Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Kantor To Go
Yesterday Michael Kantor announced that he’d be stepping down (well, to one side, I guess) from his role as Artistic Director of Malthouse Theatre. I think he’s done some bang-up work with the company in the last half-decade and some not-so-bang-up (bang-down?) work too, but I’ve also found that’s he’s consistently open to criticism of his stuff and in fact actively courts it. God knows I’ve been tough on some of his directorial output but Kantor has always encouraged that kind of thing. I might say the same about Simon Phillips – I think the changing shape of the MTC has been a direct response to broader criticisms in the theatre world over the past few years. That’s just speculation, though. I have no clue what goes on behind those secret doors deep within the MTC’s new nerve centre; doors I imagine as looming titanium blocks carved with occult designs and guarded by bald, goateed henchmen who go by a single name (Maciste, Kroll, Grant etc). The doors probably don’t look much like that.
There’s a rowdy discussion over at Theatre Notes regarding Kantor’s successor. Since he’s not actually leaving the building until late next year, all this talk will probably go dormant for a while until early 2010, but here are a few thoughts:
Kantor, like Phillips and a gaggle of ADs around the country, is a director. It seems pretty standard today to appoint company ADs who are active artists themselves. I don’t reckon this will change, although it would be interesting if it did.
The next comer will have to fit in well with the culture that already exists at Malthouse – unless Stephen Armstrong takes his leave too, it’ll need to be someone who complements his vision for the company (and if Armstrong heads off into the wide blue yonder I can’t even imagine what Malthouse will look like in a few years).
The next AD won’t be a straight-up “play” person, since the Board is going to want to keep pushing in the direction Kantor’s been driving rather than reverting to the Playbox model which would be like trying to reheat the lasagne you found in a freezer left behind by previous tenants.
The company has had great success bringing in young audiences and indie performance fans as well as dancegoers; the replacement will have to be able to click into that groove too (ie someone who knows better than to use a term like “click into that groove”).
I’d tip the odds towards someone who’s collaborated with Malthouse extensively already, since they’re going to be familiar with the processes there.
SO: though I have no idea if they’d even be interested in the gig, here’s a quick shortlist of contenders who spring to mind.
Wesley Enoch. Frequent collaborator with Malthouse, has worked with Armstrong forever.
Matt Lutton. Stepped into Kantor’s shoes to direct Tartuffe when the AD had was forced to pull out for health reasons. Lutton’s only in his mid-twenties; he’s directed ThinIce in WA and been invited to direct for the STC, though.
Tom Wright. Makes sense in some ways – he’s perfectly aligned with the kind of theatre Kantor was making, but I don’t know enough about his Boss credentials to tip him either way.
Chris Kohn. Has the chops to do the job, easily. Knows Malthouse and is currently AD for Arena.
They’re my top picks, although there are plenty more names that could make a longer list. It’s entirely XY-chromosomed, I realise, but that’s another story.