Wednesday, June 04, 2008

An Interview Out-take

I just wrote part of the interview I did with Latvian theatre director Vladislavs Nastashevs who is in Australia to direct Miss Julie for Belvoir Downstairs.

Written by August Strindberg in 1888, the play is about love, lust, class, dominance and freedom. It's a one hour play with three characters - Miss Julie, Jean and his finace Kristin. The three characters also talk a lot about Miss Julie's father The Count, who is also Jean's boss.

The Count is an interesting figure because there is evidence of his existence and there is much talk of him, but he never makes an appearance. In a sense he's the most powerful character in the play (or the one with the most power) but we never see him. He's almost like God, more powerful than all of them but to us he's an unseen force.

As a writing device, I found this a pretty cool one... but I'm me and I couldn't resist asking about the casting process, in particular was it difficult to cast the part of The Count. I thought this was really funny and I totally didn't expect the answer I got. I thought maybe the director would think I was an idiot who hadn't done my homework. I didn't expect this:

Lee: "Was casting The Count very difficult?"

Vlad: "Casting the...?"

Lee: "The Count. Was it difficult to find someone to play The Count?"


Lee: "To find an actor to play... I'm joking. Because The Count doesn't ever appear in the play, which was an interesting device for Strindberg to use, wasn't it."

Vlad: "Ah. Ahh right. Right, here we go. Well casting The Count was difficult while I was thinking about the play because I had to somehow kind of bring him in even though he never appears. So I made sure to be able to have him there even though he's not, which was quite a challenge. But I believe I've achieved it. It's much more powerful for the rest of the characters because it deals with masters and servants... it's very much about the servants and they do talk about him a lot, about how they feel about him and what they think about him and I think that's more interesting than actually showing that. Bringing in The Count would somehow mean doubling it all. Something interesting I have done with the set is to have a wooden bar, a wooden beam which is suspended from the middle so that it naturally balances with all the props sitting on top of it. So basically the props, the kitchen utensils kind of balance it. So the actors always have to watch it so they don't make it fall, and to me that represents more than the nature of kitchens... but it represents something which has power over all of them. It's almost like the 4th character in the play. The set is actually the 4th character... which is very much The Count. If you can see where I'm coming from."

Lee: "So you've turned The Count into The Kitchen Counter?"

Okay, so I didn't say that last bit, and I do think I know what he means. He had to have some evidence of The Count's existence and... or something like that.

The play does actually sound good and I am going to get a long to see it. ("Look out! The Count's behind the counter!")


Kathryn said...

Sounds like a play I would very much enjoy. As for having a character that is one of the most powerful yet unseen, it is kind of like a scary book. A little creative writing here or there and the imagination takes care of the rest. Have fun! :)

quick said...

I am totally into the idea of this play. Opening has been postponed so I'm seeing it next week and reviewing it for Drum.

The ending is really intriguing. Apparently Jean can hypnotise people and Miss Julie convinces him to hypnotise her so that she can kill herself. It's widely considered a tragedy, but Vlad surprised me by saying that it's a happy ending. Tragic for Miss Julie, but happy for Jean and Kristin. I'm really curious to see this.