Exeposé Arts interviews Caroline Lang, the director of Shotgun Theatre’s new production of the classic Broadway musical Rent
So first of all, how has it been working with the cast?
We’ve become quite a tight-knit little family. We happen to all get along really, really well. Which makes things so much easier. I think we’ve found a good balance between having fun and working really hard. So I think it’s enjoyable for everyone.
What’s special about this production in particular?
I think one of the main things that we set out to do from the very beginning was to emphasise the issue of AIDS more than other productions have. Other productions do seem to gloss over that aspect of the show quite a bit. For me that was really something I wanted to highlight and focus on. There are a lot of songs in there that become so much more profound if you actually look at it from an AIDS perspective, which is essentially what it’s all about. But on Broadway, they keep dropping these little jokes and stuff, and it kind of mocks the disease in a way.
Do you thing AIDS is being neglected as an issue by mainstream society?
DebSoc did an event on AIDS and whether society has come to terms about it, and I think maybe people will walk away from it thinking about it more. Nowadays, it isn’t the big thing in the media all the time and it should be because it’s still around and something people are still affected by. In fact some of the cast do know people who are affected by it. So I think that will encourage the audience to think about Rent in a new way.
In terms of the music, are you bringing out anything new in the songs, or are you belting them out in a full on celebration of Rent?
I think we stay true to the original music, but I think each production brings something new to the show. Every production is going to stage it differently, so it’ll always look and sound different. ‘Take me or leave me’ is being sung by two of the best singers in the university , so I think it’s going to be one of those huge show moments. We haven’t changed any of the songs except one, which is ‘Contact’, which a lot of productions cut out of their production, but we decided to include it and its originally written as kind of an orgy scene. But then right after there is ‘Angels Funeral’ and to me that seems too stark a contrast. So we looked at the words of the orgy scene and they felt like words that you could use for disease as well, so we reoriented the scene, making it more disease themed rather than sex themed. So that’s probably our most major change.
Why is the show worth watching?
We have an exceptionally talented cast. The main thing I find is its so enjoyable watching them have fun and I think that really, really stands out. Compared to other productions I’ve seen you can really tell they’re enjoying every moment of it on stage.
How big a fan are you personally? Are you a “Renthead”?
Yeah! The reason I went for this role is because Rent is my favourite musical and I heard that Shotgun was doing it. I just thought I have to go for it!
Why is it your favourite?
It’s the perfect balance between sad and happy. It’s a really beautiful, emotional journey to follow and the songs are just amazing.
Rent is obviously a very well-known show, but can you quickly sum it up in a few words for those of us who are unfamiliar with the musical?
Bohemian Lifestyle. Artists struggling to make a living. AIDS. A tight knit community. Really great songs.
Besides how the show discusses AIDS, how do you think the show is still relevant today?
Even now, as a group of drama students, we’re aware of how you get the mickey taken out of you because it’s not seen as something serious. And I think all of these performance artists are trying to get taken seriously by society, so I think that is something that is very relevant nowadays. Also the fact that homosexuality isn’t even an issue in Rent, I see that as a kind of model for how society ought to approach homosexuality. Nobody makes reference to it at all.
This production promises to live up to the all singing, all dazzling legacy of the Broadway show, however it does look like it might be a sell-out, so grab those last minute tickets quick!
Laura Christopher, Online Arts Editor
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