As he prepares to bring his latest production, The Crucible, to MTC audiences, our Associate Artistic Director Sam Strong shares his thoughts on being back in Melbourne.
It’s been a busy few months since I started as Associate Artistic Director in January. I went pretty much straight into rehearsal to direct Other Desert Cities. And it seems like only a moment has passed between that show closing and starting rehearsal for The Crucible. In the meantime, we have been engaged in that deliciously exciting time of year that is programming. Naturally, I can’t give anything away, but what I can say is that Brett is lining up a 2014 Season that is just as striking, diverse and compelling as his first.
I am loving being at the MTC. This company has always held a special place in my heart: Neil Armfield’s 1995 production of Hamlet made me wantto be a director; I devoured all the plays I could as a Youth Subscriber; and my main stage directing debut was here, working with the wonderful Noni Hazlehurst, Asher Keddie and Nicholas Bell on Madagascar.
If MTC is close to my heart, so is its home town. I’ve spent the last few years in Sydney, working (funnily enough with Neil Armfield) as Literary Associate at Belvoir, and more recently as Artistic Director of Griffin Theatre, a company specialising in new Australian playwriting. Moving back to Melbourne certainly feels like coming home. I’ve been relishing all those beautiful Melbourne idiosyncrasies – like a genuine autumn, footy that means AFL and not League, and what Sophie Cunningham, in her astute portrait of the city, describes as Melbourne’s quality of intimacy, of ‘living in its head’.
But perhaps the most welcome return of all has been to Melbourne audiences. Having directed plays around Australia, I can confidently saythat Melbourne audiences are the best in the country. Nowhere else is there the same quality of attention, the same engagement with a play’s ideas as well as its spectacle, the same almost tribal loyalty, and the same hunger for great stories that move you to laughter, tears or both. Theatre companies exist for, and because of, their audience and MTC are very lucky to have you.
In one audience of Other Desert Cities, I sat next to a mother and her teenage son. The son was interested in being an actor and so they had both started subscribing. As I sat there enjoying the remarkable consistency of Robyn Nevin’s virtuosic performance, I thought back to watching her in A Cheery Soul when I was about the same age as our aspiring actor. I thought about how lucky I am to be involved in a pursuit that unifies people – artists and audiences alike – across generations. I also thought how lucky I am to be able to personally welcome people to the Company and thank them for sharing in the work we create. Whether you are joining us for your first show or are in your twentieth year of subscription, I’d like to thank you for letting MTC live in your heads (and hearts) and making up those unique Melbourne audiences.
I look forward to sharing more of my and the Company’s work with you over the next few years and to perhaps seeing you in the foyer.
Associate Artistic Director