03 May 2010

Q & A with actor Gavin Rutherford, Dead Man’s Cell Phone.

Gavin Rutherford is a familiar face for Circa audiences, having recently played the role of Sir William Davison in Mary Stuart, before taking on his character in Sarah Ruhl’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone (on at Circa until 8 May). While getting ready to head into the last week of the production, Gavin takes some time to tell drama on the waterfront about his experiences as the discomfited Dwight.

DOTW: Tell us a little about Dead Man’s Cell Phone. What was it that drew you to this play?

GR: Sarah Ruhl is a fantastic new writer. It was her humour and strangeness that drew me to her and to this play. She has a wonderful knack for making oddness occur and writing plays that make me laugh and want to talk about things. The characters and the story excited me and fitted right alongside my sense of humour.

DOTW: How would you describe your character, Dwight? Do you relate to him in any way?

GR: Dwight is tight and contained. He is repressed but longing for social and intimate contact. Dwight’s childhood was not fun for him although it provided hours of light entertainment for the wonderful Mrs. Gottlieb. This play is all about people looking for connection and love. Aren’t we all doing a little bit of that?

Mel Dodge as Jean and Gavin Rutherford as Dwight in Dead Man's Cell Phone.

DOTW: Were there any particular challenges with this play?

GR: The amazing input from Ulli Briese, John Hodgkins, Thomas Press and Paul Jenden provided a challenge in production week, as all these fantastic offers had to be brought together in the theatre. Long hours and some frustration but very fulfilling to be able to bring it all together for the Circa audience. It has been a great team for making offers and collaboration which is what we all look for in the process of creating a piece of theatre. I’d like to make a point in mentioning Isaac Heron, our technical operator for his calmness, humour and skills during the production week. He’s pretty cool even though he is from Wainuiomata.

DOTW: In the first issue of drama on the waterfront, Susan Wilson talked about how one of the best things about working on this production is the fact that everyone involved loves the play so much. Do you agree? How does that affect the creative process?

GR: The team has been a treat to work with. I have worked with everyone before so it has been great to work with old friends. We have had many laughs in the rehearsal room and that is always good when you are working on a comedy. It makes everything easier if everyone feels free to share ideas, have a laugh and the occasional wine after a Friday rehearsal.

DOTW: One of the things that is instantly recognizable about this production of Dead Man’s Cell Phone is that it is so well cast – tell us your thoughts about your co-stars and their characters.

GR: I think the casting is excellent and as someone once said, 90% of direction is in the casting. I’d like to thank Susan Wilson for giving me an opportunity to be a part of this production. I’m sure no one will admit it, but there are a lot of similarities between ourselves and the characters in which we have been cast!

DOTW: Finally, it is such a funny play – I can imagine it’s been a very fun production in which to be involved. What has been one of the most hilarious things to happen during the production, either in rehearsal or since it’s opened?

GR: One that springs to mind, in what has been a very fun production, is a night in our second week during which we had a very responsive audience. In particular, a gentleman who decided he would like to sing along with the second half reprise of ‘Never Walk Alone’. He serenaded Mrs. Gottlieb up the pipeline (yes that is what I said), and continued on as Jean and Dwight declared their love in the epilogue. Very amusing for us but I was unsure whether the audience thought it was part of the show or not? Nothing would have surprised them by that stage. Such is the nature of Sarah Ruhl’s play!

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