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Salient. Official Newspaper of Victoria University Students Association. Volume 40, Number 3. March 14, 1977.

Taylor on Tranesties

Taylor on Tranesties

Anthony Taylor is Artistic Director of Downstage and directs their current production of Travesties. A former Registrar for the Magistrate's and Supreme Court, he was Senior Director for Radio N.Z. before taking up his position at Downstage. Allan Smith interviewed him for Salient.

Why did you choose to direct Travesties at Downstage? What is it about the play or about Stoppard that makes this play suitable for you to direct?

A.T. — Well, I suppose it is because, in a way, I do the same thing as Stoppard — in a directorial sense. I am inclined to throw entertainment up and expect the audience to see the idea that actually presented it, and not just take it on a surface level. If they want to do that, well and good, but there's always a reason behind it if they like to look for it. And I suppose, in a funny way, that's why Travesties starts to look on the page like a play that might have been set out for me to direct ... I think I threw the cast into some confusion when they asked me what the impression of the audience should be when they first leave the auditorium, and I said that they had been thoroughly entertained, and that then they could think about why they had been entertained... And I am glad to say that I have been exonerated in this by Mr Stoppard — that is what he does. He tries to attach high entertainment to serious ideas. So the idea is behind it — all the time he is throwing up entertainment, as he does in Jumpers. The idea is behind it, not in front of it.

What then is the "idea" behind the entertainment in Travesties?

A.T. ... To me, it is the opposition of Art and Revolution, the attempt to reconcile Art and Revolution... and this extraordinary thing about the further left you go - and this is actually said in the play — the more bourgeois the Art, and yet the artist invariably moves towards the left, or seems to. I also liked it simply as director, the contra-posing of complete nonsense and serious discussion, at times in a very nonsensical manner.

So you think that this stylistic device has an implication for the "total meaning" of the play?

A.T. I think it does. If you look at what the Lenins say or what is said about the Lenins, it is as nonsensical in life as Dada is in Art, in reality it's just as ridiculous.

Obviously the style of Stoppard's script presents some enormous difficulties for production. What were some of the problems which it presented for you?

A.T. When I first looked at the script. I thought "My God, how on earth is one supposed to stage this play?". And I like to think that the presentation of the play was actually simplified and improved by bringing it into the type of theatre that Downstage is — by the relationship of the audience to the performer, and the ability to utilise the theatre as a whole and not just as a proscenium arch... I think a lot of Stoppard's difficulties were created by the fact that he was writing for pros arch. Now we have thrown the concept of separate areas right out the window and said "this is the area, the space of Carr's mind". Whether that is right or wrong is immaterial, because it is the play as it is performed in this theatre that matters...

Photo of Anthony Taylor

Anthony Taylor high entertainment and serious ideas...............

What is the "vision du monde", the view of reality which you as Director would like the audience to go away with tonight from this your first performance of Travesties?

A.T. Oh God! I honestly don't think I'm going to... well ...(I'm going to hate this in a few weeks time)... Everybody in this country runs around making profound statements that theatre must educate. We invariably hear this said about the Arts. "To educate, to inform, and to entertain" — I think that is actually the charter of Radio NZ and the television channels. Now to me, that is totally arse about tip, because you educate by entertaining. If you stand up there and just bellow education at people from a platform, they will all go home — I would anyway. What Travesties does, and I think that this is intentional on Stoppard's part, it goes "entertain — educate", not "educate — entertain"; and I think that this is one of the primary things about this presentation of Travesties — I hope it is — and I think that this is perhaps a good thing as far as a statement about what the theatre is doing at this moment.

Editorial Note:

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