Beckett Beckons

Michael Sams in Full Throttle Theatre Company's previous Beckett production, 'Waiting for Godot.' IMAGE: Photobase NQ.

If you were lucky enough to see Full Throttle Theatre Company’s short run of Waiting for Godot, you would have seen Michael Sams showcase his acting prowess. 

Full Throttle will continue their 2017 season with a collection of shorter plays by Samuel Beckett in October, with Michael set to swap roles from actor to director. We caught up with Michael to find out about Three Courses in Beckett, and his attraction to directing.

Three Courses in Beckett will feature three plays directed by three people. Which are you directing?
Madonna Davies is directing Come and Go, Todd Barty is directing Krapp’s Last Tape, and I am directing Rough for Theatre II.

What appealed to you about directing a Beckett play?
I was approached to direct a Beckett play after being cast as Vladimir in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. With Beckett being such an iconic figure in theatre history, the idea of performing in one of his plays and directing another in the same year was quite appealing; not the sort of opportunity that comes around often.

Is it a difficult transition from performing to directing?
That’s a good question. I am about to find out. The only directing experience I have is directing my children in a few of my own 10-minute plays in local festivals, so this is really a first for me. Hopefully I will be able to take lessons learned from my decades of acting experience, meld it with the best components and techniques I have seen a wide range of directors employ, and create my own style. I think my approach to directing will be influenced by my performance background and training; I plan it to be an engaging process for the two terrific actors I have cast (Jonathon Brown and Joseph Hallows).

Has your stint as Didi helped you understand the Beckett world more – has it changed your approach to directing one of his plays?
I did a considerable amount of research in preparing for Waiting for Godot. I read most of Beckett’s plays, as well as many articles, essays, reviews, interviews, academic papers and books on Beckett, his life, and his writing. There is, however, one book I have waited until after Godot has finished to read, entitled Directing Beckett. I am not sure to what degree this book may influence me, but I find it useful to immerse myself in the world I am exploring. Spending time thinking about it, learning about it, talking about it all helps to get the creative juices flowing, and opens the possibilities of finding connections in the work.

What should people expect if they do come to Three Courses?
The audience can expect a theatrical evening like no other. Beckett is a well-known theatrical figure. Some of his plays – Godot and Endgame come to mind – are also well-known. However, I think it a rare treat to be offered three of the arguably lesser-known plays in his cannon in the one evening.

Has there been much collaboration between you, Madonna and Todd? Will all three plays have a similar style?
All three plays are intimate. They draw you in. One is a monologue, another a two-hander (with a silent third character on stage), the other has three characters. Madonna and Todd have been very supportive in providing me this opportunity. We share an interest in the strength of the words, finding truth in the world that has been created by those words, and the power of story that is being told within that created world.

What do you see as the importance of local theatre?
Local theatre is a wellspring of opportunity to learn, to try new things, and also, sometimes, to fail. Beckett said: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” Local theatre can be about learning. But is also about enjoying the process (and the product!). It is a place to connect with like-minded, creative individuals, and share in the experience of making art, entertaining, thinking. It doesn’t matter your background or level of experience; if you are passionate about theatre and willing to work towards a shared vision to tell a story, you can. It is a collaborative space. And you meet the most interesting people.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I have only been in Townsville a few years (having moved from Brisbane). Townsville has such a diverse and thriving arts scene. Theatrically, there’s something for everybody and I thoroughly enjoy being a part of it. Since moving to Townsville I have branched out into writing and directing, and I can’t wait for Three Courses in Beckett, nor can I wait to see what’s around the corner for me next year. To quote my character Vladimir from Godot: “How time flies when one has fun!”

Catch Full Throttle Theatre Company’s Three Courses in Beckett at the Old Courthouse Theatre from 18-22 October. Three-course dinners are also available for purchase with tickets, which are available here

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