Interview with Steve Hopley, director of La Ronde. (Theatre Interview)
LA RONDE IN THE ROUND
By Arthur Schnitzler
July 2 to 12, 2014
Ten couples. Ten scenes. A round dance of love, sex and infidelity.
Written in Freud’s Vienna in 1897, Arthur Schnitzler’s psychological investigation of sex was never intended to be performed. After publication in 1903, the work was condemned as pornography: copies were confiscated, readings banned, and theatres that attempted to produce it were shut down. After its first official presentation in 1920, the theatre was stormed and everyone involved charged with public indecency. From then until his death, Schnitzler refused requests to produce the work, but from the 1950’s it has been filmed on several occasions and adapted for the stage many times, most notably as The Blue Room and the musical Hello Again.
After their highly acclaimed 2012 debut of Jean Genet’s The Maids. Enigma will now dust the cobwebs out of the Coronation Hall (known as The Australian Theatre during the 1970’s, a new writing theatre at which Garry McDonald and Ruth Cracknell performed) to present the stunning original text of one of the most copied and controversial plays of all time: La Ronde – in the round.
I was lucky enough to have a chance to toss some questions at La Ronde’s director, Steven Hopley ahead of this weeks opening.
Lisa – La Ronde is a play written in 1897. Why is it relevant to Sydney-siders in 2014?
Steve – Like most great plays, I think there’s something about La Ronde that’s universal. And it happens to be about sex, so it’s not as if that’s likely to go out of fashion any time soon…
Lisa – Let’s hope not! What do you see is the main relationship between sex, money and power in the play?
Steve – Sex and power and absolutely linked, all the way through – status is key in each scene. Money does pop it’s head in now and again, but it’s more about social standing than it is about wealth, and the way sex wends its way through every echelon of society, from a prostitute to an ambassador.
Lisa – What have been the greatest joys and the greatest challenges of bringing a 2014 version of La Ronde to the stage?
Steve – One of the joys was how little in the script needed changing to make it work in a 2014 Sydney setting. Another joy was discovering just how funny the piece actually is, in sometimes quite unexpected places! The greatest challenge has been to work in the round in a space not usually used for theatre – but it’s a challenge I’m confident we’ll meet!
Lisa – Coronation Hall is an important historical space, so it’s exciting to see it being used again. When did you first decide you were going to direct La Ronde, and was it difficult to get people on board? What sets your production apart from others?
Steve – I decided I was going to direct it the first time I read it and fell in love with it about five years ago. I had the female portion of the cast set almost straight away – then it was just a matter of finding the guys to match them. Only one role proved difficult to cast in the end (there’s always one!) but thankfully the remarkable Leigh Scully descended like a Deus Ex Machina and made it all perfect. What sets this production of La Ronde apart from the others is that it is actually La Ronde and not somebody else’s adaptation of the text; it’s tailored to the here and now, with a stunning cast, and it’ll be performed in the round, which is gonna be awesome.
Lisa – It’s a fantastic opportunity to see the original then. Tell me a little about the cast and creatives, and what strengths they bring to the production.
Steve – Alison Lee Rubie is one hell of an actress and the best co-producer a boy could want; Rachel Scane has come up with some game-changing ideas for our design; Jerry Retford is a world-class lighting designer doing wonders on a shoestring; Emily Elise, Jasper Garner Gore and Amanda Maple-Brown are the most brilliantly funny actors I know; Peter Jamieson and Amy Scott-Smith bring dark and animalistic qualities to their scenes, with surprisingly soft underbellies; Brendon Taylor’s exuberance and sense of fun is a constant joy; Jaymie Knight brings a stately and fine presence to the piece; Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou is cute as all get-up and has turned a tricky character brilliantly on her head; and, in an equally tricky role, Leigh Scully proves he is as talented as he is handsome, damn his hide.
Lisa – So much talent! What do you think is the best thing about being a theatre maker in Sydney in 2014?
Steve – I get to work with the people I just mentioned – and put on great plays like La Ronde!
La Ronde is playing from July 2 through to July 12 2014. Grab your tickets here.