A meticulous approach has been undertaken by the director Jim Matsinos to present Summit Conference with authenticity and true to the writer’s original intention.
You will be directing ‘Summit Conference’ at The Players Theatre in July. What’s the concept of this premiere production?
A production I saw in 1982 in London, starring Glenda Jackson, has lived with me for a long time. I reflect back on events around the world that have occurred since, and ask the question, “Why?”
I want to ask today’s audience the same question. After attending the production, I trust they will ask, “Why?” And hopefully they will “find their own answers”.
A provocative and sinister play, tell us about the setting and plot of ‘Summit Conference’.
A three character play about two mistresses of Hitler and Mussolini, being watched over by an SS Soldier, having tea together, while their lovers carve up the continent in the next room. The mistresses then decide to carve up themselves, the bunker and finally the soldier.
Being the Australian premiere and the first show written by Robert David McDonald to be performed in Australia, what are the expectations?
No expectations; all I am doing is introducing another author to the Australian stage … I feel, a very worthy one.
What has been your approach to directing this production?
The dramaturgy involved has been a massive undertaking, to check historical events, personalities and design styles that reflect the genre of this production. Having the privilege to work with Craig Teasdell (architect) and Paul Hinderer (theatrical designer), Alan Heinecke (sound effects), and add this to my overall interpretation, has been a creative rollercoaster.
Lighting, costumes and hairstyles reflect the time and place of this period piece. However, it is the three characters who interact with this environment that has given me great pride in what can be achieved. They have had to not only remember pages of dialogue, but play two characters without changing their outward appearance. They morph from Eva Braun to Adolf Hitler, Clara Petacci to Benito Mussolini, an SS Soldier to a Jewish rent girl. It has involved long discussions and movements to achieve the correct character when the script calls for such a change. It is a massive challenge for all of us involved in this play.
Who else was involved in the creation of the set design and photographic presentation?
Working with an architect immediately changes the design process; working with computers has been a huge leap for me. Where it was paint, paper and pencil, now it is computer generated. The deliberate simplicity of a German bunker and minimalist furnishings, only adorned with banners brandishing the swastika, makes for a very confronting environment.
The highlight will be a huge architectural model, on stage, in the design of Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect, that will focus the audiences’ attention on their arrival in the theatre. This has been the creative design process of Paul Hinderer, who also has captured the production with his avant-garde approach to his photography. Even more surprises will evolve, but I will leave this and invite the public to attend to see innovative theatre being performed and produced by local people.
What will audiences enjoy about ‘The Summit Conference’ production at Players Theatre?
Perhaps the word enjoy is not the correct word. This is no walk in the park Sound of Music Nazi story. It is thought provoking, confronting and challenges the audience to think of what is happening around them today when they switch on the television. What has changed?
I trust they will leave the theatre thinking, “That was as good as I would see anywhere else. I‘ve had to absorb, ask questions and find my own answers, and this is when theatre is at its best.”