One on one with Director Cameron South as he discusses his latest play Kidnap Game by Tudor Gates to open at STAG in August.

Kidnap Games by Tudor Gates – not a play that has had much stage exposure over a period of some years. Can you talk a little about this play and what it is that drew you to it?

Paul Kendon is a highly successful businessman, international arms dealer, and head of a large corporation. His world is turned upside-down, however, when he receives a telephone call from a man claiming to have kidnapped his daughter, Sarah.  Although Kendon is prepared to pay the ransom and keep quiet, his security officer Daines, calls in the police – in the form of the cool and intelligent Inspector Joy Hart. Kendon must now take a back seat as Inspector Hart engages the kidnapper, Philip, in a battle of bluff and counter-bluff, leading to the exciting climax with its unexpected twists. The crisis is resolved but, for Paul Kendon who has devoted his life to his business, the cost is counted in personal, rather than financial, terms.

The play has some notable references mainly due to its release around the time of the Gulf War. The author remarked at the time that due to this series of attacks, the play might not actually find a home in the UK, but was welcomed with the opposite reaction from the audiences. However, given that this is not a play that has been done very often from a non-professional perspective, which is something I also look for when choosing a play to direct, the prospect of producing something fresh for audiences to view is a real joy. I particularly like the intrigue that this play has contained within it, and although the script is not a long one, I believe this adds more for an audience as they try to unravel why certain things transpire and my hope is that the audiences come away from the performance with questions and discussion around the plot.

What was the audition process like in terms of what skills you were particularly looking for from the auditioning actors?

The accent was a big thing for me. I wanted to keep to the traditional English theme as much as possible but also needed to get a troupe of people who looked each part, particularly with the father / daughter combination. I also wanted to see if people could bring something to the audition that maybe I could adapt or use whilst maintaining a level of confrontation and versatility for each of the throws that this play presents. That encompasses both laughter moments (or which there are some but not many) as well as anger combined with serious intent.
I know that there were some difficulties in casting. Can you elaborate and discuss some of the frustrations and actions involved when a director is not able to cast a show directly from an audition?

Having 4 people audition for 5 roles was not a great start especially when not all characters were covered. Then casting and having people pull out for reasons that were understandable also made things more difficult,. especially when this interrupted the rehearsal schedule. A lot of time was spent between myself and my Production Co-ordinator in order to get a hold of people to audition for roles outside of the actual audition dates along with call-backs to fine tune my eventual decisions across the board. I am thankful to say that I am very happy with the cast I now have.
It has been said that thrillers are a tough sell to an audience – if not handled correctly they could venture into the land of melodrama. What are your thoughts in relation to that observation and what sort of techniques should actors avoid to keep their responses real and honest?

This play could easily fall into a full-on melodrama and some of the dialogue lends itself really well to that, but my emphasis is always to go to the limit but keep it real to avoid going over the edge. I think part of the rehearsal process is to venture into unknown territory so that we avoid any little surprises during the production run as people know where the limit is, however, saying that, the characters all have a lot of variety that can be brought out and honed to make the final viewing something to keep people entertained despite what emotions are being put on display. My other aim with this process is to make the audience want to know more and part of this process is getting the cast to have done a good background process with their characters to then present a picture that tempts the audience to actually go there.

Early days yet but can you talk about the rehearsal process and how you feel this is progressing?

Despite the delays to the initial rehearsals, I was amazed how quickly we got back on track, even with the odd person being away. With such a small cast that can have a big impact, but I am happy to say that hasn't been the case. Only about 1 week ago, I was amazed to see how much each had progressed in the space of a week, which enabled me to then focus in other areas earlier than I was expecting.

Can you talk about some of the challenges  that directing this type of play brings about?

I think that serious plays can be easier than say comedies as the timing does not necessarily have to be as precise to get that comic timing, but since this play has a mixture of both the challenge is to get the funny moments realised along with keeping the pace moving through the more confronting and personal moments. The other aspect is as already described, from a sense of not turning it into a melodrama. The other challenge that has come up from time to time has been around some of the 1-on-1 interactions between 4 of the 5 in the cast as there is a delicate balance of power that shifts and sometimes mid-scene / conversation. Suffice to say that at this stage things are progressing well given we are still a number of weeks out from opening.    

Can you talk about some of the personal rewards that directing this type of play brings to you?

The thing I really love about directing is bringing something on paper to life. I get a real buzz when a vision of a script even starts to materialise during rehearsals, and I am often quoted that I get excited about the simple things that have been part of the blocking routine. I also love to hear questions or comments from any cast, especially where it relates to their character or a scene in question as I think that both sides of the team need to function well so that the final production that is produced denotes the whole suspension in time if only for a brief moment.  

What do you ultimately hope that audiences take with them after having viewed the play?

As I mentioned earlier, I hope they walk away wanting more, and whether that's with questions, comments or a sense of satisfaction from being a part of the story for an evening.
What, if any, past experiences have you had with STAG?

I last appeared in STAGs Production of Rebecca where I played the character of Frank Crawley and to this day to some involved in that production, they still call me Frank today. This is my first directing gig with them but I am hopeful for more involvement in either category in future productions.
And finally, what is next for you?

Definitely some more directing. I have already received an invitation from The Basin Theatre Group for 2012, but hopefully I will get the chance to delve into another production from an acting perspective before that comes around.