Sam Strong believes that Emerald City has a powerful voice for its 2020 audience.
This week , I had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing Sam Strong on his directorial role in Queensland Theatre's production of Emerald City. And here's what he had to say...
VIRAG: As one of Australia's renowned and playwrights, David Williamson has written a plethora of monumental works in our contemporary, dramatic canon. As an artistic director and director, what made you gravitate towards this work?
SAM: This production of Emerald City grew out of David Williamson and Queensland Theatre's joint 50th anniversaries and a desire to celebrate both with a fresh take on one of his finest plays. MTC Artistic Director Brett Sheehy and I also share a love of the play. He was the literary manager at STC when the play was first produced. And I've always wanted to direct it.
VIRAG: I remember when I first read this play, one of the first things stayed in my head was its powerful commentary on human nature. And, not only that but how our material possessions and wealth influence our own behaviour and how we treat and perceive others with less or more than us. Do you think that these ideas are still as relevant to contemporary audiences as they in the time of the play's publication? Or, alternatively, do you think that they're more relevant?
SAM: Emerald City is often talked about in terms of its dramatisation of the tension between art and commerce. But for me, this is part of an even deeper (and more universal) theme of the struggle to maintain your integrity and ideals in the face of temptations to compromise them. The culture of excess and entrepreneurialism of the late 80s is the perfect context to explore questions of ethics and the balance between self-interest and altruism. But David's treatment of these ideas means that they speak equally powerfully to a 2020 audience.
VIRAG: In addition to that, would you agree with me in saying that the medium of theatre is a powerful looking glass in which to reflect and spark discussions on ourselves. And if so, do you think theatre and the arts has the ability to give audiences the capacity to change their morals and behaviour?
SAM: Theatre is unique in its capacity to reflect contemporary Australian society back to itself. And David Williamson has made a 50-year career out of doing precisely that. He has a peerless capacity to put his finger on the zeitgeist and speak to the issues of the day. But his ability to put recognisable people on stage, and his sensitivity to their human foibles, means his work speaks across time as well. Can theatre change the way people think about the world? Of all the art forms it's going to give it the best shot.
VIRAG: In terms of staging the show, did you find that your team of creatives and cast had similar interpretations and views on the text?
SAM: The best design and rehearsal processes start with a huge range of different ideas and interpretations but end up aligned on the strongest ones. In a genuinely collaborative process you are discovering the story (and the way you will tell it) together. This necessarily involves a lot of trial and error and experimentation.
VIRAG: How would you like the audience to leave the theatre?
I would love the audience to gain a fresh appreciation of David Williamson's work. I want people to remember (and be surprised by) how fantastic a play Emerald City is.
EMERALD CITY | Directed by Sam Strong | Performed at Queensland Theatre