Lots of people at the ANU are busy. Many of them are far more stretched for time and pushed for quality than I am. But for the past eight weeks, every conversation I’ve had (and every friendship I’ve neglected) has boiled down to alternately probing and detached discussions of how busy I had been. For the past eight weeks, the National University Theatre Society production of The Real Inspector Hound was my life.
It’s pretty trite to talk about a play as if it is your “life”, but (as those of you who have been involved in theatre productions will likely agree) there is no better way to describe it. I scoffed cereal in the car on the way to the theatre. I lugged props. I repeatedly scraped last night’s scattered sugar-cubes out of the carpet. I spent hours tweaking minute-long scenes with my equally weary actors. I never drove home before midnight. Don’t get me wrong, none of this is a complaint. Throughout the process, I met (and was supported by) a team of generous and discerning individuals. The enthusiasm I received from our cast and from our audience was more than I could ever have accounted for. In every way, directing Hound was more than I was expecting: a bigger handful, a more consuming process, and a more satisfying conclusion.
Indeed, the kind of “busy” that I’m talking about here is what a society like NUTS is all about. The fuel in the engine. NUTS is a group of people brought together by the incorrigible desire to work in the theatre, who continually dedicate an absurd number of hours to create the explosive (but transient) energy of a four-night show. Over the years, being involved with them has given me the opportunity to create and collaborate with dozens of talented individuals. It has indulged my idealism, my love of wordy gags, and given shape to the same texts that I study between rehearsals. Arthur Miller once wrote that theatre “is the most vulgar of the arts but it is the simplest too… All you need is a human and a board to stand on and something fascinating for him to say and do”. And at the end of the day, the kind of “busy” that directing entails is simplest kind of busy in the world. I spent months fretting, pulling together bits and bobs. But in the end, I am most proud of Hound for those whom it pulled together. We put a bunch of talented humans on a board, and gave them an electric script to throw back at the world. They went beyond. Our eight weeks condensed into a scant four nights, but they made me proud with every run. My time couldn’t have been better spent.