On the Couch with Mark Mitchell

Mark Mitchell Arts Review On the CouchWho is Mark Mitchell?
Mark Mitchell plays Lazar Wolf – the traditionalist butcher in Fiddler on the Roof – a character I enjoy playing. Lazar is an enthusiast, a dreamer and a romantic whose traditionalism faces, and is overwhelmed by societal changes he could not predict. Lazar is passionate and a little impulsive and these conspire against him. Ultimately, he is pragmatic.

More importantly, ‘Lazar’ is my chance to sing with Anthony Warlow under the musical direction of Australia’s premier musical director, Kellie Dickerson. It began with Roger Hodgman the director every serious actor wishes to meet. It has been a multifaceted and marvellous adventure and, as I say, culminating in the pleasure of performing alongside Australia’s greatest musical performer.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I love the chance to perform across the broad spectrum of performance and entertainment opportunities. If I could do anything differently, it should be to work more often with the same degree of variety I enjoy so much, now.

Who inspires you and why?
Inspiration is a moving feast that cannot be contained in one person, however accomplished. It is the  driving force that sustains us. The audience inspires me and challenges me to be better than I’ve been, to surprise and delight them and sustain their good will. I believe this is the characteristic of all great performers; essentially, of all those who continue to inspire me as the masters of our craft, and art.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Like most people, I tried to make a difference in the world by teaching my children the value of love and good will. This is the best we can do when we cannot write a perfect novel, cure the common cold or end all injustice. By degrees, we chip away at the edifice of all those monoliths that represent the obstacles to humanity’s moral and spiritual evolution.

Our optimism and willingness to forgive yet learn sustains us. Meanwhile, grow vegetables and fruit thereby sequestering carbon, recycle, be less wasteful and encourage and support others in their efforts to make whatever difference or improvement they can. Also, try not to sound twee…

Favourite holiday destination and why?
My favourite holiday destination is under water, snorkelling watching fish and admiring that other world; failing which I subscribe to everything David Attenborough produces which I watch after having enjoyed my own garden.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?
Melbourne’s restaurants and roof top bars, our little lane way hideaways, our tapas bars are the amongst the best in the world. It gives me enormous pleasure to share the great variety on offer with my guests. One ought never need to persuade a guest that something is attractive. One ought to wait for the guest to make the declaration.

Then, after wowing them with our eateries, it’s time to visit the William Rickett’s Sanctuary before enjoying a Devonshire tea in the Dandenongs. Then, off to Rickett’s Point to the teahouse and a wander around the rock pools in sensible non slip footwear before returning to the Botanic Gardens or Ripponlea. By day four, a chocolate tour of Melbourne might be worth considering before a light meal at the Peruvian restaurant in a lane off Flinders Lane for a dish of alpaca loin tartar or salmon ceviche and then their choice of live show at one of our wonderful theatres.

Assuming this brings us to the weekend, a trip to the South Melbourne market and the cheese room might be fun as a prelude to some serious coffee discoveries and a trip to the Tapestry Workshop in South Melbourne followed by a tram ride to the NGV and dinner at the Flower Drum. Invariably, some entertainment in the park will allow us to be spontaneous on Sunday although we might find ourselves in a jazz bar drinking cocktails.

The purpose of my plan is to stand foursquare against featurism whilst delighting my guests with what they might well assume is what passes for us as a  mundane lifestyle which is, actually, near perfect.  My ulterior motive is to make people love Melbourne as much as I do.

What are you currently reading?
Currently, The Mountain Shadow – the sequel to Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.

What are you currently listening to?
Lior is performing in Fiddler on the Roof and so my discovery of his enormous talent is recent and my knowledge fledgling but the emotional intensity, the musicality, the tone and cadence of his work, ‘Compassion’ is exquisite.

Happiness is?
Hearing the laughter of my loved ones – and the ones I always come to love – from my wife and children, my friends and the audience.

What does the future hold for you?
Recently, I discovered that the Chinese consider the future to be behind them and the past in front of them because the past can be recalled and understood whilst the future, as if, stalks them. We tend to think of the future as before us, with the past behind us. In fact, there is no future but a sense of how the present seems. Our prognostications reveal merely how we feel, now. So, my future is bright because I am happy in what I am doing, now.

All projections are positive because my mood is buoyed by the happiness I feel doing what I’m doing.  My focus right now is performing in Fiddler on the Roof which some people told me is a reinvention of myself but that says more about how little they know me than anything else.  Or, rather, it says something about the future they imagine for me on the basis of the present.

Either way, I’m very happy playing opposite the great Anthony Warlow with a delightful group of people who work tirelessly to make Fiddler on the Roof highly memorable.  Whatever the future holds, the memories being created now are sure to improve my feelings for the past.

Mark is currently appearing as Lazar Wolf in Fiddler on the Roof at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre until 27 February, before playing at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre from 24 March 2016. For more information, visit: www.fiddlerontherooftour.com for details.

Image: Mark Mitchell