A director for all seasons
Versatile veteran celebrates Theatre on the Bay’s 21st birthday with mordant comedy ‘God of Carnage’
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