Australian director, actor and writer Simon Stone (1984) is one of the most acclaimed theatre-makers in the international circuit.
Born in Basel and educated at Cambridge, Stone returned to Australia in 2007 to found The Hayloft Project. The company’s first production, Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening (Frühlings Erwachen) established its reputation at a stroke. Stone quickly became known as an inspiring director with a unique style. He likes to take pieces from the standard repertoire which, with the help of his cast, he reworks into intimate, almost cinematic performances. Stone has previously applied this approach to Chekhov’s Platonov and Seneca’s Thyestes. In 2011 he was invited to become resident director of Sydney’s Belvoir theatre company.
Australian writer and director Simon Stone (1984) is a unique voice in international theater. He is best known for his contemporary adaptations of classical texts and he quickly became a welcome guest at festivals in Europe. For ITA he adapted Medea (Euripides) and created Ibsen house, based on various pieces by the Norwegian master. This four-hour family drama was embraced by the press and the public at the Avignon Festival. He also directed ITA's ensemble in Woody Allen's Husbands and wives.
In his adaptations Stone strips the original to its essence and places the moral dilemmas and themes within a contemporary context. His characters are recognizable, doubting, seeking people in extreme circumstances. Simon Stone is praised for his razor-sharp dialogues, his humor, the intensity of acting and his inventive directorial style in which abstraction and hyperrealism go hand in hand in an exciting way.
Stone is now active in the opera circuit as well and has just completed his second feature film. After the well received The Daughter, based on Ibsens The Wild Duck, he now created The Dig, a historical drama starring Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes. The film was produced by Netflix and can be seen in cinemas in the fall of 2020.
He often works on the basis of improvisation and characterizations suggested by a play, creating an entirely new script through which the original nevertheless shines. His version of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck was enthusiastically received during the 2013 Holland Festival. More recently, Stone has reworked The Oresteia to become an emotional and thought-provoking contemporary family drama. German critics were unanimous in their praise for the passion he shows: 'The retelling of the Classics reaches a completely new radicalism. Stone does not re-interpret as such, but rewrites the piece for our times.' Stone frequently returns to the classics and mythology because he believes that they raise all the essential questions about the human condition. 'You cannot make theatre based on fear or compromises; without polemics there is no art.'
Stone about his work at ITA
‘The more I read Ibsen’s plays, the more I see that characters recur. Although they have different names, they bear the same features. Like they are cousins, sisters, daughters, sons of a single character, once imagined by Ibsen. The young, idealistic dreamer; the bankrupt industrialist, fighting for his legacy; the woman who is stronger than her husband, searching for meaning; the man who is haunted by his father’s actions throughout his life; the couple whose relationship falls apart into a chaos of sex, death and mutual accusation. In Ibsen house, I process this material into a story about different generations in one house. The rooms in this house are places of trauma and confrontation, but also of joyful memory. The house harbours the memory of each chapter from this family’s history in the way it jumps from one masterpiece by Ibsen to another. His entire work is permeated with a deep insight into families in times of crisis. Into wounds that do not heal. It is about how we struggle to be able to go on. About how we attempt to feel normal again after things have been far from normal for far too long.’
'The story of Medea is timeless. When a couple separate, one partner’s desire to hurt the other can go so far that they destroy the very thing they hold most dear: their children. In Medea, a woman takes the lives of her own sons. What would drive someone to such a deed? Is it the realization that everything she once meant to her husband is no more: that he has ‘traded her in for a younger model’? Medea was once Jason’s muse, the woman who seduced and enchanted him. Now that she is older and no longer fertile, he abandons her. She has no part in his plans and ambitions. He shuns her and takes away her very purpose in life. She has reached the end of her tether. She refuses to give up her children and is prepared to take the most drastic action. Does she want to hurt him? Is she seeking revenge for his treachery, or are her actions a manifestation of her devotion? Perhaps she is simply mad. Medea is about the power of a woman who once again experiences the exclusion she once felt in a dim and distant past.'
Husbands and wives
‘Woody Allen lifts the banality of modern relationships up to a Shakespearean level. Nobody is better than him when it comes to portraying the reality of romance, with all its flaws. In Husbands and wives, he adds an air of fateful breakdown. It becomes Woody Allen, but in the form of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. The relationship as a nightmare, which can only be laughed at – as long as that is possible. Because in the end, you’re there in the rain without an umbrella. All the others are happy, or at least they have found a way to be unhappy in a happy way. But you are still waiting for something there, drenched, surprised, alone.’