Craig Alexander is an award-winning actor, writer, film and theatre maker, with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Acting. Recent stage credits include: his acclaimed solo production of Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol; various roles in the premiere production of Cold Light by Alana Valentine; Roo in Pigeonhole Theatre’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll and multiple roles in The Street Theatre’s radio play double bill, War of the Worlds/Tourmaline.
Recent screen credits include Dirt (Next In Line Films), Insecure Digital (ScreenCraft), Life (Short Poppy Productions), Victimas (O’Hallmhurain Films), several national TVC campaigns, and donning a wicked moustache in the hilarious Trainee Bomb Squad.
Craig is currently adapting several classic horror tales for the stage and is also a father of four, a motorcycle enthusiast, gamer, somewhat-regular meditator, progressive callisthenics practitioner, Wing Chun Kung Fu student, not very successful organic vegetable grower, often house-husband, Connoisseur vanilla ice-cream addict and occasionally finds time to sleep…
The Street talked with Craig during rehearsals for his role as Thomas in the globally acclaimed play by David Ives, Venus in Fur.
YOU HAVE CREATED A CAREER ACROSS THE STAGE AND SCREEN – CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE PLACE AND EXPERIENCE OF THEATRE FOR YOU IN THE MIX.
Theatre was where it all began and probably where I feel most comfortable. I love the immediacy and the shared experience of storytelling between performer and audience. It’s a living thing, driven by that interchange across the footlights. It’s often said that theatre is the actor’s medium and I agree, once you step out on to the stage, supported by the elements brought by the creative team, it’s on you. You become the conduit for your character, for the story, to connect with the audience, and the risk and joy within that is addictive.
YOU HAVE READ THE ORIGINAL 1870 NOVELLA VENUS IN FURS THAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR THE PLAY BEING PRODUCED AT THE STREET THEATRE. WHAT WAS YOUR RESPONSE TO IT AND THE IVES ADAPTATION?
Surprise. For both. I found myself flipping that last page, reading that last word and immediately wanting to read again – especially with the play, with surprise being a consistent element to its structure. Both gave me the immediate sense of these operatic emotions Novachek speaks of in the play, this heightened experience, or at the very least the desire for that, within Novachek and Kushemski. I was fascinated by these two worlds and their connections but even more so by the Vanda character in both.
YOU ARE SOON TO PLAY THE CHARACTER OF ADAPTOR/DIRECTOR THOMAS NOVACHEK IN VENUS IN FUR? WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE ROLE?
So much attracted me: the skill of David Ives in crafting such a layered and dynamic piece; the real-time nature of the story (it’s not often that stories or events are played out on stage from beginning to end); Vanda’s character and the thought of playing with this incredible whirlwind of energy; the sexual dynamics of the entire relationship and this shifting power-play that exists both within the play and the “play within the play”.
THE USE OF METATHEATRE IS ESSENTIAL TO THE EFFECTIVENESS OF DAVID IVES’ VENUS IN FUR. TALK US THROUGH YOUR PROCESS IN BRINGING BOTH THE 21ST CENTURY DIRECTOR NOVACHEK AND THE VENUS IN FURS 19TH CENTURY CHARACTER OF KUSHEMSKI TO LIFE IN THIS PLAY WITHIN A PLAY?
There’s a clear sense of creating and rehearsing two plays, two different characters in two different worlds, contained within a space where the two meld together often. It’s difficult to separate a writer from their work, and Kushemski, in essence, is Novachek’s work – something clearly written within the piece. The task at hand is to find the moments where the two characters are separate and when they are one – especially as the worlds begin to blur as the play progresses.
WHERE DOES CRAIG ALEXANDER MEET THOMAS NOVACHEK?
I think there’s a clear passion for story within both of us. A love of the adventure within a story; the emotions and journeys both character within, and reader/audience without, experience. There’s also a sense of wanting to achieve success and/or acknowledgement though our work that forges a common drive and, of course, the insecurity inherent in that.
THE LINE BETWEEN FANTASY AND REALITY IS BLURRED IN VENUS IN FUR. WITHOUT GIVING TOO MUCH AWAY, DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE MOMENT WHEN THIS HAPPENS?
Well… there’s a moment involving a dog collar, a leash and a cell phone that is a profound meeting of choice and desire for Thomas… that sentence will only make sense when you see the play…
VENUS IN FUR EXPLORES THEMES OF SEXUAL POLITICS – POWER, DESIRE, DOMINATION AND SUBMISSION – IN A THEATRICAL SETTING. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON THIS BEING A WORK FOR OUR TIMES?
As we progress through the revelations of the Weinstein’s of the world, with the discussion of consent and the abuse of power being a central theme, this piece is clearly incredibly topical. Ives has crafted a piece that explores that power dynamic, not only within an audition setting but within any relationship, and that can’t help but open up post-show conversations in a positive way. The exploration of consent within an S&M scene and how that can be applicable to a wider world speaks volumes. Not to mention, Ives has crafted this incredible female character with such a strength and drive to see a change in the stories of the world itself, and the way people author the stories of others. A change that, in my opinion anyway, is a necessity for society to move ahead in a positive way.
VENUS IN FUR IS A TWO HANDER. WHAT HAVE YOU DISCOVERED IN REHEARSALS WITH CO-STAR JOANNA RICHARDS?
Joanna brings a fierce intelligence to the rehearsal room and I have already learnt so much from her throughout this process. This piece relies on the creation a shared energy between us, that impels the story forward and that is pivotal to the success of the piece.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO A SUCCESSFUL AND FRUITFUL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AN ACTOR AND DIRECTOR?
An understanding of the process within which each works. Everybody’s process is different, and I think the director/actor relationship is about finding your way in to that common ground so that the creative impulse can flow. Then it’s about trust. For me to release and follow those impulses I need to trust the director and their vision and that I am safe in their hands – that what is chosen to “stick”, so to speak, works for the complete picture, for the piece as a whole.
WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?
I’ve been working on an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Body Snatchers and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for the stage and, subsequently, how horror can work in a live theatrical setting. On the flipside of that, I’m continually inspired by my Trainee Bomb Squad co-writer Nick Stannard, whose comedic skills are second to none.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING AND WATCHING?
I tend to read a lot of non-fiction, primarily about psychology and spirituality, but am currently reading Stephen King’s The Outsider – I’m a fan of King’s work in general and his ability to weave thrilling narratives around such rich characters – he’s a phenomenal storyteller.
As for watching, I’m loving the longer narratives and character explorations that this “golden age of television” has brought about. I’ve just finished the first season of American Gods, which was incredible and am working my way through Preacher (I’m clearly a fan of magical realism).
Venus in Fur opens at The Street 22 August and runs through 2 September