On the Couch with Jasdeep Gill – director of Couch Theatre’s Eurydice

14 Sep 2016
Interview by Sam Kee & Max
Photos by Couch Theatre

Jasdeep Gill is the Artistic Director of Couch Theatre, also the director of their latest production, Eurydice. We popped by their rehearsals – it was our first encounter with Couch Theatre. We see a clear-headed director who knows what he wants from his crew and is very patient with his cast. We speak to Jasdeep to find out what theatre means to him…

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1. What does theatre mean to you? Are there specific moments in your life, or books you’ve read, or encounters that shaped this meaning of theatre?

For me, theatre has always served a dual function: firstly, as a mode of artistic expression, and secondly as a form of reflection and connection – both inwardly and to the world around me. Theatre, and art generally, gives us a platform to talk about things that society often overlooks or sweeps under the rugs. In the increasingly fast paced and economically driven world we live in, sometimes it is necessary to pause and question the happenings of our lives, and to seek to understand humanity better. For all the exploration that we have done of our external world, who can honestly say that we understand ourselves any more than we did centuries ago? Art, in this respect, gives us conversation and fuel in humanity’s never-ending quest of self-discovery.

2. What is the strongest character of Couch Theatre? How does this help in shaping the identity of the company in Singapore’s theatre scene?

The strongest characteristic of the Couch family has most definitely got to be the dynamics of our core team. Few artists, at this age, have the privilege of working with a constant team over the course of 6-7 years. The team is able to function and play to its individuals’ strengths due to the range of artistic and managerial fields possessed. Of course, monotony can lead to complacency, and we are careful to manage this by constantly being on the look out for fresh, vibrant talent and young individuals that can add to the team.

It’s quite interesting how the local theatre scene seems to currently be experiencing an increase of youth theatre groups. There are many stories to be told, and many voices telling them, and we are excited to be part of this new wave of theatre. It also makes us work harder. We are constantly asking ourselves: What exactly is Couch Theatre? What do we stand for, and what works do we wish to produce? There isn’t yet a definite answer, as we grow and learn with each production. We haven’t come to a definite answer yet, and perhaps we never will. One thing I can say though is that we’re enjoying the journey so far, and maybe it is this journey that will define us and be our legacy in the scene.

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3. Share with us the most important discovery or experience since your inception 3 years ago.

I think that the most impactful discovery was definitely our first experience. Having worked together to produce theatre in the incubation chamber that is school, we were unaware of many of the non-artistic requirements needed to run a successful production. Thankfully, we were able to obtain mentorship from more experienced individuals who showed us the ropes in running a full-scale production from behind the scenes.

That being said, each production brings with it its own challenges and three and a half years later, I would say that we are still definitely learning and improving. The nature of running a theatre company while studying or working full time is such, but we would not have it any other way!

4. Share with us your encounter with Sarah Ruhl: How you came across her plays and why you chose Melancholy Play for Couch Theatre’s debut and now, in the 4th year of your inception – Eurydice.

Our dramaturge, Shien Hian, suggested Melancholy Play a number of years ago when we were reading and researching for our first production. I must admit that I was immediately struck with the simple beauty that is the writing of Sarah Ruhl. Few authors are able to produce work that is so successfully contradictory in every aspect. Ruhl’s plays often directly confront themes such as loss and death. However, rather than deal with them in a somber manner, she tackles these issues with a lightness of touch that fully explores the complexity of human emotions, albeit in an occasionally perplexing and absurd manner. Stylistically as well, the thematic depth of her plays are enhanced by the simplicity of language, delivered in an extremely poetic manner.

As for Eurydice, every director has a stack of plays somewhere that they dream of doing at some point in their career. In that collection of Ruhl’s plays, I was torn between it and Melancholy. However,Eurydice was a slightly more complex production in that it required greater skill across the various aspects of design (set, lighting, sound etc.) which I did not feel prepared for at that point it time. I spent the years since gradually improving my command of various aspects of production and finally felt able to do justice to what is still my favourite piece of work!

5. We heard that you are giving a contemporary treatment toEurydice. What can audiences expect from you?

Actually, Eurydice itself is a contemporary retelling of the classical tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. Ruhl’s adaptation of the myth is unique in treating Eurydice as the protagonist, following her oft-cited preference for female protagonists. In doing so, she puts the power of choice firmly in Eurydice’s hands, as well as adding nuance to the character by the introduction of the Father character and compounding the choices she has to make.

Audiences watching our version of Ruhl’s Eurydice can expect questions of loss and moving forward with our lives to be asked, as well as be provoked to think about the choices that we make with regards to our loved ones when conflicting paths arise.

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Couch Theatre is a theatre group started in 2013, by a group of young adults with a huge passion for theatre. We strive to be a platform for emerging artistes who wish to hone their craft, and for individuals who are love theatre as much as we do, and are looking for a way to explore their interest. It is our goal to tell stories and create theatre that is accessible, and connects with the Singaporean audience.

Written by Sarah Ruhl
Date: 22 – 25 Sep 2016, Thu – Sun
Time: 8:00pm | Additional 3:00pm show on Sat & Sun
Venue: Drama Centre Blackbox
Ticket Prices: $30