was pretty young. I remember there was nudity and men wearing frocks with powdered faces – they were moving but it wasn’t like any dance I’d ever seen and they were acting but it certainly wasn’t naturalism. It was exciting because it was outrageous and risky and different.
What works by others over the years have inspired you?
Hmmm – I always find this question difficult to answer because there are so many and afterwards I’ll end up thinking more about the ones I’ve left out. I find that work from genres other than the ones I work in have probably influenced me more. Music, film, comedy, visual arts, architecture, books…
You’ve been directing a heap of shows lately, Evie May a musical at Hayes Theatre, you’ve got Arthur Miller’s A View From A Bridge coming up at SASTC, what’s special about Every Brilliant Thing?
I am enjoying how different the shows I’ve been working on are – it really tests my skill set as a director. Every Brilliant Thing – as we wrote in the program notes – is almost not a play. It practically creates its own form which I love. Its form has come about as an honest and appropriate response to its subject matter. I come from a history of devising work from scratch. I recognise the skill with which Every Brilliant Thing has been devised and therefore appreciate its distilled and deceptive simplicity. To achieve what it does without the usual bells and whistles is its triumph.
What are the ingredients for a ‘brilliant’ rehearsal room?
I think having mutual respect in the room is vital. Giving everyone the ability to contribute their opinion yet at the same time asserting the necessary leadership that you, as directors, will make the final call. Talking about personal experiences around the subject matter of the play is vital. We’ve been writing our own list of Every Brilliant Thing every morning of rehearsal. Everyone who is in the room writes down ten brilliant things and then we read them out aloud. I think we’ve learnt more nuanced information about each other this way than we would have found out otherwise. It’s a ‘brilliant’ way to start the day. It’s also vital that everyone knows that they can be vulnerable in the room and will be supported. A combination of discipline and playfulness is imperative.
Why should people come to this play, now?
There seems to be a strong disconnect these days between a surface way of sharing and deep social isolation. Every Brilliant Thing brings us together as an audience literally face to face to share the personal account of a struggle with unstable mental health. This difficult subject matter is handled in a down to earth, tender, even lighthearted way which is ultimately beautifully life affirming. I think there’s a good chance it will still be relevant long into the future.
Kate Champion: You’re both a writer and an actor – how do you think your acting experience influences your writing and visa versa?
Steve Rodgers: I think writing and acting inform each other in the sense that they’re both about making words live off the page. I guess obviously acting is more about playing the words, where as with playwriting you get the chance to create the words for someone else to play. But they talk to each other because they’re both beautiful imaginative leaps that require discipline.
How does Every Brilliant Thing differ from how you might approach other roles?
Every role I’ve ever done is about examining what I think I understand and know about the character in relation to my own experience, and what I don’t know or understand, and need to find out. This role is all about shedding your skin, without layering something else on top.
What’s it like going from the co-directing to the acting ‘head space’?
I understand the director has the final call, so as the co-director I think my job is to be a part of the discussion as another observer, offer another perspective, and in a small tight room like ours, try and make a few jokes. As an actor I’m also doing the same. It’s a discussion about personalising the work. I must admit watching Mulvers get up and do it each day is easier than getting up and doing it your self. I’m reminded how much acting personally costs.
Do you enjoy learning lines?
No… But when they’re learnt, I’m anyone’s.
What part of the process of creating/getting a show to the stage do you enjoy the most?
Rehearsals for me are sacred, where I’m always reminded I’m not alone in the world. People and stories… what else is there?
Kate Champion and Steve Rodgers are co-directing Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan.
Dates: 8 – 31 Mar, 2019
Venue: Belvoir St Theatre