On the Couch with Roger Hodgman

Roger Hodgman oncWho is Roger Hodgman?  
I’m a freelance theatre and screen director. Recently I’ve directed a lot of musicals (Grey Gardens, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) – and operas (Rigoletto, Nixon in China and Don Pasquale) as well as being the start-up director for the TV series A Place To Call Home. I’m currently directing As You Like It for Black Swan in Perth and will shortly start work on the first production of Geoffrey Atherden’s stage version of Mother and Son. I’ve enjoying the variety and the lack of administrative tasks after twenty years of running institutions (Vancouver Playhouse, VCA School of Drama and the Melbourne Theatre Company).

What would you do differently to what you do now?   
Nothing really. I’m afraid my work is my hobby – along with leisure time and holidays spent with my wife Pamela Rabe.

Who inspires you and why?  
Usually the writers whose work I try to interpret. Shakespeare currently, because he feels so modern. It’s wonderful to feel and hear an audience recognizing themselves and things they know in a work written four hundred years ago. I recently did my first Verdi opera and was staggered by his sense of theatre and drama. I’m also inspired by the artists I work with – designers, actors, and singers.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?  
Find conviction politicians who can break out of the endless cycle of spin and deceit. And politicians who understand the value to society of the Arts.

Favourite holiday destination and why?  
Tasmania. I come from there and Pamela loves it as well. There are extraordinarily peaceful and beautiful places on the East Coast particularly and the D’Entrecasteaux channel. And sleepy Hobart is slowly waking up.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?  
If we were in Melbourne I’d walk them through Melbourne’s laneways and take them for a drive down the Ocean Road. In Sydney – the Manly ferry. If they’re here for a couple of days, a trip to MONA in Hobart.

What are you currently reading?
I am well into Ian Kelly’s Mr. Foote’s Other Leg, a fascinating and hilarious biography of Samuel Foote – a one legged comedian who was media a superstar in mid Eighteenth Century London. But a couple of days ago I picked up Burial Rites, the first novel by the young Australian writer Hannah Kent and have to finish that. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric and beautifully written novel set in nineteenth century Iceland about a young woman beheaded for murder.

What are you currently listening to?  
An opera I’m directing early next year – as yet unannounced so I can’t name it. When not listening to anything specific, I have ABC Classic FM or BBC Radio Three constantly playing.

Happiness is?  
Working on good projects with great people. We’re so lucky to be paid to pursue what is really our hobby. And free time with Pamela.

What does the future hold for you?
I’m committed to seven projects in the next year or so, so a lot of work! Then maybe a long overseas holiday.

Roger Hodgman is one of Australia’s most sort after directors. He began his career with the ABC, where he directed a range of programs. He worked in England and Canada between 1971-1983 where he taught acting at East 15 Drama School and the Vancouver Playhouse Acting School, taught Shakespeare Studies at Simon Fraser University and directed numerous theatre productions.

He held the position of Artistic Director of the Vancouver Playhouse for three years. A highlight of his time in Vancouver was working closely with Tennessee Williams on two premieres of Williams’ plays. In 1983 Roger became Dean of the School of Drama at the Victorian College of the Arts.

He was the Artistic Director of Melbourne Theatre Company from 1988-1999. Among the over fifty productions he directed for the Company, highlights included a series of modern dress Shakespeare and four critically acclaimed productions of Stephen Sondheim musicals. He has since conducted a busy freelance career directing plays, operas, musicals and numerous TV dramas throughout Australia and in Canada, New Zealand and Japan.

He has been the recipient of numerous Awards including a Helpmann Award for Best Director for Grey Gardens; Green Room Awards for Best Director for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and A Little Night Music; Sydney Theatre Critics Awards for Best Music Theatre Production for Sweeney Todd; and aSilver Bear for Best Telemovie at Chicago Film festival for Stepfather of the Bride.

Roger is currently directing Shakespeare’s As You Like It for Black Swan State Theatre Company at the Heath Ledger Theatre. For more information, visit: www.bsstc.com.au for details.

Image: Roger Hodgman