On the Couch with Nigel Kellaway

Jump Participants, NSW, Carriageworks, 2012Who is Nigel Kellaway?
I’m a theatre director, but also an actor and musician, presently preparing an epic work for Performance Space’s 30th anniversary: Brief Synopsis: a beautiful naked woman ‘of a certain age’ brutally stabs a young man to death.  Staged in the gigantic Bay 17 of Carriageworks, it is a cocktail of lavish theatre, live music and animated photography.

What would you do differently to what you do now?  
If I had been a more diligent student of mathematics and science at school I might have become an obstetrician or an architect – they fascinate me as, like a theatre director, they contribute to the creation of new things.

Who inspires you and why?
Anyone who has the satisfaction of a vision well accomplished.  (A woman who enjoys a pregnancy!)  Anyone who viciously fights for a reasonable right denied them. Why? … because of their battle with the indefinite.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Well, I wouldn’t necessarily make theatre.  But I would support any strategy that encourages the querying of what makes a just and inventive humanity.  We’re talking, here, about equality in education – across all generations.  A bit of good art might contribute.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Venice, Paris, Berlin, Kyoto have always been my favourites, but I have recently discovered Ubud in Bali.  The sensory overload of gamelan and Kecak, frogs, visual ornamentation, foliage, motorbikes and taxis, treacherous footpaths … it’s hard to sleep after a day of such relentless stimulation.  Heaven!  (Along with the dark side of evident poverty … it makes you think.)

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?
Not the Opera House or Bondi or the Blue Mountains, as they can do that without me. But I have a security swipe card for CarriageWorks at the moment, so I’d take my friends, illicitly, through all the nooks and crannies of an extraordinary building they could not normally see.  I know it very well.

What are you currently reading?
The screenplay for John Cassavetes 1972 movie Gloria.  And I chanced upon Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunich on my bookshelf a few weeks ago, and browsed through it, a book that profoundly informed my identity as a male in the early 1970’s, along with Thomas Mann’s The Holy Sinner.

What are you currently listening to?
Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s 1981 recordings of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti.  They are so good they deserve a re-writing, and I might even match-make a marriage with the Cassavetes screenplay for a whole new theatre work … for the future.

Happiness is?
Complicated.  Our lives will be recorded as a “Brief Synopsis” … but when I hit the rehearsal floor with compatriots I feel in a very privileged space … I become “alive”!

What does the future hold for you?
The next possible theatre project.  (Too late to study obstetrics or architecture!)

In a career embracing his skills as an actor, director, dancer, musician and contemporary performance maker, Nigel Kellaway’s initial professional performance training was in music.  He was the first Australian actor to train in Japan with Tadashi Suzuki and his Suzuki Company Of Toga (1984-85).

Over 35 years, he has created more than 60 full-length theatre, dance and music works with companies including the Australian Dance Theatre, One Extra Company, at London’s Royal Court Theatre, The Sydney Front, the Song Company, Urban Theatre Projects, Stopera, Sidetrack Performance Group, Salamanca Arts Centre and for the Sydney, Adelaide and Perth Festivals.

In 1996 he co-founded with Annette Tesoriero The opera Project Inc., a loose ensemble of actors, musicians and physical performers dedicated to the mission of reassessing “opera” (and its accoutrement) as a contemporary performance practice.  He served on the dance committee of the Australia Council (1993-96) and in 1997 was awarded the Rex Cramphorn Theatre Scholarship by the NSW Ministry for the Arts.

In 2004 he was awarded a Fellowship by the Theatre Board of the Australia Council, and now works widely as a freelance director, performer and mentor, whilst continuing his role as director of The opera Project.

Brief Synopsis plays at Sydney’s Carriageworks from 27 – 29 November. For more information, visit: www.performancespace.com.au for details.

Image: Nigel Kellaway