Sean Scanlon presents Mark Ravenhill's hypnotic and razor-sharp, pool (no water) at Goodtime Studios early next month. The play tears up the ideals of friendship and art, exposing a deep vein of envy.
Says director Scanlon: "Mark Ravenhill has written a play that cuts to the core and creates a language that is both familiar and alien. I love the challenge of doing it justice."
As a director Scanlon gravitates towards strong writing more than anything and he admits, without a doubt, that this is easily the most complex and rewarding script he has ever worked with.
"It’s constantly changing place and time and its language is so fluent and violent that it is intimidating to tackle, all this and the subject matter is such a perversely familiar one that it challenged me as a person. My attitude with this play is I would rather it be a glorious failure remembered for years than a benign success forgotten in a month. At least I’ll know I tried something different rather than just stuck with what I know."
Scanlon took up the project after returning from a trip overseas after directing two plays that he was incredibly proud of but, nonetheless, he felt he had stagnated. "I‘d discovered a style that I was comfortable with and that terrified me and I went about asking all these people I respect in theatre about plays that they considered difficult or impossible to put on, Pool (no water) came up consistently. I felt that I needed to challenge myself, and this play was that chance.," he says.
This play explores the nature of fame and art, how modern society, particularly in the west define ourselves by our successes rather than our integrity.
A famous artist invites her old friends out to her luxurious home and new swimming pool. For one night only, the group is back together, pretending to be bohemian and carefree even though they’re all older now and the rest of them don’t have pools. But a horrific accident puts an end to the nostalgia, and puts their host into a coma.
None of them is sure who was first to take out a camera. And before too long her suffering is being claimed, exploited, delighted in, because it makes wonderful art.
Scanlon feels we can all identify with some aspects of the themes explored in Ravenhill's naked expose. "Speaking for myself, I have watched peers have great successes and while I am for the most part happy for them I ashamedly admit that somewhere within me, in that moment, I despise them for their success," admits Scanlon. "I don’t think I’m alone in that, knowing it’s wrong and that you should be 100% happy for them and yet the selfish part of the ego asks “Why not me?'"
Scanlon is an award-winning theatre director and actor and is the 2006 recipient of the MTC scholarship and a 3DFest winner. He has directed and performed in shows at the Malthouse, La Mama and the Arts Centre as well as producing the sold-out 2010 Melbourne Fringe show Truthmachine with his company Grounded Astronaut Theatre. His strength in improv is serving him well with this challenging raw text piece. "There is no break up of characters," says Scanlon. "The play could be, and has been, performed by casts of 20+. I chose to go with four and finding the different characters within that has been a rewarding experience. I challenged the cast to start building their characters without giving them specific text, and then based on what they each individually offered I went about giving them lines from the play which further informed their character."
Scanlon feels his greatest strength as a director is casting. He gets strong actors in and then builds a safe environment for them to create.
"Watching them evolve and struggle with their characters is incredibly fulfilling and in one rehearsal an actor simply high-fived another actor during a scene, which had never happened before," he says. "That high-five completely changed their concept of those characters relationship and I was incredibly chuffed that such a seemingly simple thing could have such an impact for these actors."
Scanlon's summation of this work is that it is about indulging the darker sides of our personalities, acting on jealous thoughts and then watching the aftermath.
It’s a strange, funny conversation about the worst elements of human nature.
June 2 – 10
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