Interview with Max Hefler | Measure for Measure
The popularity of Measure for Measure amongst the young theatre practioners of Ireland was seen at the first ever TEXT|Messages when two of the countries most exciting young directors, Oonagh Murphy and Jose Miguel Jimenez, directed the same scene on the same night. Now comes a fully fleshed production from Galway's Theatrecorp, last seen with their touring production of The Glass Menagerie. The production will be presented in raw ensemble style which is a style the company embraces in many of its productions. Multipart playing, spare sets, and focus on physicality and the story. Director Max Hefler talks here to Caomhan Keane.
Measure for Measure isn't one of Shakespeare's most famous shows. For those who might not have read it, what's it about?
Measure is about a Duke, who in order to rectify what he considers the loose morals of the city, gets old laws revitalised to prevent people having sex outside of marriage. He pretends to leave town, and asks a deputy, Angelo , to enact the laws for him. When a young man Claudio is sentenced to death for making his girlfriend pregnant, and Claudio’s sister, Isabella goes to plead with Angelo for her brother’s life, Angelo discovers he is not as incorruptible as he thought….
Why did you want to stage it? Was it just a love for the play or was there something about it's themes that made you think it was a good fit for these times?
I have always loved this play. It’s political, incisive and has strong resonances with today, around the themes of morality and justice , corruption, and most particularly for now, how only the poor get punished, and the rulers and rich people set the agenda. It has a very strong feeling of what is going on politically and socially now. If it didn’t I would not want to do it.
Tell me about the aesthetic you are using. Is it set in its original time?
No, though the set has sense of the period in its pattern and shape.The costumes are contemporary, but it is not a modern setting. For instance mobile phones don’t ring etc. For me this would be just a gimmick. Audiences are smart enough to realise when the play has a contemporary relevance. The costumes need to have resonances for things the audiences can access, but in order for Shakespeare to be really successful, for me the setting needs to have a fluidity and a universality to give the play ‘air’.
When you first sat down and said "I want to direct Measure for Measure. What pitfalls did you think , "I'd have to avoid that,"?
I often think back to productions I have seen and consider what I didn’t like about them. The first thing was I did not want to make the brothel characters completely contemporary or make them too sordid . They have a different purpose in the play. They are symbols of life and humour. We have to like them. And the second thing was I wanted to remind people that this play was about corruption which included rape; that this was not something they just talk about but something that actually happens during the course of the play.
A lot of people say that the comedy has not lasted the test of time? Do you concur?
Not really. Of course some of the Elizabethan jokes are hard to understand, and I edited them down. But it is amazing how if the actor understands it, it is still funny. Humour is often through character and situation and we all understand that. Furthermore, I think the humour is actually very modern in this play because it is very dark.
Tell me about the Michael Chekhov approach you have been using?
Michael Chekhov Technique focuses on the body and the imagination to create the character. It is not intellectual at all, though eventually of course when you are doing a play, the intellect comes into play, but it comes in as the servant of the Imagination rather than other techniques which work the other way round. But for me as a director, the work we did on composition, and transformation was the most valuable. How does the play begin and how does it end? How does a character transform from what she is at the beginning to how she is at the end? This is done primarily through the body , not through long discussion or too much ‘table work’. The other strong aspect which shaped the production a lot was our work on Atmospheres, which has created a strong spine for the work.
Will you be touring the show?
Not at the moment. So get along to the Black Box. You have three more days!
Measure for Measure plays the Black Box at Town Hall Theatre, Courthouse Square, Galway until Saturday February 2nd. Tickets from €15 available now.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Thursday 31st January 2013 | Theatre
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