Martin Croft has been involved in professional theatre since the age of 17. In a career spanning both performing and directing, he has been involved in a vast number of shows, including Godspell, Miss Saigon, Jersey Boys, Come From Away, and The Phantom of the Opera.  He has a long-time connection with Les Misérables, which now continues as he takes of the role of director for Centre Stage’s upcoming production in Geelong.

Theatre People spoke with Croft about his ongoing association with the company. “I have worked with CentreStage as a tutor for their theatre school”, says Croft. “I actually directed David Greenwood [now the managing director of the company] in a production of West Side Story many years ago, and through not only our love of theatre but also our love of Bali, we have stayed on contact since then”.

Returning to CentreStage for the auditions, Croft had a clear idea of the sort of people he wanted to cast in the show. “Apart from an obvious talent level, I was looking for people who are brave enough to show their authentic selves and bring that to the work”, commented Croft. “There is a wide range of characters that are exciting for an actor to explore if they are game to be open and emotionally available”. He has been running his rehearsal room for Les Misérables in a most efficient manner. “I am asking a lot of them in a very short amount of time and they are totally on board to work that way”, he says with a smile.

In light of current world events, the themes in Les Misérables have taken on a new relevance for Croft. “I’m a very political person so the fight for equality and equity is very close to me”, he reflects. “I was very moved by the recent death of Ukranian ballet dancer Artyom Datshishin who died fighting for his country. He was one of our theatre tribe and it was devastating to me. It really gave me an added impetus to tell the story as clearly as possible. I am not a director who goes for conceptual gimmicks, but rather a director who does the best to honour the writers and in this case now, honour Artyom by making sure that storytelling is my primary responsibly”.

With Les Mis being such a well-known show, it brings with it certain pressures and expectations regarding its presentation. “I feel a responsibility to the piece. It is well loved for a good reason”, says Croft. “But working with different actors always opens new opportunities for nuance. I love it when working together we find something that may just add that little something extra – even if it may not be obvious to the audience, it will add to a greater whole”.

When asked about his favourite moment in the CentreStage production of Les Misérables, Croft gave a very intriguing answer: “ ‘Bring Him Home’ – but not for the reason you might expect”.  You’ll have to book a ticket to find out why!

Les Misérables opens on June 3rd and runs through to June 11th at the Geelong Arts Centre. Bookings are now open through www.geelongartscentre.org.au

Article by Maxine Montgomery.