From Screen to Stage – in conversation with renowned director, Andrew Prowse
AussieTheatre’s Clare Pickering sat down with renowned director Andrew Prowse (McLeod’s Daughters, Rush) to talk about working with actors and his first foray into theatre directing.
It’s not every day you hear of a well-known TV director moving from the screen to the stage, but that is exactly what Andrew Prowse has done with his first theatre production All This Intimacy.
I had the honour of meeting with Prowse to talk about his unusual leap from behind the camera onto the boards at Chapel off Chapel.
Andrew Prowse is one of Australia’s leading TV directors with numerous credits including Rush, Wildside, Farscape, Heartbreak High, McLeod’s Daughters and a number of features and TV movies. He has also worked as an editor, sound editor, writer and producer and now finally he has added his 20-year dream to his latest list of credits – Theatre Director.
Prowse admits his fascination for acting began when he was working as an editor. He would often ask himself: ‘Why don’t I believe what I am seeing?’ and it was this question that lead to a greater collaboration with actors. Prowse believes that acting is much simpler than actors allow it to be and that directors and actors often get in the way of the script.
He goes on to explain that, “It’s about not acting and keeping it simple. Acting is all about being unselfconscious and committed to what you want, to achieving a simple goal. Character has nothing to do with what you (the actor) are doing. Actor’s instincts come from within them so they need to pay attention to each other and focus on the goal they are trying to achieve. Ultimately the director is the facilitator. It is the job of the director to instill confidence in actors about what they are doing. The actors then have to own it so the role becomes theirs.”
While working on the acclaimed TV series Rush, Prowse began incorporating Meisner techniques, such as the ‘repetition’ exercise, as part of an extended rehearsal process for the actors. One of the stars of the show, Nicole de Silva, came up with the idea of doing workshops, which soon became a regular Monday night event. It wasn’t long before one of the actors suggested Prowse should direct a play (with roles for each of them!) and the hunt for a suitable production began.
The four female actors in All This Intimacy were involved in Prowse’s workshops, as was the actor Bruce Hughes. Prowse wanted to find a play that had roles for all of them and while the group was successful in finding roles for the women, Prowse needed something for Hughes. And this is how The Sermon formed part of the production. Taken from David Mamet’s True and False it is the perfect appetizer to the main show. Prowse had previously worked with Scott Major on Heartbreak High and after casting him in the lead role the addition of Nathan Strauss completed the ensemble.
So how did Prowse grapple with the differences between working in film and theatre?
He believes the process is the same. From a directing and acting perspective there is little difference, he says. He still partakes in script analysis; the words are given meaning by intention and the actors must then personalise these moments to achieve their character’s objectives. Aside from some obvious lighting cues, he was rather fluid when ‘blocking’ the show. His aim was to enable the actors to continue to work with their instincts and focus on each other without being tied down to restricted stage movements.
There is one significant difference that Prowse did become aware of (besides the known fact that there’s no money to be made in Australian theatre) and that is the amount of work that the actors and crew put into the production. It is the selfless, behind-the-scenes work that they all contributed which has lead to such a successful season.
All This Intimacy is an extraordinarily confronting and challenging play that has been deftly crafted by Prowse and his tightly knit ensemble cast. Prowse believes that when acting works, the audience feel like they are eavesdropping. What I experienced on Opening Night went beyond eavesdropping. The audience was so challenged by what they were witnessing, it was as though they were living the moments personally themselves. It created the most amount of debate at interval that I have ever witnessed and it is for this reason that I believe Prowse has succeeded in his first venture into the wonderful world of live theatre. Thankfully, Prowse is happy and delighted with his first effort and is now researching ideas for his next production. For those of us lucky enough to witness his first production, this is welcome news.
All This Intimacy
Written by Rajiv Joseph
Directed by Andrew Prowse
Starring Scott Major, Joanne Redfearn, Debbie Zukerman, Celeste Markwell, Georgia Bolton, Nathan Strauss and Bruce Hughes.
Loft Theatre, Chapel Off Chapel
Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Friday 24 February – Sunday 11 March 2012