Table at the Seymour Centre
In 1898 master craftsman David Best makes a table to celebrate his marriage. In Tanganyika in the 1950s, the Bests’ missionary grand-daughter, Sarah, stands atop the table and voluntarily disrobes in front of the hunter who has saved her from a leopard attack. Later, Sarah and her son Gideon join a 1960s commune. And in south London in 2013, the globe-trotting Gideon finally confronts the family he abandoned years ago to discover a likeable brat in a flamingo pink tutu spouting Mandarin Chinese.
Through it all David’s table is the centre of family rituals, meals and secrets, where couples have sex, where children play, where a corpse is laid out, where songs are sung and names are carved deep in to its grooves. Each mark is a point in time, each scratch a moment lost but not forgotten.
Rosie spoke with performer Julian Garner about playing multiple characters in a single production and what the things we pass down to our kin say about us. Read the full interview below:
Table is a British epic that covers 115 years of family history, spanning 6 generations and 23 characters. What challenges did you face in developing and distinguishing unique characters across such an extensive time period?
Thinking of my characters’ different emotional, physical ranges across their respective ages is challenging. I don’t want to play a caricature of a 6 year old for example, or a 61 year old. It’s more about capturing their essence, filtered through the memory of Gideon.
Your director, Kim Hardwick, has recently been taking on productions with some quite challenging themes (Shifting Hearts and Mercury Fur). What was it like working with a director who is known for making these bold theatrical choices? Will we be seeing boundary pushing choices made in Table?
I’d like to think that any theatre worth its salt is pushing boundaries. I love Kim’s aesthetic, her choices, her understanding of the material she’s working with, and I’ve felt totally supported in exploring my own boundaries and going to my characters’ growing edges to reveal their pain, their love, their vulnerability and joy.
The crux of the play revolves around the titular table that is passed down through the generations as a family heirloom. We start to become increasingly attached to this table, so much so that when it’s damaged generations later we feel a sense of loss as if losing a family member. Do you have any pieces in your family that hold a similar generational significance? What do you think the significance of this ever-present table is?
We’ve got many pieces of furniture, including a table, in storage at the moment that my mother has carried around the world for the last 60+ years, which I’m hoping will be passed on to our respective families. I don’t think Gideon feels a sense of loss at any damage done to the table, but rather it adds to its historical ‘weight’ and significance to his life story, where he comes from.
You have an extensive history in theatre, particularly in Shakespearean works. Has this helped you prepare for the varying characters required in this play? Particularly from the earlier generations that date back to the 1890s?
The two characters I play are from the 20th century, but yes, having done a fair amount of Shakespeare and played multiple roles in each play, it does help with a sense of trust in turning on a dime to switch from one role to the next, and accepting that the audience will go along with it as a theatrical device.
What drew you to this production and what can contemporary Australian audiences expect to take away from this century spanning, British family drama?
I was moved by Gideon’s quest to come home, to make peace with himself and find forgiveness amongst his family. I also found the inter-generational aspect, without the literalness of revolving stages or different sets to shift time and place really interesting. And there’s some fabulous writing too. It’s about families. Looking back to find the source of dysfunction or trauma, and finding a way to heal that in the present. I don’t think that’s a peculiarly British thing so hopefully everyone can relate!
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
Favourite production you have ever seen?
saw Les Miserables in London when I was young. It opened up a door in my brain and heart.
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go? Somewhere warm with azure waters and beautiful walks.
Dream show to perform in?
I’m hankering for a deranged farce. Joe Orton or Christopher Durang like...
Plays or musicals?
Besides high school, I’ve only ever done plays, but again, I’d LOVE to be in a musical.
A hobby you have beyond the theatre?
What’s next for you after this show?
Spending time with my family.