A di­rec­tor for all sea­sons

Ver­sa­tile vet­eran cel­e­brates The­atre on the Bay’s 21st birth­day with mor­dant com­edy ‘God of Car­nage’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODPASTIMES -

on the Bay is cel­e­brat­ing its 21st birth­day with this show, a smil­ing Sw­erd­low says: “This re­ally is serendip­ity.”

Reza’s play is not without ma­jor chal­lenges to its di­rec­tor, Sw­erd­low points out. “The trou­ble is that she ex­pects the di­rec­tor as well as the cast to come to the party: she of­fers vir­tu­ally noth­ing in the way of stage di­rec­tions, so it’s up to every­one else to an­a­lyse, dis­sect, ex­ca­vate and eval­u­ate the text, which is rich and multi-lay­ered…

“An­other play of hers which I di­rected in Joburg, the two-han­der Life x 3, is ex­actly the same – it’s a bug­ger. Gra­ham Hop­kins, Fiona Ram­say and I had to work re­ally hard at it.

“ Beauty and the Beast, which I also did for Pi­eter, was just the op­po­site. As an in­ter na­tion­ally fran­chised pro­duc­tion, it gives the di­rec­tor no room at all for ma­noeu­vring; its pa­ram­e­ters are very nar­row and be­fore I un­der­took it, I was warned that there was not an ounce of cre­ativ­ity al­lowed to a di­rec­tor… All the nuts and bolts were al­ready in place.

“But what I could – and did – do, was to tease out the char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of each per­sona in the work, so that al­though what was fi­nally staged was a replica of the Broad­way pro­duc­tion, there was a de­gree of in­di­vid­u­al­ity in the cast’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion.”

In­vited to re­flect on which pro­duc­tions stand out among the 21 he has overseen for To­e­rien, Sw­erd­low iden­ti­fies Around the World in 80 Days as a mem­o­rable ven­ture: “We had to find a sub­sti­tute ac­tor to play the lovely heroine at very short no­tice, and Dorothy Ann Gould, bless her, sug­gested Jo­han Baird. What a mag­i­cal choice. He en­gaged the au­di­ence on ev­ery level.”

Sw­erd­low has a def­i­nite phi­los­o­phy re­gard­ing the role of a di­rec­tor. “I see him as a me­di­a­tor be­tween the writer, the cast and the au­di­ence, never an in­tru­sive pres­ence in a show.”

Looking for­ward to 2010, he is en­thu­si­as­tic about a new work to be di­rected for To­e­rien: “We want to do a clas­sic, seven-door farce in the French man­ner for the sheer joy of it in the first half of next year.”

God of Car­nage runs un­til De­cem­ber 12. Book­ing at Com­puticket on 083 915 8000 or at the box of­fice at 021 438 3301

RIS­ING TO THE CHAL­LENGE:

di­rec­tor Alan Sw­erd­low

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