LA hustler with a twist
Rob Chuter is the director of All That I Will Ever Be, a play about people behaving badly written by Alan Ball, the man behind TV’s True Blood and Six Feet Under. Chuter spoke to Andrew Shaw about hustlers, drugs and Kylie covers.
Rob, Alan Ball is mainly known for his TV work, isn’t he?
Unfortunately, Alan Ball’s theatre work has been overlooked a little bit because he’s made a name for himself as a screen and television writer. But he actually started out in theatre.
What's this play about?
This play is about cultural provocation, it’s about sex, it’s about relationships; mostly it’s about the search for belonging. It’s about a middle-eastern hustler, he calls himself the Arabian Stallion – not bad advertising. He’s an anything-goes hustler, he states that he’s bisexual.
He starts a relationship with one of his clients, Dwight, who’s a very well-to-do layabout, a privileged white boy. What starts as a transaction becomes a relationship and soon becomes real. It’s all set in post-911 LA, where there’s still misunderstanding between all things middle-eastern and all things American. It all becomes very complicated and soon turns on its head.
The cast all look very suave.
We molded the look on some of Alan Ball’s other stuff. We wanted to really go with his style. Regarding the cast photo, we did some searching and found a fantastic cast photo of the Six Feet Under cast, and it looked amazing. He uses a lot of the same colours and that shot with them all in the suits, again, has a lot of information from the advertising for [Six Feet Under], where they unsurprisingly all looked like they were going to funerals.
It’s a rich, high-stakes world they move in?
Yes, particularly Dwight, after he starts this relationship with Omar. Omar is suddenly thrust into a world he doesn’t know; where money is important, status is important, who you’re seen with is important.
What’s the theme of All That I Will Ever Be?
This is about culture, being gay, being in a gay relationship with someone from a different background and a completely different culture, and how that’s hard for people to accept.
This is specifically an LA play, you’re doing accents?
Yes, we’re getting very specific with accents. He’s written this play in those rhythms and if you try doing it in a different accent, whether it’s Australian or whatever, it’s not going to sound correct.
Do we recognise these people? Who would they be if they were Australian?
Dwight would have a fantastic apartment overlooking Sydney Harbour, or up on [Melbourne’s] Southbank in a very nice apartment his father is paying for.
The line, ‘Sweetheart, people don’t pay your kind for sex. They pay you to leave’ - is that evocative of the play?
That line is extremely poignant, because Omar is looking for a place to belong and as it so happens he’s found himself in LA. He comes so close and yet finds himself so far. That’s a key line; it triggers a massive change in him and the final shift in the play.
I believe there are adult themes...
We’ve got it all, we’ve got nudity, we’ve got drugs, we’ve got the whole shebang!
How do you cast for roles like these?
Trust is the most important part, like any good relationship. We had a great advantage with this play because we did it as a play reading for Midsumma. It was more than a reading, it was a mini-production really. Most of the cast were already off the script.
When we decided to stage the full production, we asked if they were available and it soon became like a big family. Some people weren’t available, but we made it clear that it was going to be big, more challenging, very stylish. The best thing about this cast is everyone wants to be challenged. Everyone wants to do something that scares them. Whatever the art form, if it scares the artist they’re going to jump in and you’re going to get something special.
What identifies your work as a director?
Style, I’d say. I like to be aesthetically beautiful. Someone once wrote that my work combines beauty and horror in the same piece, which I thought was very interesting. I guess that’s a trademark. Use of colour: I like deep, rich colours and I like what you can do to colours, how you can mix them and use them to support the subtext of a character.
How important is music to the play?
There’s a saying that all art aspires to be music, which I agree with. We’ve used songs by Sia and Hurts because there’s something about them that supports this style of production. I’ve fallen in love with the band Hurts, and they did a fantastic cover of Kylie Minogue’s ‘Confide in Me’. There’s a scene where Omar is dancing a traditional Arabic dance. But we’ve got him dancing to Hurts’ cover of ‘Confide in Me’, which adds those other levels of interpretation.
All That I Will Ever Be, Chapel Off Chapel, May 9-20, 2012. Bookings: chapeloffchapel.com.au
IMAGE: Luke O’Sullivan and Francisco Lopez get cosy on the couch.