Interview with Director of Labyrinth

Click to listen to full interview. Main extract below.

STR: How did you get into directing, and what do you particularly love about it?

MT: I was an actor for a really long time since I was a child. It sounds so cliché but I was seven when I did a drama class and thought ‘this is forever’ and haven’t looked back. But I have pivoted, evidently! When I was 17 I got my first opportunity to direct a show outside the school environment and just loved it. I love the creative process and every aspect of it. I think I worked in every single possible job there is in theatre production at some stage! But I think that set me up quite well to become a director. I love facilitating my vision and I love leading a team. I come from a family full of people who work in politics so it’s no surprise that I ended up in a leadership position, just in a different context. I love having something to say and figuring out how all the moving parts shift and change in order to make sure that I’m saying it.

STR: Do you feel directing gives you an opportunity to ‘have a voice’ through theatre?

MT: Absolutely! I have friends that say “theatre can’t change the world.” It makes me sad – I do believe that telling stories can change the world. It’s so important in contemporary society to have a sense of empathy. From my understanding of the political sphere I see a lot of people losing compassion for each other, losing the understanding that we are all human beings. And I think that’s what stories facilitate – they facilitate observing an experience that is not your own and having a feeling about it – having sympathy or empathy for the character. And that’s why I think directing a show can be just as much a political statement as going to a protest or making an Instagram post.

STR: In regards to this particular play which is very political – how did you hear about it, and what made you interested to direct it?

MT: I was directing a show called Dark Moon two years in a row (which sadly, is a COVID casualty). It was a show I had created, and last year when it was programmed I met Angus [Evans] who is the producer of Labyrinth. So when Dark Moon died its second death because of lockdown we thought “OK – what’s next, what are we going to do? What’s 2022 for us?” And he sent me this play by Beth [Steel] and I just absolutely loved it. When you’re directing you have to find a work that speaks to you. You have to feel it, and for me it’s very much about “can I see this in a space? What ideas can I see myself putting into the show that aren’t already in the script? How can it be a show that has my voice on it?” And I just felt that immediately with Labyrinth. I had all these ideas on how to execute some of the things Beth was asking in the script. Then we pitched it to Flight Path [Theatre] in November 2021. And we’ve been going ever since.

STR: Given Labyrinth is about an event that happened a few decades ago in another continent, how do you go about making the play accessible and relevant to an Australian audience?

MT: It’s a really interesting question and one that I’ve grappled with more than any other work I’ve done. I think that because we ingest a lot of content from the UK or America – we’re already watching a lot of Netflix or Stan – we’re used to seeing that type of content. I think that because the play is set in the US it automatically feels ‘universal’ even though I wish that wasn’t the way things were. I think for me it was thinking about the stuff I’m currently engaging in that’s similar and fits into a contemporary setting – shows like Succession, and films like The Big Short and Wolf of Wall Street that fits into that same bracket asa show like Labyrinth. For me it was about “OK – what are these shows doing well that make them accessible and how can I put that into a theatre context? How does it relate to what’s happening in the world right now?” Things like inflation and rising rates. That honestly, probably could not be more relevant with everything that’s going on with Russia and the Ukraine and how that’s affecting the rest of the world’s financial system, because resources have a flow-on effect and finance is such a globalised world.

What also sold me on the play was the epilogue where they mention they’re going to Greece. As someone who has family over there that all feels very realto me – the Greek Financial Crisis and Global Financial Crisis is all very much in recent history.

STR: There’s a scene in the script that feels very much inspired by Glen Garry Glen Ross. Did that come to mind when you were directing the play or are there other plays that influenced your directional choices?

MT: Glen Garry Glen Ross has come up over and over again! But there’s definitely a whole bracket of finance works, and it’s worth noting a lot of those finance works are written in a similar structure to the great tragedies of Shakespeare. And Greek tragedies – they’re written with such epic proportions. While Shakespeare had these kings and queens we have these faceless people that we don’t necessarily know and they make decisions that affect hundreds of thousands of people’s lives in one go. For me I think that’s where a lot of the influences are coming from – this is a show of epic proportions from Shakespeare’s time –and there are so many parallels to Hamlet.

There’s also a whole genre of plays set in the world of finance that offer an exploration of power and privilege, that’s something that has really influenced me. Also ensemble work – thinking about “how do we use bodies in space?” – because we have 12 actors on stage which is quite large for an independent theatre show – “how do we create images and an almost chorus-like feel?” echoing back to Ancient Greece.

Image credit: Clare Hawley

STR: One of the themes in the play is the misogyny of the ‘boy’s club’ which made it hard to judge the main character of John. Does he deserve our sympathy? Is he ‘one of us’ or ‘one of them’?

MT: That’s the beauty of it – watching him shift and be subsumed by the boys club culture that exists – watching it chew him up and spit him out again. The mental journey that we see in our wonderful actor Matt Abotomey that plays John – we’ve spent countless hours going through the script, mapping out when does John question the boy’s club and when does it overtake him and consumes every bit of his soul. And he just participates in it because that’s what’s done. And that’s just the truth of boy’s club environments – they subsume you into it, and you either participate in it or you’re not in the club.

I want the audience to go on the journey with John to feel the excitement of what new possibilities exist. And although we’re looking at it from a #metoo 2022 lens, I want the audience to feel sad that a young, impressionable man gets taken into this club and gets turned into someone that we don’t like.

STR: As a director, do you start with a vision for how certain scenes should look, and by the end it completely changes?

MT: Absolutely! I have a wonderful movement director called Diana Alvarado and we worked together very closely on this show because of the ensemble work and movement work. And I think there’s that thing in your head of “I want it to feel like this, or look like this.”  I think Beth [Steel] has written a cinematic play and particularly the last section which is almost montage-like; it’s like a film where you see a montage of all these sporadic images, and I think that thing of turning it into something that happens in front of everybody has been a real journey.

And even in the last two weeks we’ve discovered so much about each character which changes the whole thing in some ways – the way the actors approach it and getting inside their character’s body and their mind and embodying them on stage.

I want the audience to feel sad that a young, impressionable man gets taken into this club and gets turned into someone that we don’t like.

Margaret Thanos

STR: Angus Evans who plays Charlie also played Napoleon in Animal Farm. He’s very convincing at playing cold, calculating characters!

MT: Absolutely! The character of Charlie is such an interesting type of guy. I feel like we all know a character like Charlie, whether it’s someone we went to school or uni with, but we all know ‘that guy’. It’s been so fun with Angus exploring the different layers of Charlie who is so cold and calculating, but also so comfortable in his privilege. It’s been so much fun watching that unfold with Angus.

STR: On opening night, the performances of each actor seems to be elevated to another level compared to what you’ve seen or experienced in the rehearsal. Where does that come from?

MT: I think that’s the power of the audience. I think my job as a director is to facilitate the audience’s experience; I’m a curator of what they are going to feel from moment to moment. Some directors don’t do that – they just want the audience to feel whatever they feel. Either approach is totally valid from my perspective, and that’s the beauty of theatre – actors rise to another level because people are watching and engaging. I no longer laugh at the jokes in Labyrinth because I’ve heard them so many times, but on opening night they get a new lease of life when people hear them for the first time – it’s the magic of surprise.

Image credit: Clare Hawley

STR: Finally, do you have a favourite line or exchange from the play?

MT: One of my favourite moments is the monologue with Javier, the bartender; he talks about living in a village and this ‘miracle story’ that turns sour. For me, it’s the glimpses of the consequences of the actions these leading characters have that’s the heart of this play for me. We’ve literally got people [in the show] who were born and raised and lived in various places in South America who have seen first hand the consequences of this play, and I feel accurately representing that in a way that is sensitive and speaks to the audience is the heart of this play.

Labyrinth is on at Flight Path Theatre in Marrickville from August 17 – September 3.

For show tickets and times go to

For a review of the show, go to

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