Ralph Myers: "You cannot make good art without taking risks."

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The appointment of Ralph Myers as Belvoir’s artistic director back in 2011 seemed, to many, an odd choice. You certainly don’t find many artistic directors who are primarily set designers. But with a strong first season, Myers implemented his own vision for the company, proving he was up to the task, and ably filling Neil Armfield’s shoes.
2013 has seen Belvoir consolidate on the success of the 2011 and 2012 seasons and continue a similar dialogue, with hits including Angels in America, Forget Me Not and their charming, lo-fi version of the family classic Peter Pan. Many of Belvoir’s long-term creatives were on-board throughout the year, and a few newcomers to the company made their mark.
Daily Review asked Myers a few questions about the year that has been, including its biggest successes, and the backlash Belvoir suffered when the company went to their audience with a crowdfunding drive to support their New York performances of Peter Pan.
Ralph-WEB2013 has been a year of big risks for Belvoir, and 2014 looks to be potentially even more so. How important is that to what you’re trying to achieve at Belvoir?
You cannot make good art without taking risks. The question is which ones?
You’ve also had a lot of your Belvoir stalwarts around throughout the year. Do you think you’ve struck the right balance between continuing to support and work with those artists that have shaped Belvoir and forging ahead with new collaborators?
Yes. Absolutely perfect.
For many people, Angels in America will be what the season is remembered for. It was such a massive undertaking, how do you feel when something so epic succeeds?
Euphoric. And relieved!
Belvoir also managed to get the massively popular Peter Pan over to Broadway. What do these international engagements do for the company?
The benefits are two-way. By going overseas we expose a whole new audience to our work. But we also provide an opportunity for a whole swag of talented Australian actors to experience playing in different theatres in different cities to different crowds.
There was a small controversy that a company as big as Belvoir was using crowd-funding for the New York season. Looking back now, why do you think it made a few people unhappy?
That’s a hard one. I really didn’t understand why people got their knickers in a knot over that. Crowdfunding is just busking. If you don’t want to give us money, then don’t. It’s not compulsory.
Forget Me Not was rapturously received by critics and audiences alike, but for some reason it hasn’t seemed to stick in the minds of so many people as a massive hit the way something like Angels did. What kind of a life do you think the play will have into the future?
I loved Forget Me Not. I thought it was incredibly moving. In fact, some of the most enduring moments of the year are from that play. I hope that it is picked up and produced by other companies. I’d love to see it go on in Liverpool, England (where much of the action takes place), for instance.
In what ways do you think next year’s season will be different to 2013?
Every season we produce is unique. In fact, every night in the theatre is unique. That’s its great appeal. You never quite know what’s going to happen next. So, who knows! But I can tell you we’re certainly going to work very hard to make next year as thrilling, as moving, as funny and as terrifying as we can.
[box]Featured image: Angels in America. Image by Heidrun Lohr.[/box]

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