On the Couch with Rodney Fisher

Rodney Fisher oncWho is Rodney Fisher?
Rodney Fisher has been around so long, it’s becoming an embarrassment. You’d expect someone who’d worked with Frank Thring, Googie Withers, Rudolf Nureyev, Ruth Cracknell, Albert Finney and Jean-Pierre Aumont to be penning his memoirs in a retirement village. Not directing Sam Shepard at the Old Fitzroy.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I have twice held steady jobs, receiving a regular wage, and – during those two brief, constrictive periods – I found myself longing to get back to the hand-to-mouth freelance existence to which I’ve always been accustomed: moving from project to project, from one discipline to another, discovering new ways of looking and understanding.

Who inspires you and why?
Well, there’s Keats, Rimbaud, Meyerhold, Brook, Bergman, Haneke, McQueen – but, right now, it’s Sam Shepard who’s inspiring me. His talent for unearthing wild, dark, infectious humour in the face of fading American values makes The God of Hell scarily disturbing and a constant joy to rehearse.  I feel sure audiences are going to be intrigued and delighted by Shepard’s quirky reaction to the absurdity of the world we live in.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I’d find a way to end the misery of the Palestinians; I’d re-draw the self-serving Treaty of Versailles boundaries to provide a homeland for the Kurds; I’d see to it that the plight of persecuted Tamils is finally recognised; I’d sort out Africa’s ethnic conflicts, created by greedy Europeans dividing up that continent; I’d close the concentration camps on Manus, Christmas Island and Nauru. … There’s so much I could accomplish if they’d only make me ruler of the world.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Portland, Oregon. I was there late last year to direct a show at the Arlene Schnitzer Hall, with Meow Meow, Thomas M. Lauderdale, Pink Martini, the von Trapps and the Oregon Symphony. I fell in love with the place – its buoyant atmosphere, free thinking people, great music scene, the world’s best bookshop, and fabulous forests all around. I’m wanting to go back.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
I’d have them come to me in Victoria Street, Potts Point – looking across to the Harbour Bridge, just around the corner from the Potts Point Bookshop and Sydney’s best coffee at Fratelli Paradiso. A five minute walk to Elizabeth Bay, a ten minute walk to the Art Gallery, to the Boy Charlton Pool, to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and the Botanical Gardens: it’s the liveliest, loveliest bit of Sydney.

What are you currently reading?
At Last – the final volume of Edward St Aubyn’s five part epic novel that chronicles – in superbly crafted prose – the appalling but hilarious life of Patrick Melrose. And, simultaneously, two books by Australian writers: John Baxter’s intriguing evocation of the First World War in Paris at the End of the World; and Peter Singer’s haunting story of his grandfather and the tragedy of Jewish Vienna, Pushing Time Away.

What are you currently listening to?
I’ve been catching up on the music of the remarkable Australian composer, Paul Stanhope, whose choral-orchestral cantata about the life of Western Australian indigenous hero Jandamarra was premiered by the Sydney Symphony at the Opera House last week. The Goldner Quartet have commissioned a new work from Stanhope as part of their 20th anniversary concert tour and I have the good fortune to be staging it for them.

Happiness is?
Doing the work that you enjoy, collaborating with creative people – and believing in miracles.

What does the future hold for you?
As well as the Goldner concerts for Musica Viva, I am directing an opera for the 2015 Hobart Baroque Festival. I am also collaborating with Philippe Sung on a screenplay about the young Australian woman, teaching English in mid-seventies China, who made front page news by marrying a young Chinese national. And I’m thrilled that my adaptation of Roger Hall’s The Book Club, with Amanda Muggleton, is finally coming to Sydney next year.

Rodney Fisher has worked in most major theatres in Australia and for all Australian theatre companies as well as Opera Australia, VSO, Bavarian State Opera, Royal Ballet London and Legs on the Wall. He has worked in dance, film, video and written several theatre pieces and screenplays.

Highlights include: The Bastard from the Bush (Robin Ramsay one man show), A Star is Torn – also wrote – (Robyn Archer), Master ClassMy Fair Lady (Anthony Warlow and Suzanne Johnston) and Steaming (legendary Australian tour). Work for STC includes: The Lady in the Van, Pentecost, The Rain Dancers, The Secret Rapture, and The Doll Trilogy. 

Rodney was Artistic Director of State Theatre Company of South Australia from 1997 to 2000, directing The Department, Master Class, Macbeth, The Idiot, Kafka Dances, Courtyard of Miracles, The Rose Tattoo and Twelfth Night

Other credits include: Design for Living, Hay Fever (MTC); The Merry Widow (Ess Gee Productions); From Here to There (Legs on the Wall); A Winter’s Tale (QTC); My Fair Lady (VSO), Maria Stuarda, Lady Bracknell’s Confinement (Diana Bliss and MIF); Hello Dolly (The Production Company); My Darling It’s Noel (ICA); Shock of the New, La Traviata (MCO); A Violent Act (STC); Don John (SSO); and The Bookclub (Hit Productions).

The recipient of many awards, Rodney was made a member of the Order of Australia “for services to directing and writing” in 1988, and has received an award for “significant contribution to the theatre” from the Sydney Theatre Critics Circle.

Rodney is currently directing Sam Shepard’s The God of Hell for Mophead Productions at The Old Fitz Theatre: 26 August – 13 September. For more information, visit:  www.mophead.com.au for details.

Image: Rodney Fisher – photo by Jilvan M ©

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