Renee Rogers, Hawthorne Theatre Reviewer
A Villain’s Face!I was first introduced to the works of Steven Berkoff when I started College eleven years ago and since that first reading of his adaptation of Franz Kafka: The Metamorphosis (1969) I was in awe. Spending five years experimenting with his work, watching his portrayal of calculating and destructing villains in film, TV and Theatre and finally going on to teach aspects of his ‘in-yer-face’ theatre style to budding young actors; having the chance to see Berkoff outside of character depiction was something I just had to watch! An Audience With Steven Berkoff was an intimate interview with this legendary figure, known for his controversial remarks and boundary breaking theatre. With local director Guy Masterson hosting the event it was clear from the start the proceedings were going to be an honourable affair with a nice paced structure and relaxed interaction. Berkoff almost shuffled onto the stage, dressed casually in blue tracksuit ensemble, I am not sure why this irked me but it was not how I expected this powerhouse of an actor to come across. Although if anything it was a testament to his ability to transform himself through his own physicality when taking on professional roles.
The questions were well thought out as to allow for expansion and diversity, which was best seeing as Berkoff found it rather hard to be succinct and direct with his answers. Was this just ‘his way of communication?’ or is it a sign of his aged mind telling related stories until finally the path veers towards a nod of the answer and the question can conclude? Forthright with his answers Berkoff never tried to hide his thoughts and opinions, and although somewhat controversial, his comedic nature still shone through with his reminiscent stories of childhood, generation expectations and detest for the ‘deep rooted establishment.’ It definitely made me sit up and think! Once the floor was opened up to the audience you could see the ‘fans’ itching to get their question across to the master. It’s the part I enjoyed the most. Audience members with a love for the arts could interact with someone it was clear they admired. Berkoff didn’t disappoint with his open answers and a real passion burst from the actor as he made sure his point was well acknowledged by the nodding audience.
With a repertoire and biography to eclipse the best, its no wonder he is hailed as a pioneer practitioner pushing the boundaries of performance to the next level. His homage to the great names such as Peter Brook and Marcel Marceau, allowed my mind to ignite as I remembered the works of these great innovators. ‘We must go back to the classics’ was his parting advice. He explained that the classic stories and plays, show the whole spectrum of human nature and should not be dismissed for modern work (unless it’s his of course!) I have to agree. We spend our lives searching for the ‘next big thing’ without giving any thought to the past predisessors that formed our theatrical history as we know it. And on that note I am off to find my thumbed copy of Oedipus….night!