I’ve often thought about the importance of place for writing – as both something to write about and something that affects how you write. But what about the importance of place for someone directing a play? What does place mean in that context?
In the clip below, director Sam Strong talks about the process of imagining the play he’s about to set before a live audience. It’s an Australian play, The Floating World, by John Romeril, which deals with racism and the effects of war (WWII). For Strong, place is very important to the process of imagining theatre. He says he goes into the theatre and sits in the front row before working with the actors. That’s his creative space. Right up the front, there he is, almost on the stage. One step removed from where the actors will soon inhabit the space, with their own interpretations of the words, the ideas, the emotions, and the actions of the script. Soon the ideas of one will be the ideas of another and then the whole company, continually being shaped back and forth between players, director and playwright (via the script).
What an incredible chain of connected creative moments the playwright has set in motion.
From the author’s head, heart, body and soul, onto the page, out of the page, into the collective heads, hearts, bodies and souls of the director, the actors, the stage manager, the lighting director, the stage designer, and back again into your head, heart, soul and body when you see the production as it all comes together on the night.
But then that’s not the same version that you’ll see if you go tomorrow night. It’s all continually evolving. Where did the author’s ideas come from in the first place anyway?
Getting a bit existential I know, but what is this thing called a play? What is the space in which it exists at any point? There’s certainly the production itself, but think about all the creative moments around that. The threads, the lives, the processes that lead to and from it. The play is certainly the thing, as Mr Shakespeare said. A profound creative thing. It’s not the end point of creativity though, it exists along a continuum of time past, present and future.
(Aaahhh – where have I gone with this. Must be Dr Who time. Call the Tardis.)
Sam Strong, director of The Floating World, by John Romeril