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Talking Heads -

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(generated from captions) This program is not subtitled THEME MUSIC

of director Jim Sharman 'The creative force Rocky Horror Picture Show, was behind the huge hits - Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar. a childhood steeped His vision flowed from of travelling sideshows. in the surreal world has proven a double-edged sword.' But Jim Sharman's creative genius of Australian theatre, Jim Sharman is a visionary everywhere has challenged and inspired audiences to shaking things up. and always been committed

welcome to Talking Heads. Jim Sharman, Great to meet you. Thank you. Hi, Peter. Here you are, Jim Sharman, grandfather's Jimmy Sharman, and father's Jimmy Sharman, boxing troupe. and famously Jimmy Sharman's What show did you want to put on? surrounded by travelling sideshows, I think certainly a childhood boxing troupes and circus tents my imagination spinning, probably set so that when I then returned upbringing in the city, and had frankly a very normal to get back to that. there was always a harking when I started seeing theatre So maybe around teenagedom particular performance, and asked my parents after one anxiously at me when they were looking wanting to be a performer because I think they thought I was a very unstable prospect, which seemed to them to be somebody who imagined it up." I said, "But no there must have been "Yes, that is called a director." And they said,

"That's what I want to be." And I said, the door to get back to that world, Maybe that was then trying to find of my own imagination. but in a way that would come out like Hair, but others as well, You brought to these productions a particular look. between my work is, The obvious connection rock musical era, particularly in the populace of the travelling carnival was to do with the world only a part of it. but that was really minimalism that we applied, There was a kind of modernism as a kind of physical space which used the stage the performance to the audience, that would energise and release rather than decorating the stage. to divide people, 'There are many ways is another one. travellers and settlers to be a settler, I was mostly encouraged I was a traveller. but at heart I knew a sense of curiosity and adventure, I think there's been that's always driven me. city upbringing, While I had a conventional

and before school, my school holidays with my family was spent travelling around going on the little show train, Brisbane and Cairns. one in particular that went between

Steam trains that unloaded circuses in each town and travelling sideshows from the eyes of a child are very romantic a very tough and gritty world.' though, of course, in reality it was that's what we like to see. People here have got plenty of guts, up you come. So, if you want to fight him, (CROWD CHEERS) BELL DINGS that I engaged with 'One of the things and other sideshows, when I was seeing the boxing troupe with the audience.' was the very raw engagement BELL DINGS (CROWD CHEERS)

entertainment, 'It was rough and ready

visual quality - but it had a kind of and freedom to it a sense of anarchy

of my inheritance. that I think was part My parents both had very strong, but very powerful personalities. very different, The world of my mother, and aspirational, which was domestic and considered of my father, was in contrast to the world which was much more anarchic. has been part of me I think this contradiction in the work itself. and often finds expression on my first day at school I was quite shocked around wailing tots to discover myself I could hardly wait. because from my point of view, I think, if that involved a mixture

of kind of pollyanna-like optimism and sense of adventure. and a degree of courage from the background I think that came of that drum beating.' that had the boom-boom-boom

as a rare orchid. You say your mother treated you isn't there? There's two sides to that, like a rare orchid It's nice to be treated in some respects, but not in others. and somewhat stifling. Yes, it was both supportive

You had to break-out? that was generational at the time. Yes. And I think also, between myself and others That was the chord that was struck

of my generation. most want to do about the theatre One of the things that young people they want to shake it up. is they find it tedious, they live in. They want it to be like the world of rock'n'roll. In my generation that was a world when I was a teenager The musical that changed musicals no question, or doubt. was West Side Story - Because it was actually using... sophisticated artists, It was created by very etcetera, etcetera, Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, in a very popular form. that a lot of what I've done, And it is perhaps interesting in the popular area, sophisticated ideas is also using quite in an almost cartoon form. for a moment. Let's enter your grandfather's world He lived on the outskirts of Sydney, Yes. in Narellan. you'd find yourself there at times. And being the good grandson, who started the boxing troupe, My paternal grandfather, and remote figure, I knew as a distant a strange connection. but one that I felt Certainly, there was one incident - it was a stinking hot day get the beer and the glasses and I was the kid who had to and I dropped the tray and I got this fierce frown he might have been like that reminded me of what across the ring as a boxer. being fairly startled by him, I remember as a kid followed by this great laugh where he obviously realised that this world of mates, blokes, beer and drop trays was not one that I was destined for and I thought that there was... I could be imagining it, but I thought there was a recognition

of something of the spirit that had taken him away from his own family and caused him to create a world in his own image and that in a funny kind of way I was destined for the same fate. 'You often stumble upon the things

that are finally going to engage you and there were a number of them, one of them was Christo wrapping the coast of NSW, the arrival of Jorn Utzon and the beginning of the construction of the Sydney Opera House was something that absolutely engaged my imagination and my sense of optimism about what might be possible in the future. Seeing the work of Marcel Duchamp at the Art Gallery of NSW, all of these had a great effect on me. But one of the greatest was wandering into a cinema for a new movie that I knew nothing about, but I liked the title of. One of the great achievements of Kubrick in 2001

was to make essentially a big budget, globally popular, experimental film.

And he did this by removing narrative and engaged us with the two great themes, which is time and mortality. I found my imagination being stifled

in the work situations that were available at the time until I discovered NIDA, which had just come into existence. And so walking through the gates of NIDA for me was like the gods entering Valhalla, I was that happy. Having finally found a place that released my imagination and the theatrical genie was out of the box, I put it to work.' Give 'em a chance to think about what the last one felt like. 'The three things that were not discussed during the era that I grew up were sex, death and religion. Interestingly enough, all three formed the thematic basis of almost everything I've done in the theatre.' If anybody goes away with a slightly changed attitude, or slightly less prejudiced, then the production would have achieved something.

So what do you think about the whole Asian problem? Do you think we should allow them into the country, or not? What do you think about Asians? When you look at your record from that time, you were producing things left, right and centre. It seems like it was volcanic, you had this volcanic energy. It was required at the time. Because at that time there was not a subsidised theatre set-up that we now know today, there was not the structures that are in place today. If you wanted to do something you had to create the circumstances to do it in and there was something very energising about that as well. Just like your dad and your grandad did? Probably, yes.

You got asked to direct Don Giovanni, the opera... Yes. the extraordinarily young age of 21? In Mozart's production, original production of Don Giovanni, Don Giovanni was 21. Oh, well... It was historically not so unusual, but at the time and now it would be. What did people see in you to ask you to do that? That's something you'd really have to ask them. What do you think they saw in you?

Certainly I think what they saw...

I think the theatre is always in a state of crisis. I think when I was young a lot of people saw a potential for the future and a very different future. ALL SING HAIR 'Beyond being a successful musical, which two million people saw, Hair was also something that smashed censorship in every state of Australia in which it played. It completely altered people's attitude to sex and race and played a big role in shifting public opinion against a very dubious commitment to an American war in Vietnam.' 'Do you feel a duty to lead the youth revolution in your theatre and film work?' Uh, no, in terms of leading revolutions. I think revolution is a personal affair and I think the revolution should happen in people's head rather than with bricks going through them. The three musicals that I was involved with in the 1970s defined an era, it began with Hair - This Is The Dawning Of The Age Of Aquarius, it ended with The Rocky Horror picture show - Frankenfurter, it's all over. That's an era. In between those two sat Jesus Christ Superstar. # JC, won't you fight for me. # Robert Stigwood the London impresario invited me to direct the West End production, which was the longest running musical of its time, described by critics as, "The kind of production for which the kingdom of heaven would open."' # Do you have something more quiet? # # It is good for relieving my tension. # 'When we did the stage version of Rocky Horror we thought it would last for three weeks. We had no idea it would play in every country in the world. And then finally when we turned it into a film it converted cinemas into theatres, as audiences dressed up and impersonated the characters

and the audience took over the film and in a way that has kept it alive with adolescents going through certain rites of passage.' # So, come up to the lab # And see what's on the slab. # 'I think I became a much tougher director during and I think also, if there was some kind of line going back to early vaudeville shows

and panto dames, it found its home in Rocky Horror.'

(LAUGHS) # But not the symptom. # Well, Hair and Superstar one thing, but with Rocky Horror there were quite a few differences and one of them is, maybe the central thing is, you were there from the very beginning. Yes, Rocky Horror which began its life as They Came From Denton High, it was the one that, I suppose if you were looking for the equation back to carnival and theatre as carnival, certainly you got it in spades with Rocky Horror. The second thing is that I think that buried underneath the sort of panto surface, or the German gothic surface of Rocky Horror is a bit of a classic myth. Maybe it's a dark fairytale. It's that aspect that sometimes as a director, you're actually giving a surface to something and you're going in underneath. In the same way with Superstar, on one hand you've got a popular rock musical, but underneath that you've got Strindberg described as the basis of theatre, which is Bible stories with pictures. A whole generation of your colleagues, your friends - young aspiring directors, producers, actors, writers - all went to Europe, you went to Japan.

Even in the rough and ready world of the boxing troupe there was a sense of ritual to theatre and to me the great ritual theatre was to be found in Japan in Noh, Kabuki, so forth.

So I went to study there after I had directed Hair in Australia, it was already playing and very successful. I was restless. I was wanting to explore something that would take things to the next step, take things a little deeper. But while I was there, the Japanese production of Hair emerged and they were looking for a director and they wanted... The author's sister had seen the Australian production of Hair

and said, "See if you can get him to do the Japanese production" and I was in Tokyo and so it was as if destined. So how has Japan changed you? Just to take an example in art - you have the western rectangular frame and the passion and the drama in the middle of the frame. Whereas in the East it unfolds as a scroll, like a river and they're two very different ways of looking at the world. One involves the notion of the drama and the passion and therefore, what I would call the soap opera of life. Whereas the other one is to do with time and mortality. There was a marvellous remark of Sheng-Chuan Lai when he was asked what did he think of the French Revolution and he said, "It's too early to say." 'I either had to continue an international career where I would stay on that musical merry-go-round and repeat myself, or move to something that would deepen, broaden and engage my curiosity and it was at that time that I decided to return to Australia and in doing so, I was reminded of seeing a play by Patrick White - The Season at Sarsaparilla.' Got your own home, everything paid off. We've got our health and medical benefits in case. And a life insurance policy besides. BOTH: What more can anyone expect? That became the first production that I directed in Australia and set the stage for everything that would follow it. This is a different advertisement for an Adelaide Festival. What does it mean? Well, it's the celebration of the opening night - which is the first time that the people of Adelaide experience the festival. 'Being asked to direct an Adelaide Festival came as a surprise at the time, but in retrospect there was perhaps an inevitability about it.' # There's a fire burning in their pocket # And there's a fever in their minds # A sense that luck is their friend # Who says people aren't naive? # 'A very busy life as a professional, that began almost as a teenager, meant that you had to put your own life on hold a little bit. But there came a moment where this was no longer possible and this also was a time that involved great discoveries. One of these discoveries was the fact that I had a brother

that I was unaware of and it was a matter of some joy to meet someone who had also understood the very unusual history of our family. So why didn't you know about your brother?

Well, there had been a relationship between my father and someone else outside the marriage. It was kept secret from my mother and therefore from me, in order to preserve the marriage. And so it was quite late in the day when I finally had the revelation in a conversation with my father where I was talking about the fact that in a lot of my relationships I felt that there was a sense that I was seeking a brother and I actually had one. Just like that? Yes. I mean, the end result of it

is something that has been very fulfilling for both of us and on a personal level made both of our lives immensely richer. Talking about being immensely richer, the role that Patrick White's played in your life you talk about the tensions of people in theatre

between where to be physically, you know, whether to be in Australia, whether to be in Europe, for you your attraction to the East. But Patrick White was clearly part of the reason you were anchored in Australia. I admired greatly the fact that Patrick White, who quite obviously was one of the greatest writers of the 20th-century, chose Australia as the world which his literature would inhabit, the world that he would write about, the world that he would in a way create. And I found him, far from the curmudgeon that he's now often seen as, to be one of the most inspiring and certainly most humorous people. It became something that went on for a decade, through a series of three times a week phone calls that happened promptly at 8:45 every morning, where he put aside the lofty Nobel laureate side of his character to have a bit of a gossip on the phone. and I would say influenced by this I was enormously impressed of that process and to have been part not just through doing the plays, that were written at that time, but through some of the novels

notably I think The Twyborn Affair, of the Opera Voss. and also the creation

From my point of view though,

the popular musicals as... everybody else obviously sees and interesting part of my life. But to me the most substantive in the 1990s, You had a famous depression to leave some work projects famous because you needed Yes. that you were in the middle of. It's often said about depression that you don't want to be there,

they were glad they had it. but some people feel I actually feel that in my life and the bottom I've touched the top actually understand one and that you can't without the other. It was certainly an acknowledgement talk about had been lost that the lightness that I often and had to be recovered.

And in order to do that the art had to be put aside, life had to be re-engaged with struck between those two things. and a better balance had to be and for that I am grateful. That did occur I wouldn't wish it on a dog. But for the experience itself, of any artist 'I think the most mysterious aspect and probably the part that they will protect the most almost unconsciously is their imagination. And I found the kind of cauldron

turn into something for all of this to actually was through walking. that would subsequently occur, And through any period of difficulty almost song line of a walking track it would be the return to this that would engage my imagination, allow for reinvention of much creativity. and finally be the source designs These are Gabriela Tylesova's production of Cosi Fan Tutte. for my 2009 Opera Australia and the present It kind of combines the 18th-century and very sexy. in a way that's very beautiful was seeing Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte One of my first experiences of opera when I was a teenager. turned to Fiordiligi And as Dorabella and sang in English, as I recall, if it's all the same to you" "I'll take the handsome dark one, somehow been seduced by Mozart it occurred to me that I had just of amorality. and had understood the world some of the great cultural upheavals In retrospect, I was a player in of the 1960s and the 1970s. that are still in play today In a sense, it's created new models on the way but I think there's another one in that earlier time and I think those that were involved and let it happen. should step right out of the way

to have this life? What have you given up I think there is increasingly everything in life. the notion that you can have That you can have the great career, the great whatever. the great relationships, I've ever believed that. I don't think intimacy, It looks like you've traded off of your life, that's been a small part has been your art. the biggest part of your life I think that absolutely accurate a result of the art, and I think that as

with millions of people. one's been able to be intimate that intimacy with millions? And have you felt think is important to feel in life, I've felt the only thing that I fulfilment. ago by shaking people up, Jim, you started off all those years Do you still want to do that? shaking audiences up. is the power of revelation I think the power of art people's lives, and the capacity to transform but the curiosity never dies. Jim, thank you very much. Long may it burn. Pleasure. Thanks for coming on Talking Heads. 'Next week on Talking Heads - we look at whether there are in our final program for this season that lead to success, common factors in childhood happiness and all the good stuff. That's Monday 6:30.' it's one of Maggie's favourites.' 'Wednesday on The Cook and the Chef - I love them. We all love beetroot. to cook. The easiest thing in the world talking native pepper. 'And Simon's in Tassie Wednesday 6:30.' That's The Cook and the Chef. Closed Captions By CSI This program is not subtitled At autotonight, ahead as Australia's top trading partner slides into boost domestic consumption slides into recession. To

now. Trail of destruction. Brisbane mops up after a monitor storm. It was a scary moment. Very scary. Just monitor storm. It was a very

like a tornado. Tens of thousands flee southern California's fire storms. evening, California's fire storms. Good stories in a moment. First, an I'm Virginia Haussegger. Those environmental given the proposed data centre environmental assessment has

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want to check the detail in the environmental report and in a