Red Stitch Actors Theatre Performs The Grönholm Method
Catalonian writer Jordi Galcerán Ferrer wrote The Grönholm Method in Spanish and the play was recently translated to English in New York. Red Stitch Actors Theatre presents the first Australian English language version of the piece, described as ‘12 Angry Men meets The Apprentice with a splash of Samuel Beckett and a sprig of Survivor’.
Multiple AFI Award winner Nadia Tass first came across the script at an airport, where another passenger was reading it and she asked to see it. She decided she wanted to take the piece to the stage, and that Red Stitch Actors Theatre was the right ensemble to do it with.
“I wanted to work with actors who are committed and not afraid of going to the edge and presenting the material in its most potent form,” Nadia says. “I’ve seen a lot of productions at Red Stitch and I always enjoy them. I’m moved by them, or challenged or motivated to go off and talk about them. So I thought these are the people I have to meet. I just made an appointment and spoke with Whiteley, who’s the artistic director. As it turned out he was also, in the back of his mind, thinking about The Grönholm Method. So here we were having a cup of tea for the first time and when I mentioned The Grönholm Method he was like ‘yes, that’s good’. It was meant to be.” David himself plays a role in the piece, as Frank, together with Karen Sibbing as Melanie and guests Shane Nagle as Rick and Jay Bowen as Carl.
It’s exciting to think that a world-renowned director would make her way to Red Stitch’s door to pitch a project. “I work everywhere,” explains Nadia. “I’m project-driven and irrespective of country. I’m where the really good work is. I’ve worked in London, I’ve worked in many different parts of America, Canada, Mexico and all over Australia. Some of my movies are $35M, $30M and then others, like the last one I did, are low budget – that was Matching Jack. We release that on 19 August,” she says. Nadia is also keen to showcase Australian talent. She features an Australian actress, Jacinda Barrett, in Matching Jack who had only worked in America beforehand, and loves returning home.
Nadia says the piece is very confronting. “There are four candidates for this one job application –one vacancy that’s available at this global corporation. These four candidates are brought to one room and they’re not told whether they’re candidates or not, but they’re asked to partake in a whole lot of games and the corporation is watching and assessing them, from wherever – we don’t know if there are cameras or how – and they’re communicating with them in a really obscure way, so they’re pitted against each other. Because the competition is so fierce they end up behaving really brutally toward each other. It’s nuts what we do to each other as human beings in a situation like that but we’re provoked by the corporation. Then there’s a big twist in the third act.”
“It’s inhuman and humiliating,” says Nadia of the method used by the corporation to sift out the best candidate. So why do people allow it to happen? “I think it’s needing a job,” says Nadia. “I think it’s different for each candidate and without a job people really have a very negative self image. I think people do need to work and they do need to know that they’re useful, that they’re needed and if they’re trained for the corporate world and they don’t have a job. That’s where they’re going to go to see if they can score one. They might have a family and they need a job to provide for that family.”
Although The Grönholm Method was written in Spanish and translated into English in America first, Red Stitch’s incarnation is neutral. But is the corporate world really so similar anywhere you go? “That‘s the scary bit,” says Nadia. “There’s no real cultural infiltration into these global corporations, they’re an animal unto themselves. It’s like they’re a separate country. They have different rules and ways of behaving. Their rituals seem to be quite unified across the globe Like the dress code – they’re all wearing the provincial spiffy suit with the latest tie and shirt and briefcase and all with their high price shoes, walking into these enormous buildings with lots of glass and clean surfaces and very shiny.”
Nadia’s contact with corporate world has been limited to putting on her business suit to raise support for film and arts projects, but she can see that workers in all areas go to certain extents to land employment. “You know there are actors out there who go and try and get a job, they’ll go and audition irrespective of how stupid the audition is. They will do it because they need to bring some money in to eat and to pay the rent.”
Would an actor behave in the same way as someone groomed by the corporate world? “I hope not,” says Nadia. “I haven’t tried it, but I have been in casting sessions where an actor will say, ‘excuse me, I’m not going to do that,’ and I have so much respect for them because ultimately we’re human and we have to maintain our integrity. This is not what happens in this situation. All I can say is the reason they behave that way, why they go through these tests, is because they want the job. I’m sure there are ways to work out who is best without that degree of humiliation.”
Providing a stark contrast to the material they’re performing, Nadia can’t give enough praise to the actors. “They’re just really, really good,” she says simply. “They’re going on this journey with me and they’re open and they’re just full of creativity and interest and energy and they’re very good actors, so I love that.”
Red Stitch Actors Theatre is performing The Grönholm Method from Wednesday 9 June to Saturday 10 July, Wed-Sat 8.00pm and Sun 6.30pm.