Walking onto the church grounds where Red Stich Theatre is based, one is reminded again of the base realities concerning the arts in this country.
Traditionally the church gave succour to the needy and infirmed, and welcomed all who required her charity. To see flanked on either side of this squat blue stone church, a film production company and independent theatre company, really says it all. That day I was interviewing Nadia Tass who, as a director, straddles both these arts forms, film and theatre.
Despite our ambiguous relationship with the arts opposed to our most vivid and gushing relationship with sport, let’s say, Tass has done alright for herself. Her directing credits include films like Malcolm, The Big Steal and most recently a highly successful theatrical production of The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe.
Back in the days of Malcolm you will find pictures of Tass with enormous hair clutching awards looking like a cross between Bette Midler and Stevie Nicks
Today those golden flames in her hair are still there, but are more measured, more exact as she is – this art matriarch who has fought the fight and lives to tell the tale. How she did this was to go to America. A country that is, and god love them on this rare occasion, rarely ambiguous about anything.
There she met with great success in both film and TV and has just returned from New York after editing two films made by Julia Robert’s film production company.
Tass is also this month releasing her own Australian feature Matching Jack. But right now it’s theatre and a work called The Gronholm Method by the famous Catalonian playwright Jordi Galceran Ferrer. A play about a series of job applicants all going for the same job.
It looks at how far they are willing to risk their self-respect in order to secure a highly paid multi-national sales executive position. I asked her how she came across the script. “Well strangely enough, I spotted it being read by a women at Athens airport while I was waiting for my flight.” Tass is originally from Florina.
“I asked if I could read it. She gave it to me and I loved it!” Almost fated it should come to you? “I think so.”
This script captured her imagination and mainly due to its relevance for our times. “It is about our corporate saturated society, particularly in these economic times. It is about how so many people around us are involved in this highly competitive, vicious game of survival – to get that ‘job’.”
“The interviewers,” as Tass says, “play psychological games in order to analyse the applicant’s creative intelligence. But what I see is the interviewers stripping these human beings of any kind of integrity.”
And uniqueness? “That completely goes out the door!” What we are dealing with here then, is the homogenisation of society?
“Globalisation and how it has forced all of us to be the same, to fit into the financial program.”
This perspective reminds me of John Ralston Saul’s book, Voltaire’s Bastards. Its main premise is that the corporate world is a reinvigoration of the old military bureaucracies, where the corporate world seeks the same order and submission of its workers.
“This show is about that same group of people in a confined space and that big brother is watching. If big brother says jump, then you should jump. They have to do, they have to change, they have to reveal.” This game of survival seems to be all pervasive in our culture.
Applicants go through similar to what we see on reality TV, like Survival, The Biggest Loser and Celebrity Chef’?
“Yes, the same people being forced to pit themselves against each other, to humiliate each other.”
But Tass is confident that there is hope in this work. “Yes, there is hope, but it’s very deeply buried. What inspires me to put on The Gronholm Method is that it is all around us. These people walking to work in their monkey suits; I crave to rip them off.” Me too. Not just Tass, but even those corporate monkeys do. We all do.
THE GRONHOLM METHOD begins Wednesday June 9 Bookings: (03) 9533 8083 or www.redstitch.net Venue: Red Stitch Actors Theatre Rear, 2 Chapel St, St Kilda