When I chat to director Luke Rogers he and his creative team are heavy into the process of bumping in to the Kings Cross Theatre for their upcoming production of Blink, by Phil Porter.
“directing consists of such a strong connection between a group of people – a collective – who are all engaged deep in a shared conversation. And I get to be the driving force behind all that”
I’m interested to know what appeals to him about directing – and he’s quick to express collaboration as central to his motivations. “Because I enjoy collaboration. That is why I have completely embraced the medium. It’s so completely different from any other artistic endeavour. Especially in the theatre – directing consists of such a strong connection between a group of people – a collective – who are all engaged deep in a shared conversation. And I get to be the driving force behind all that.”
We discuss the communal rituals of theatre – steeped in tradition. Yet, Rogers is also clear on the duality at play in the theatre – and its ephemeral nature – which he believes can be its greatest beauty and its biggest frustration. The notion of empathy is also key, “Theatre has such a heightened capacity to touch on that – empathy. With the artists. With the audience. The ‘aliveness’ – that never gets old.”
Rogers is interested in investigating the political through personal relationships via his storytelling. Although he admits there is no conscious theme or agenda for his production company, Stories Like These. “The reason behind choosing to tell the story of Blink was to this time around focus on some Tenderness – some Joy – some Emotional Ache. There’s such gorgeousness to this play. Quirky. Whimsical. Affecting. Such a tangible, bitter-sweet world to get to swim around in…”
Rogers further describes to me the two peculiar and dysfunctional characters at the centre of the play’s rich and familiar landscape – Jonah and Sophie. I wondered if it was a hard task to find and cast the two complicated roles – where the two actors’ performances carry the weight of the entire show. “No”, he simply states. “There are so many excellent actors in Sydney. And I had such specific requirements for these two roles – that it made it easy – easy to spot when I’d found them!”. He highlights intelligence and sensitivity; strength and rigour; athleticism and soul as integral to the performers he required. And he says he found that in spades in both Charlotte Hazzard and James Ragget.
Rogers himself has a background in acting, having completed acting at Theatre Nepean before graduating directing at NIDA. I’m curious what he seeks in a director when acting. “It’s been so long since I’ve acted…!”, he laughs. But, he illuminates that it is ultimately the same as when directing – as, for him, he likes to approach directing from an acting perspective. “I seek to empower the actor. My job as a director is to have a strong, clear vision – yet I want to be able to support any impulses and choices my actors make. It’s my job to create a ‘harmony’ for all our ideas to co-exist, and to build an environment where it can all thrive together as one.”
The physical environment they find themselves in this time is bAKEHOUSE’s newly-established Kings Cross Theatre – which is fast gaining a reputation for producing and staging entertaining, provocative and original shows – all in its short time of inception since late 2015. I ask Rogers what it has meant to him to direct out of that particular space and to be a part of that new creative injection. “Exciting. It’s great to be a part of a reinvigoration of the local cultural life of The Cross. There are other great independent theatre companies here also – a real ‘community’ – a Hub – a precinct of sorts. And the Kings Cross Theatre itself is such a challenging and wonderful space. It’s in the traverse – which I really enjoy – especially for intimacy.”
Lastly I pick his brains as to why he thinks we as humans feel the need to tell stories. To what end? Again, empathy is primary for him. The answer leaps out of him. Instinctual. Reflexive. (And earlier he suggested there is no real theme to his work… I suspect this just might be it though.)
“Empathy! There is such an intrinsic need within us all to understand ourselves. And each other. Storytelling is way for us to re-tell, and re-live, and experience it all on a much deeper level.”
Peter Maple – Theatre Now and Talking Arts
Original publish date, February 9, 2017.