(May 2015) Ever wondered what inspires fellow NWTC member John Brigg?! We caught up with him in between the rehearsals of his latest project, directing “The Strange Horseman” by Michel de Ghelderode.
How long have you been a member of NWTC and why did you join?
Probably since 1989, the year I first went to Summer School. I had followed NWTC productions with interest but without involvement until I had an unsuccessful attempt at directing for the small Luxembourgish group I was working with, Theaterkëscht. FEATS was held in Luxembourg that year and I picked up a flyer about the summer school at Munsbach, went along and did a directing course with the great Anthony Cornish. That was the start of what has been an enriching journey.
Which NWTC productions (you have been involved in or seen) have you found particularly memorable and why?
The ones I’ve directed have all been memorable, of course, but of others, I do remember a riveting Ann Overstall in The Glass Menagerie at the studio of the Municipal Theatre, and the astounding achievements of Anne Bearne at the Melusina, most notable The Birthday Party, after which, while standing outside waiting for our ride and engrossed in our thoughts, my companion turned to me and said to me, “I feel dirty.” Theatre that can do that to you is theatre indeed and Anne Bearne has been one of my most important inspirations.
Other memorable productions have been Live Like Pigs at the Limpertsberg parish hall (the first time this space was used), Cliodhna Dempsey shining in Macbeth at the Melusina, a thoroughly enjoyable Noises Off at the Capucins with it’s amazing revolving set, The Merry Wives of Windsor with Fay Wolstencroft’s just wonderful costumes, Neville’s Island at the Melusina which was probably the last time it was used for theatre, Edward Seymour’s Iphigenia in Tauris at the Kulturfabrik – a tour de force in line learning by Jan Horsburgh, the all-embracing Camino Real directed by Noel Greig at the Forum where audience members needed eyes studded around their heads in order to be able to take everything in and a captivating Vagina Monologues at the Check Inn, memorable for me not only in the performances but also in lugging innumerable ‘praticables’ up the back stairs at the get out. And then of course, still very fresh, the entertaining, moving and sincere Oh! What a Lovely War directed by Julie Fraser at the Kuturhaus in Mersch.
Which roles / production work were for you particularly interesting or enjoyable and why?
My first two directing experiences were on Shades of Brown and Woyzeck, both of which remain close to my heart, not only because I was finding my feet, but also because they brought me into contact with people whom I came to admire greatly: Anthony Clover, a marvellously brave and honest actor; Jan Horsburgh, a strong character actress (and fine director); Gavan Guilfoyle with his innate understanding and feeling for theatre; and then Jean-Marc Eichhorn, a man of few words who designed and made the sets but more importantly, taught me the meaning of value.
I lit a number of shows at the Melusina – an excitingly flexible “in-the-round” theatre space once all the fixed tables and other disco apparatus had been moved – and it was particularly satisfying when, after the final performance, we managed to do a complete get out and get the tables refixed all in 60 minutes flat so that Donna Summers could take over.
The Merry Wives of Windsor was more than just interesting. After a shaky start trying to find a director, we hit gold when Keith Myers agreed to do the job. After rehearsing in the basement “gym” of the school in rue Michel Welter where the 10 o’clock lock-up rule of the surly janitor had to be adhered to, the production burst onto the stage at the Capucins Theatre in a spectrum of sheer enjoyment, made all the more enjoyable by a memorable performance by Chris Bearne as Falstaff. And to think he was nearly not cast because he was too slim…
Oxygen was a fascinating show to work on, enabling me the opportunity to work in a variety of styles and to use projections which I’d always shied away from as being too technical. And I’m very glad use was found for the enormous ex-meeting room table from work. Like the best actors, its presence filled the stage. And also provided a platform for Andrew and Per to clash swords on.
Which has been the most challenging production you have done? Why?
Although Woyzeck was challenging in respect to finding a suitable space and then in dealing with the dirt and cold, it was really A Natural Daughter that has been by far the greatest challenge. While it was a play that needed to be done, having been translated by Edward Seymour in a wonderfully accessible way, the sheer volume of text with the added complication of it being in verse was a mountain that need to be climbed. Added to that was the difficulty of staging it simply in five very different settings and of finding ways to continually make the production interesting while serving the text and the author’s intention. Hats off to all involved! And especially Annik Jordan, its scintillating centre.
You have designed and run lighting for many shows. What is it about lighting that you have found interesting?
Lighting is an immensely creative medium, mysterious and intangible while at the same time highly technical. For me, stage lights are not there to light the space so that actors may be seen, but to create the mood which best reflects and supports the action on stage, allowing the audience to participate and subtly guiding them in in their reactions. The challenge with stage lighting is firstly to imagine the results, through each moment of the play, then to plan a lighting rig which will enable these results, and finally to set it up, focussing each light and programming them together to create the desired effect. Although time consuming because each light has to be adjusted one after the other, this stage is really quite thrilling, watching the lighting grow in a darkened space, just as you had imagined. Then comes performance, operating the board, catching just that moment – which can be different each night – when a lighting change occurs and timing it for maximum effect.
What, in an ideal world, would you really like to be involved in – what would be your ideal role, which play is it that you’d love to do?
Richard III, directing, meeting the challenge of this long play studded with wonderful but challenging language and roles. I would also really like to do I Licked a Slag’s Deodorant, Jim Cartwright’s short play that attached itself to me many years ago.
If you could define NWTC in three words, what would they be?...
Enabling, trusting, custodial
What attracted you to the play “The Strange Horseman” and what is your biggest hope for the production?
Jan De Pauw’s stimulating production Huis, a double bill – in Flemish – of de Ghelderode’s The Strange Horseman and The Women at the Tomb which I saw last year at the Grand Theatre. I was drawn to this previously unknown but fascinating author and impressed by the clarity and sparseness of the production.
I would like to achieve a production that makes people laugh, and then supresses their laughter, allowing it to be replaced by a thought, just a small thought.
“The Strange Horseman” is a one-act play so a light supper, included in the ticket price, will be served after the show. It will be performed at the Chateaux de Bourglinster (Annex) at 19.30 on 12, 13 and 14 May 2015.