Saturday, 2 April 2011

Interview: Richard Katz

Richard Katz

This interview was conducted at the time of the RSC London Season 2010/11, in which Katz was involved in Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It and the YP Comedy of Errors.

Richard has been working with the RSC on and off for the last five years and finds it some of the most exhilarating work available to an actor, primarily because the majority of the work is Shakespeare. To play a Shakespeare role well, says Richard, you need to put in a lot of hard work, you need to be constantly paying attention and asking questions of yourself. It’s a ‘vigorous and rigorous endeavour’ that rewards as much as it demands. The current ensemble have been together for two years and will have been involved in a total of ten plays by the end of their run, which is very exciting for everyone involved and is something that Richard is relishing.
Playing Lord Capulet is a step away from the norm for Richard, who openly admits to being more suited to comic roles, but he loves every moment of it, relishing the chance to be a ‘really nasty person’. The role allows him to explore what he can’t do in real life and as a real-life parent he finds it challenging and enlightening to play someone so different to himself. The atmosphere within the production is one of collaborative advancement with people working together to further the show and these elements clearly come out in the production, Richard’s own comic touch evident in his opening scene (the fight in the street) where he spends about a minute disarming himself of various concealed weapons. This suits his style well; his idea of the theatre process being at its best is when there are ‘twenty people who are good at their jobs nudging it together’.
Katz as Lord Capulet in the RSC's Romeo and Juliet

I found it very interesting talking to Richard about his perspective on Romeo and Juliet as a play. He said he had never seen it on stage before he had agreed to the role and he thought this was a good thing as he was unaware going in of any ‘supposed to be’ aspects that would stick with you if you had seen it. This gives him the opportunity to make Lord Capulet his own in a more original and fresh way than an expert on the character who has seen multiple incarnations and studied him ferociously. He said that as he was preparing for the show he was reading Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. The observation that when a species is under threat it attacks itself before its enemy was something he was able to take to the role of Lord Capulet as he sees the conflict between the Capulets and the Montagues as similar to this infighting. They are turning on themselves to establish who’s in charge before turning to others and this production in particular does have the feeling of a family that has had a fallout trying to remedy it before taking on the rest of the society. It’s an insight that, in hindsight, does come through in the play.
He is very attentive to the smaller details of the character, something that is encouraging to hear indeed. Already a tall actor he made the decision to wear boots that made him even taller. He says that he wanted people to feel scared for Juliet and I certainly did when I saw the show. In the opening scene he fights with two large sticks and intentionally maximises the amount of space that he takes up on stage, giving his character a physical manifestation of his natural strength. He was certainly imposing and threatening throughout and it’s his attention to detail that allows him to deliver such a carefully composed performance.
However, Lord Capulet is only one part of Richard’s commitment to the London Season. Looking ahead there are plenty of shows on the horizon for audiences to enjoy, including Richard in As You Like It and the young persons’ Comedy of Errors. He describes repertoire acting in no uncertain terms as ‘the best thing ever’. His role of Lord Capulet couldn’t differ more from Antipholus of Syracuse and playing them on consecutive days keeps things fresh. The repertoire programme is a fundamental part of the RSC and they run a season every year in London that has been at the Roundhouse for a couple of years now.
Katz in The Comedy of Errors
Pretending is something that helps Richard keep abreast of the vastly differing challenges each character poses. ‘It’s just pretending, that’s the great thing’ he said, ‘you can pick the things you pretend [and you’re always going to pick the exciting things]’. He finds that being aware that he is pretending to be someone else takes all the pressure off and lets you look at the role from a more objective position, also allowing you to throw new things at it. If you come in lost or sad one day, the character will be subject to that and throwing that kind of difference at the scaffolding will test it and see if it’s strong enough to stand the strain. If it isn't you know you have more work to do before you've built a complete character. Richard is a good source for an opinion on acting as a very active and creative process, saying that you ‘can’t work in a vacuum’ and that you ‘make amazing discoveries up on your feet’. This is perhaps how he has found a place in such an established and respected theatre ensemble as the RSC.

The Lipton-Pivot Questionnaire:
Richard Katz

What is your favourite word?
What is your least favourite word?
What turns you on?
What turns you off?
            Someone’s ‘BIG’ idea
What is your favourite curse word?
What sound or noise do you love?
            Kettle Boiling
What sound or noise do you hate?
            Alarm Clock
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
            Nuclear Physicist
What profession other than your own would you least like to attempt?
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say to you when you arrive at the pearly gates?
Well done, you made it!

John Ord (16/12/2010)

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