Theatre in Wales

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In His Own Words

On Directing, Critics, Boo to Brecht and Not Being Bogdanovich

Michael Bogdanov , michaelbogdanov.com/biography , April-20-17
On Directing, Critics, Boo to Brecht and Not Being Bogdanovich by Michael Bogdanov Michael Bogdanov wrote a book of reminiscence “The Director’s Cue” in 2013. Last July he wrote an informal biography for his site. Michael Pennington said that he combined a Celtic lyrical side and keen political eye. Both are on show in the biography which runs to ten thousand words. Much is given to the ten years in Ireland, Paris, the family heritage in Sennybridge and Eppynt and the time at the RSC.

The following excerpts give a flavour

On Directing

“What is a director? Part teacher, psychologist, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, nursemaid, confidant, therapist, elocutionist, gymnast, choreographer, clown, raconteur, poet, painter, architect, writer, editor, child, adult, politician, revolutionary, mediator, trouble-shooter, terrorist. A train driver, a brake man. Street-fighting man, tome-toting pedant. An upholder of tradition, an iconoclastic destroyer. The purveyor of truth, the harbinger of lies. A believer in the power of theatre in whatever form, and wherever it is performed, to change the world.”

And many more things.

I confess at some point to having been all of these, on occasions the whole lot in the course of a single day. At such times I believe we earn our money. It’s a bastard of a profession.

On Critics and Commentators

“I am often asked how I would describe myself as a director and I generally evade the question, leaving it to others to provide a variety of (usually disparaging) epithets. I have been called variously – an iconoclast, third-rate, a genius. I should have been – strangled at birth, run out of town, never let near a stage; that radical organ ‘The Daily Telegraph’ has called me ‘a national treasure’. I have been described as – insouciant, irreverent, eccentric; authentic, accomplished, inept; pioneering, Marxist, provocative; conservative, original, incompetent, masterly; (un)disciplined, brash, astonishing; unique, unsubtle, surprising, predictable, outrageous, life-enhancing, arrogant, exciting, boorish, a buffoon, a joy; and – on the occasion of receiving an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama – ‘the most idiosyncratic director at work today’. On my gravestone I would like the word – ‘Tried’, except when I first dyslexically typed it, up came ‘Tired’.

“Why theatre?”

“The first plank the stage, the second the ideology on which to build the passion. The passion is to spread that ideology. All art is political. It is protest. At its highest point it is a powerful instrument of social change. The position of theatre within society, makes it ideally placed to aid that change and we, the artists, the theatre practitioners, have a duty to fulfil our elected role as purveyors and vendors of truth as we see it. This can change daily and the theatre responds accordingly, altering its perspective. Why not television and film? I want the live contact of an audience. I want to feel an instant response to what I say. I want an audience to stand up and be counted. To shout Yes, to shout No, to cheer, to boo, to laugh, to cry, to walk out, to fight, to argue – anything to indicate that what has happened during a performance has moved that audience to feel something and motivated them to do something about that feeling. Arseholes to Aristotle. Boo to Brecht. I want passion and engagement, not catharsis and Verfremdung (Alienation).”

On the Name

“I was once standing in the foyer of the Phoenix Theatre, Leicester, a Young People’s and Community theatre, seating 250 people of which I was the Artistic Director. It was Christmas 1977. The first night had just taken place of my version of Dracula, an adult participation fun show. The audience post-show Dracula feast was in full swing on stage – Garlic Sausage, Gingerbread crosses, Bulls Blood wine etc. A man came up to me, collar and tie.

“Mr Bogdanovich?”

“Yes”.

“Jolly good show”.

“Thank you”.

“However there is one thing I’ve been meaning to say to you for some time. I think you got the end of The Last Picture Show wrong. You know the shot where….” I interposed.

“Wait a minute, don’t you mean Peter Bogdanovich?”

“Yes, that’s you isn’t it?”

I laughed. “Somehow, I don’t think that Peter Bogdanovich would be standing in the foyer of the Phoenix Theatre Leicester, having directed Dracula for Christmas.”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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