Sunday, September 15, 2013

Farewell Cate: Andrew Upton goes solo

Andrew Upton on stage at the Sydney Theatre Company.

Andrew Upton on stage at the Sydney Theatre Company. Photo: Jenny Evans

It is not only rugby league players who are inclined to finish a day of celebrations in a tattoo parlour. Andrew Upton marked 10 years of marriage to Cate Blanchett by having the word ''ten'' indelibly inked on his right wrist. ''It's quite old actually,'' Upton says, rather sheepishly. ''We got married in 1997 so the tattoo's about five years old.'' He adds: ''Yes, it did hurt a little bit.''

Upton says the tattoo did not receive the prior approval of his wife. It must have been a rare moment of unilateral decision-making during their shared stewardship of the Sydney Theatre Company. Unlike Upton's tattoo, their joint tenure could not last, particularly given that living in Sydney put a brake on Blanchett's cinematic career. ''It's good for me,'' Upton says. ''But it's not the most likely base for Cate's career as an actor.''

Yet the couple decided to remain in Sydney and the STC board invited Upton to continue. Last Thursday he announced his first season as sole artistic director.

Upton says it had not previously occurred to him to lead the STC on his own; the demands of running a theatre company are not great for his work as a playwright. ''They really don't sit that well together,'' he says.


He speaks about the STC as though it is family: with genuine warmth yet sometimes pained by the headaches it gives him. ''I have my personal agonies, there's no doubt about it,'' he says. ''The running of a business - well, actually, Patrick [McIntyre, STC's executive director] does that - but we have to mesh because it is a business that runs off creative decisions. Creative decisions have to fit inside the business envelope. Otherwise you're shot.''

McIntyre describes Upton as a joyful collaborator. ''He's certainly not a kind of control freaky-style artistic director,'' he says. ''He very much likes the rough and tumble of working inside a team.''

While two artistic directors produced twice the energy and ideas, McIntyre says the artistic direction of the company will be sharpened under Upton's sole leadership. ''The double act was really exciting and valuable… because of that kind of diversity of programs,'' he says. ''I think that period added a lot to the company artistically. And now [Upton will] refine that kind of broader canvas into what he thinks represents the Sydney Theatre Company at this point in its history.''

Upton, 47, says putting together the STC's 2014 season without Blanchett by his side was ''neither nerve-racking nor liberating. But it was different.''

Programming a season of theatre is never a solo effort; it involves countless ''conversations'' - a word Upton uses often - with colleagues within the STC and beyond. ''I think when Cate and I were doing it together, it sort of came home with us,'' he says. ''It woke up with us, if you like. It didn't feel as demarcated from my life. It was just a kind of constant gardening.'' That does not mean stage talk has been banished from the dining table of their Hunters Hill mansion. But it is a conversation with an interested, supportive and knowledgeable spouse rather than a co-worker.

''It's quite an interesting, subtle but distinct difference,'' Upton says.

One notable difference is Blanchett's absence from the stage as either actor or director for the first time since 2006. ''I'm sure it has an effect on marketing and sales,'' Upton says. ''But in the end, quality has the most effect on marketing and sales.''

Upton's first program also lacks the international star power of past seasons, which featured director Steven Soderbergh, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Liv Ullmann, also directing, and actors William Hurt and Isabelle Huppert.

''It's not a policy decision or a hunting out, it's where the conversation takes you,'' he says. ''Pushing too far in another direction and deliberately seeking what would verge on stunt casting is a very dangerous path to get stuck on.''

Yet Blanchett's celebrity status, not to mention her acting skills, puts bums on seats, awards on the mantelpiece, politicians in opening-night audiences, and opens doors to potential sponsors at the corporate end of town.

''It's important for the company that some doors are opened by Cate's Cateness,'' Upton says. ''It would be a lie to pretend otherwise.''

After posting a profit of almost $1 million in 2010, the company recorded a loss of $254,000 for 2012, which was attributed to lighting and sound upgrades, a three-year investment program in the company's business systems and a decline in audiences. Main stage ticket sales fell more than 30 per cent from almost 256,000 in 2010 to 174,809 last year. Subscriber numbers were also down 30 per cent from almost 21,000 in 2010 to just 14,652. However, McIntyre says this year has seen an increase in subscribers and a number of shows have sold out and had their seasons extended.

''It's looking good this year, touch wood, and hopefully next year is a real consolidation,'' Upton says.

The 2014 season opens with Travelling North, David Williamson's 1979 play about two grey nomads who buck tradition by not marrying and moving north to warmer climes, much to the consternation of their children. ''David's contribution to Australian theatre generally is so massive that it's very important to keep engaging with his work,'' Upton says.

The Scottish play returns to the STC main stage for the first time since 1999, with Hugo Weaving in the title role. Upton says: ''There's great adventure in us doing Macbeth because we're actually going to turn the theatre inside out and put the audience on the stage.''

Upton's adaptations of Cyrano de Bergerac and Gorky's Children of the Sun, which premiered at London's National Theatre in April, will also be given an airing. In the past, his adaptations have received praise and occasional condemnation for taking liberties with the text. He makes no apologies for tinkering with plays to make them relevant and engaging, but admits that adapting plays has ''its own dangers and its own rewards''.

''I don't want to ride roughshod,'' he says. ''Basically every play I've ever worked on has been written by a better playwright than me.''

In a world of inflated egos, Upton is disarmingly modest. Watching him wrestle a forkful of lasagne into his mouth is a reminder of how much the STC has changed since the reign of Robyn Nevin. Besides installing solar panels on the roof, the couple worked hard to create a relaxed atmosphere, replacing fine dining with a casual bistro at the Wharf Theatre headquarters.

Upton punctuates his conversation with phrases such as ''but I don't want to sound pretentious'' or ''if that's not too grand to say''.

He says he does not feel eclipsed by his wife's fame. ''In the end, the quality is so vast and you learn so much from being around it and near it because it's a very subtle craft my wife has,'' he says. ''And its great for me. I take notes.''

So what has this student of Cate Blanchett learnt? ''For me, her best bit of advice is to listen,'' he says. ''Don't get self-conscious about yourself, just listen to what's going on around you. That's a really great piece of advice for life.''

Ten years of marriage, as the tattoo suggests, is no mean feat.

Sixteen years and three children - Dashiell, 11, Roman, 9, and five-year-old Ignatius - is even more impressive.

Upton says the key to their enduring partnership, no longer in the limelight, is empathy. ''You do have to try and, even when you know you're right, work out why your partner thinks they're right,'' he says. ''It's got to be more important to do it together than to be right.

''That was a great thing doing this job together and I am really missing it on that front.''

Travelling North By David Williamson

''It has a really lovely elegiac quality…''

January 9 to March 22, Wharf 1 Theatre

Perplex By Marius von Mayenburg, translated by Maja Zade

''It's looking at identity and how one presents oneself to each other and the audience. But it's pretty bonkers actually.''

March 31 to May 3, Wharf 1 Theatre

Mojo By Jez Butterworth

''A stingy, funny black sort of criminal tale, a bit like Tarantino. In fact, Mojo was very influential … on Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.''

May 17 to July 5, Wharf 1 Theatre

Macbeth By William Shakespeare

''Obviously Hugo [Weaving] was born to play the Scottish man.''

July 21 to September 27, Sydney Theatre

Children of the Sun By Maxim Gorky, adapted by Andrew Upton

''We go to classic works because they offer us a discipline to judge new work. But you've got to try and wrestle them back to life…''

September 8 to October 25, Sydney Theatre
jika diwebsite ini anda menemukan artikel dengan informasi dan konten yang salah, tidak akurat, bersifat menyesatkan, bersifat memfitnah, bersifat asusila, mengandung pornografi, bersifat diskriminasi atau rasis mohon untuk berkenan menghubungi kami di sini agar segera kami hapus.
◄ Newer Post Older Post ►

© KAWUNGANTEN.COM Powered by Blogger