In 1993, [I was an] actor in Chris Dickins’s Skins, directed by Kim Durban and designed by Richard Jeziorny at St Martins.
Following that I participated in a series of book gigs organised by Agnes Nieuwenhuizen and directed by different people, including, memorably, John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began. Over those two or three years I met and made friends and colleagues that have continued until today.
WHAT SHAPES YOU?
Post-graduate directing at the Victorian College of the Arts in 1997 was the year that shaped me. It brought together a lot of things that were floating around in my head and helped me make sense of them.
We were mentored by Richard Murphet who has a brilliant eye for what is good in a piece of theatre, not just its faults, and he would communicate that to us. They took our theatre seriously and, in turn, I learned to take my theatre but not myself seriously.
I had worked solidly at the VCA over quite a few weeks with two actors, Bruce Langdon and Dion Mills, on an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde. We tore the text apart and refashioned it as a series of sexual encounters between two men. It was deeply personal work and in September 1997 just a few hours before we had our first audience of any kind I had a moment of absolute clarity and calm: I was completely satisfied with what we had created. Even if nobody else liked it, I did, and that was enough. I’ve never experienced anything like it again. That was the one and only time and I sometimes wonder as a director if I’ve spent my life since trying to recapture that moment.
Beng Oh is a Melbourne-based freelance theatre director, associate of Contemporary Asian Australian Performance, on the committee of management for La Mama Theatre & directing various projects working closely yet seperately with Jane Miller and Daniel Keene. He attended St Martins in the early 90s.