Australian director Susanna Dowling guest directs Waiting for Godot in NIDA’s June Season of Student Productions opening on June 14, and she is taking inspiration from the play’s writer Samuel Beckett to make the production her own.
"I’ve been really inspired by something Beckett once said about the play" she says. "He said that everything the characters do in the play is a game, but it’s a game of survival."
"I think this addresses the dichotomy at the heart of the play. In some ways we see four characters playfully engaging in the trivial minutiae, from moment to moment, as they fritter time away. But, at the same time, their grip on existence is tenuous. The landscape is punishing, they are worn and weary. They wait and hope for something to lift them out of it all."
"My focus with the NIDA BFA Acting students will be to create that world of playfulness. Rather than focusing on backstory or the meaning, I want them to focus on their characters’ desires; in time, in space, with each other."
Susanna is coming into the NIDA production off the back of directing children’s musical Billionaire Boy, based on the book by British entertainer and children’s writer, David Walliams, at the Sydney Opera House. "It was a wonderful experience," says Susanna. "I’ve never directed a musical before, and I love making work for kids – they are the best audiences."
To achieve the ‘punishing’ or post-apocalyptic landscape in Waiting for Godot, Susanna is working closely with the production Designer, NIDA MFA (Design for Performance) student, Gabrielle Rowe. "She and I have been working to create a world to support the actors’ play, both literally and metaphorically. We want to create a sense of a landscape that has undergone a trauma, a catastrophe of some kind. It is a place where humanity and nature have been in conflict with each other, and where all that remains now is a burnt, smouldering aftermath."
"At first sight, it may appear hopeless. However, the key with Beckett is that there is always hope. There’s always a chance that new leaves will appear, another day will dawn, that Godot will come."
Susanna values her time at NIDA, which allows her to reconnect with her adventurous artistic side.
"I love coming back to work at NIDA. It’s so exciting to work with young, passionate artists who are figuring out what kind of work they want to make. There’s a wonderfully collaborative sense in the building, and a sense of adventure – a feeling of ‘let’s just try it and see what happens’, which is very exciting to plug into."
For tickets to Waiting for Godot or any of this year’s June Productions, visit nida.edu.au/student-productions Waiting for Godot is also being performed as part of NIDA Open Day on June 16. For more information about Open Day and to register, visit nida.edu.au/courses/open-day
Photograph: Zelman Cressey-Gladwin