With auditions opening this week for CLOC’s Aspects of Love, Theatre People caught up with director Shaun Kingma to find out what he is planning to do with the show and what he’s looking for in the audition process.

Theatre People: Where did you first come across Aspects of Love?

Shaun Kingma: I think it was my early teens when I bought the LP (yes that’s right… LP) – I fell in love it with straight away, though I’m pretty sure I didn’t understand half of it back then.

TP: What’s it about?

SK: It’s based on the semi-autobiographical novel by David Garnett. Without going into all the ‘ins and outs’ of the story (excuse the pun), it follows the lives of five people and how their paths intertwine and disconnect over a twenty-year period. They fall in and out of love, lust, betrayal, and hurt whilst trying to find a common ground with each other and themselves. It examines the many types of “love” one can experience in a lifetime or in an instant, simultaneously – some uplifting, or soaring. Many that are ultimately destructive.

TP: What are you planning to do with the show (specifically)?

SK: The show has over sixty scenes with a virtually continuous score. It must flow like a movie. Fade ins, cut aways, dissolves etc. This is the approach I am taking. Brenton Staples (Set Designer) and I, have been working on the look and feel for the show for over six months (possibly the longest pre-production I have undertaken). The scenic design is beautiful, with numerous clothes and set pieces. It will utilise the entire depth of the National Theatre to create a vast landscape in one moment, whilst having the ability to create an intimate setting the next. Then we will be having a large chamber orchestra (led by Andrew Houston), with plenty of strings and reeds to create the lush sound of the score.

I am very excited to start working with a cast and the other creatives to create a beautiful piece of musical theatre – and, being a piece that has only been performed once in Melbourne (over fifteen years ago), makes it all the more exciting.

TP: How you think such a small show is going to go in such a big theatre?

SK: Well, Aspects is one of those oddities. Yes it is an intimate piece, however it has a large scope. Many scenes require a vast amount of space (the Pyrenees Mountains for one could be difficult to stage in a space like Chapel off Chapel). In terms of its audience, only time will tell on that point. It is a lesser known work from Andrew Lloyd Webber (and many argue his most complicated and sophisticated score), but I firmly believe there is an audience for it. True, it may not have the same following as, say, Fiddler did, but thank god we are given the opportunity to do some rarely performed works like Aspects as well.

TP: Why was CLOC the right company to make this show with?

SK: Aside from their technical know-how and commitment to producing the highest possible quality they can for their audience, CLOC has a strong history of alternating their show choices between the safer, tried and true, to lesser known and ‘riskier’ productions. They balance their seasons extremely well. We don’t have many large scale amateur companies left in Melbourne. We need these larger companies as much as we need the smaller ones. It gives us choice and variety in the types of shows we can see and perform in.

TP: Where is it set?

SK: Starting in 1947 and ending in 1964, the main story is set in the countryside of France, Paris, the Pyrenees Mountains, and Venice.

TP: From an actor’s perspective, what will be the most appealing roles to go for?

SK: I believe this show should be highly appealing to actor/singers. The characters are finely drawn, all with an arc and journey that will provide a challenge and an immense amount of satisfaction each night. There is no hiding behind larger than life caricatures in this show. No fluffy, sequined costumes. It’s a wonderful challenge to be able to present a truth in a role. Aspects certainly provides that opportunity. Add to that some difficult, but beautiful, and soaring music to sing each night, what else could you want?

TP: Is everyone required to sing?

SK: Most certainly. The entire show is sung-through, with perhaps only one or two spoken words. The show is written as a chamber piece – there are very few pauses along the way. Vocally it does require a certain amount of strength and stamina.

TP: What are you looking for in auditions?

SK: Obviously first and foremost is the vocal chops and some strong acting skills. There is no dialogue, so the song needs to be the dialogue for you. Then of course the ‘look’ comes into it all – making sure that person is the right look for the role, plus the right fit with the other characters. It can become quite a jigsaw sometimes. We are looking for a large variety of looks and ages though – all the way down from the character of Young Jenny (approx 10-13) to George (50-60).

TP: Do you have any specific audition tips?

SK: First and foremost – know the show. At least a little bit. It shows some kind of effort on the auditionees part, to at least understand what you are auditioning for. It’s so easy to find out everything you need about a show now. Once you know at least the feel of the show and the music, it’s then much easier to tailor an audition song that suits – and something that can show you off at your best in a short amount of time. Other than that, try and enjoy it as much as you can (I know that’s easier said than done sometimes). We want you to do your best.

TP: What do you enjoy most about the audition process?

SK: I think it’s actually my favourite part of the entire process. It’s the point where everything is fresh and new and the possibilities for what the show can be is wide open.

TP: Other than “Love changes everything”, what other songs of note are in the show?

SK: Well of course “Love Changes Everything” is the hit song of the show – quite a few others have also stood up to be counted with it, though. Most notably: “First Man You remember,” “Seeing is Believing," "Anything but Lonely,” and “Wine and the Dice”.

TP: Have you pre-cast any roles? Do you believe in pre-casting?

SK: Haha, no. No roles have been pre-cast. I know this is a bit of a ‘topic’ going around lately. Pre-casting certainly exists in pro, semi-pro., regional, co-op., independent, and apparently some amateur productions. It’s something I personally wouldn’t do it for an amateur production – I want to see the most amount of people and have the widest amount of options available to me. Of course I already have specific ‘looks’ and ‘types’ in my head for every show – I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t – however that can change through the audition or call-back process – the whole casting can take on an entirely different look. I always have that in the back of my head.

TP: What online videos would you suggest looking at?

SK: Well, there is actually not much out there. First performed in London in 1989, it missed the whole digital revolution. However there are some clips out there of ‘music videos’ (yep, music videos…) with Sarah Brightman and Michael Ball (recommended for its kitsch value only). There is one clip (poor quality) of the Tony Awards presentation of the Aspects segment – the entire story told by the cast whilst singing "Love Changes Everything" – interesting. However the best source of information for the show comes from the original recording, plus some web searches on the libretto/synopsis.