Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Feature: Interview - Anton Golikov on Lunduntown

Raising the Stakes on Montreal Theatre
by David Sklar  

Anton Golikov is from Vladikavkaz, Russia.  In 2012, he founded Raise The Stakes Theatre Company, and has gone on to perform in and design the production of True West at Theatre Ste-Catherine (TSC). Anton made his directing debut in August 2012 with Salt Water Moon by David French.  In March, he directed the company's latest project, Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer at Espace 4001. Anton has also acted on the Dome Stage in the roles of Antonio (Merchant of Venice), Colonel Vershinin (Three Sisters), and Clarence (Hay Fever). A regular performer at TSC's Sunday Night Improv, Anton is a proponent of improv as a life philosophy and is a regular performer with TSC's resident company, Le Nouveau International (Depflies, Grinders, Match Made in Hell.) This summer, he will be appearing in the epic tree-planting comedy Ogoki Nights, based on a trilogy by Alain Mercieca.

CHARPO:  What is Lunduntown about?

GOLIKOV: Lunduntown is a play about world citizens. It’s the Canadian experience in London, England, based on Alain Mercieca’s travels. The main story is about a man named Charlie Dibbles, an 'immigrant enabler' who shows people around, gives them jobs and helps them out in many ways: women, cars, money whatever they need.  Charlie’s been living in London for a long time and all of a sudden his nephew, Jordan, comes from Westmount, Montreal, to convince him to return home because Charlie’s mother is dying. The nephew is trying to change Charlie but he’s very set in his ways. 

There are loads of unique characters that cross paths such as an insecure brother who puts on a faux British accent and a psychopath that roams the night looking to kill Canadian tourists and cleanse the society of the bane of tourism.  We even have a live soccer match and a musical number.   

CHARPO: Based on Mercieca’s life?

GOLIKOV:  Yes. The characters are very much based on the people he was living amongst.

CHARPO: How did you come on board?

GOLIKOV: I’ve been involved with  Theatre Ste-Catherine (TSC) for about a year. Right after school (Dawson Theatre Graduate 2012) I starting doing some of the plays there: The Depflies, Grinders, and Match Made in Hell. A lot of stuff was thrown at me and I learned a lot from Mercieca. I joined the weekly improv group, worked the tech, even the bar. I’ve always wanted to do a project with one of his scripts. He’s always directed his own work and one day I suggested letting me try it out. He was pretty excited. He showed me a couple of scripts and Lunduntown stood out for me.  It felt personal and had a lot of comedy with tragic elements that came right from his experiences. 

CHARPO:  What did you find that drew you to the text?

GOLIKOV:  Every character has this rounded truth about them and a little bit of my experiences in them: the insecurity, the being placed in a new environment. I moved to Montreal from Vladikavkaz, Russia, when I was seven. I was put right in the mix. I had to learn Hebrew and Yiddish at school and then I was tossed into College De Montreal, a French high school. Thrown into the soup, a very typical immigrant story. And I saw Charlie, living in London, who hasn’t been home in a while. I call Montreal my home now but I have never left it long enough to truly miss it. Jordan misses Montreal and he's nostalgic about home. For me, it’s a mix of all these emotions.   

CHARPO: What do you think Mercieca wanted to say?

GOLIKOV: It’s the Canadian experience. No matter how much life experience you have in other places, there is a place you call home and you need to return to it one day.  I’m drawn to Russia, I still have family there and Charlie needs to go back to embrace his home. 

CHARPO:  How did your company, Raise the Stakes, come to be formed?

GOLIKOV: It was initially started with my friend James Soares with whom I’ve acted on stage many times; he was Shylock to my Antonio. For two weeks he had a knife up to my neck so that built a lot of trust.  In theatre school, we were assigned to read Salt Water Moon and after one day, we decided to jump right into it: to put it on somewhere.  We didn’t know anything. What venue to go to or even the logistics of how it works.  We hit the ground face first, and then realized, hey, we need some money.  Our first project was a work in progress. But since we both had been at TSC for improv classes, we thought, let’s do it there. And ever since then, we’ve been coming back. We write and do sketches there and work with a whole range of people. It feels like a second home. 

CHARPO: And where did you get your company name from?  

GOLIKOV: It’s an improv term, a note I’ve always received. You have to make things worse. Make the situation that much more dire.  And in so doing, I told myself, let’s apply that to theatre. 

CHARPO: It seems that your directing skills have come through improv?

GOLIKOV: Yes. We do improv drills together. We also do Meisner technique with Stephen Peterson and more improv with Sandy Armstrong, who works at TSC.  So a lot of what happens on stage is very much in the moment. I feel there should be no show that will ever be alike.  No matter how tightly rehearsed you are, you are still going to have a different show every night. Improv helps us react in the moment and stay attuned to what is going on at all times. These are skills that I picked up at TSC and I am learning teaching is really about listening. The more you listen, the more you are free to react.   

CHARPO: Since you are working with many people that you went to school with, do you find it hard to split yourself into two roles as a colleague and director?

GOLIKOV: Sometimes I have to be very demanding with these guys. We’ve been in rehearsal for five weeks now and I feel that there is a professional time and a friend time.  I don’t find it strange at all. There’s no tension, even though these guys are good friends of mine.  We trust each other.  And I'm very open to their input and they are open to my direction and that is how I like to work.  

CHARPO: How much freedom did you have as a director on this project?

GOLIKOV:  Mercieca and myself were editing the script from the beginning.  It was first put on at the Halifax Fringe Festival in 2007. But he has been working on a summer film project, Ogoki Nights so he hasn’t been around all that much. However, I’m taking everything I learned from him and trying to apply it here along with  the example of theatre school. Those two things together make it work.    

CHARPO: Are you ready for opening night? 

GOLIKOV:  I feel good. There is a lot of set stuff missing but I counted on that.  The acting is all there. It’s all about bringing the last few elements together. We are very excited. And I would like to extend a big thank you to the people at the Segal Theatre for rehearsal space and the TSE crowd that has been supportive of this for a very long time.  They’ve given us a platform to flourish.  They taught me about community and then discovering the great theatre community that we have here all working together.  

CHARPO: What are your future plans for the company?

GOLIKOV: We’re doing Seduced by Sam Shepard in November. After that, another project. We haven’t stopped  since the beginning and that’s how I’d like to work from now on. GO GO GO!

Lunduntown runs from July 31st to August the 3rd at Theatre Ste-Catherine at 8pm.  
Running time: Approx. 1h30min. 

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