On the Couch with Beng Oh

Beng OhWho is Beng Oh?
Beng Oh, n. 1. a gay Asian-Australian director who resists labels. 2. a stubborn craftsman and persistent artist. 3. a work in progress.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
Package my personal narrative for ease of consumption. Create a body of work which, for better or worse, is inextricably identified with Beng Oh.

Who inspires you and why?
French director Ariane Mnouchkine and her company, Théâtre du Soleil. They work collectively and collaboratively, often with writer and philosopher Hélène Cixous , and produce epic spectacles for the stage. Their work is rich in detail and draws on many influences, not least their ensemble of actors from over 20 countries. They are passionate, political and not afraid to grapple with ideas and intractable problems. Their work embraces complexity and is unforgettable ex. Le Dérnier Caravansérail (The Last Caravan Stop) which was seen at the 2005 Melbourne Festival.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Keep a small carbon footprint and keep making theatre. I subscribe to Ronnie Burkett’s definition of art as your personal contribution to the ever continuing conversation about life.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
New York. A beautiful, vibrant city with much to see and do. I was there in 2012 for the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab and cannot wait to go back.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?
If the friends love theatre then La Mama Theatre is a must. It’s a special place with fantastic atmosphere. It’s the home of new works and you never know what you’re going to get there. Otherwise, Ben Shewry’s restaurant Attica is one of the best attractions in Melbourne if you can get in. The food is stunning and a good representation of the finest Australia has to offer.

What are you currently reading?
Embodied Memory: the Theatre of George Tabori by Anat Feinberg, which is handy as I’m currently directing a return season of my production of Tabori’s farce, Mein Kampf, which is on at fortyfivedownstairs in July 2014. I’m also reading Tove Jansson’s Sculptor’s Daughter (I’m a big Moomintroll fan).

What are you currently listening to?
Richard Strauss’s opera Daphne. It’s not well known but, as always with Strauss, it has some glorious music. It’s also timely, as 11 June 2014 was the 150th anniversary of his birth.

Happiness is?

What does the future hold for you?
More rehearsals. I’m working with my close friend and collaborator, playwright Jane Miller, on a new work about Oedipus and Jocasta cheerfully titled Motherfucker. Further down the track there’ll be more travel, more theatre, more clarity, more self-definition, and then one dark day there’ll be an end to all doubt.

Beng Oh is a freelance Asian-Australian director who has staged a wide range of productions including new Australian plays, comedies, experimental works and musicals. He has directed plays by Franz Xaver Kroetz, John Patrick Shanley, Paula Vogel, Peter Handke, Heiner Müller, Frank Wedekind, Gertrude Stein and Christopher Marlowe, among many others.

Recent productions include George Tabori’s farce Mein Kampf and Jane Miller’s comic drama True Love Travels on a Gravel Road. Other productions include the Australian premiere of Tom Fool by Franz Xaver Kroetz; and a production of Porcelain by Chay Yew which was nominated for a Green Room Award for direction (Independent Theatre).

Beng completed post-graduate directing at the Victorian College of the Arts and is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab. He is co-artistic director of 15 Minutes from Anywhere in collaboration with playwright Jane Miller.

Beng is directing a return season of Mein Kampf at La Mama as part of their ENCORE program from 2 July. For more information, visit: www.lamama.com.au for details.

Image: Beng Oh