GETTING TO KNOW: ADRIANO CORTESE

Since 2000 Adriano has been the Artistic Director of Ranters Theatre, of which he was a founding member. His productions have received wide critical acclaim and toured both nationally and internationally including USA, Canada, Portugal, Ireland, Netherlands, Germany, UK and Denmark. Adriano has also worked as an actor for most of Australia’s major theatre companies including Melbourne Theatre Company, Sydney Theatre Company, Sidetrack and Ensemble Theatre. He has received several Victorian Green Room nominations, winning with Holiday in 2008 for Best Director and Best Production.

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THE STREET TALKS TO ADRIANO ABOUT INTIMACY BEFORE IT OPENS AT THE STREET IN AUGUST.

WHAT IS INTIMACY?

Intimacy can be so many things but for me it is about being in a state where I can connect to something. It is about having a transparent connection with whatever it is I am in relationship to. I can’t find real intimacy unless I am open and honest with whatever or whoever I am engaged with. I don’t think it is an easy place to be all the time.

HOW DOES RANTERS THEATRE WORK?

Ranters is an ongoing creative partnership between its core members that have been working together for over 20 years. We have strong friendships within the group that drive how and why we make work together. We also bring in outside artists to work with the company when we need to. Our projects begin in different ways. Sometimes someone will bring in a song they like or talk about something they are experiencing and it grows from there. Other times we get together and talk about what is going on in our lives or some observation about something and then see what emerges from that. Generally it begins with very small things that grow and develop over time. We take our time with making new work.

TWENTY-THREE YEARS IS A LONG TIME TO KEEP AN ENSEMBLE TOGETHER IN AUSTRALIA – HOW HAS RANTERS ACHIEVED THIS AND HOW HAS IT DEVELOPED OVER THAT TIME?

I think we have always been steadfastly committed to working independently on our own path. Our work is an ongoing investigation so there is always something new going on that keeps us interested. We all have pretty strong personalities that need to be given voice  and I think recognising this has been a key. On a very simple level, we like making work together. We are at the stage where we are pretty honest with each other now. We all do other things outside the company and I think this helps as well. We are a bit like a family. We have our moments of course but I think that is a good thing. In the early days we would begin with a text but these days we devise all our work together. I don’t think we would still be working together if we did not evolve into a devising company. We all own the work and this sense of collective ownership is important.

WHAT PROCESS WAS UNDERTAKEN TO GAIN PERMISSION FROM STRANGERS TO INCLUDE THEIR STORIES IN THE PRODUCTION?

We did not get anything in writing because all the stories were from encounters from our past. We managed to find one of the people we had spoken to by accident and invited him to the show. It was great to share the work with him but our aim was not to create a work that accurately depicted the real life of strangers or a verbatim work. The idea came from a night I personally experienced a few years before where I asked strangers up to my apartment for an impromptu gathering and took this as a means of exploring the intimate side of ourselves. In effect we fictionalised all the stories, mingling them with our own experiences and bits from other encounters. In some ways it was like creating a collage.

WHAT WAS THE EXPERIENCE OF PRESENTING INTIMACY IN NEW YORK CITY?

New York was a great experience. Intimacy was the third piece we have presented there so we had some understanding of the audiences and the scene. We also have some friends there now in the experimental theatre community so it was great to reconnect and talk about what is happening in the city. We presented at a very busy time in New York and were able to meet with lots of presenters from other parts of the US and Europe. For a city as big as New York the experimental theatre scene is quite small and they all work with fairly limited resources. There is very little government support with most funding coming from private foundations. It makes for a very close knit and supportive community.

INTIMACY HAS ALSO TOURED TO EUROPE. WHAT WERE THE RESPONSES TO THE WORK AND WHAT CONVERSATION WAS GENERATED BETWEEN ARTIST AND AUDIENCES? AND THE CONVERSATIONS AROUND LANGUAGE IN THEATRE?

We have had very different responses depending which country but almost all places spoke about the simplicity of the work. My favourite response came from an elderly couple in Germany who came up to us after the show and asked us what we thought the show was about. What was our message? Before I could answer the man said ‘I will tell you. Your message is that we need other people”. It is always great when you can talk to your audiences because they tell you about the work you have made. All responses are valid. Most of the festivals or venues in Europe we have been to have audiences that are used to contemporary work. They are exposed to it on a regular basis and like being challenged by new forms of theatre. Our work is essentially conversations and there is a lot of talking so we used surtitles in some countries. This is not ideal but people did not seem to have a problem with it.

HOW DO YOU WORK AS A DIRECTOR? WHAT PRINCIPALS DO YOU WORK BY?

I think the main thing that guides me as a director is how I experience my life. I am not overly influenced by the theatre itself. I am often more influenced by trends in visual art than the theatre. I am interested in people. I like to gather experiences, thoughts and observations and see what can evolve. I look at the chaos and fragmented nature of daily life and try to develop theatrical forms that in some way suggest this. The work is often focused on the nature of performance in our lives and the theatre seems to be the perfect place to explore this. We use improvisation a lot in the making of our work. In this we emphasise working in the present where the performer strips away the traditional codes of performance that can sometimes burden work. I am interested in blurring the lines between fiction and non-fiction and creating a tension between what is fabricated and what is not. I am always looking to create simple structures that can reframe the experience of life.

WHAT CAN CANBERRA AUDIENCES EXPECT WHEN THEY GO TO SEE INTIMACY

Audiences can expect to see a work that is accessible, full of candid humour with surprising personal revelations that touch on the strangeness of our lives. We hope that we can provide an experience that asks questions about how we live and how we want to live.

WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?

Recently I have been reading about a research method called auto ethnography. It is a very subjective form of social and cultural research that takes into account the messiness of life. This immediately attracted me to it. It has made me think about applying this to a project where we walk across Melbourne from one side to the other over 2 weeks and then make a work from the experience.

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I have just started reading a Korean book called Human Acts. It is a novel dealing with the Gwangju student uprisings in the 1980’s. As far as watching goes, I have been watching a Sicilian series called Mafia Only Kills In Summer. I was in Sicily for 3 months earlier in the year and it is taking me back there.

 

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