Wayne BlairWayne Blair is the recently appointed Artistic Associate of Belvoir St Theatre - what that means, he says, he’s not exactly sure - but he’s got an office.

Blair’s contribution to theatre and film in Australia is nothing short of impressive, from his acclaimed portrayal of Othello for Bell Shakespeare Company to his short film “Djarns Djarns” and everything in between, he continues to find the sweetness and soul in sad stories.

In an exciting swirl of interviews Blair stands strong amid the crowd of arts journalists: standing solidly in front of a camera, being interviewed for TV and photographed for press, as though this friendly interrogation is the most natural of all aspects of directing… and for Wayne Blair, perhaps it is: he certainly makes it appear to be.

There’s a strong buzz about B-Sharp’s opening show - a buzz that says “Blair’s directing Brendan’s Cowell’s new play!” It’s called Ruben Guthrie and if the scenes selected as a mini preview are anything to go by, there’s lots to think and re-think about drinking in the creative industries and its certain to be an interesting adventure… and the blurb goes something like this:

“Ruben Guthrie is on fire. At only 29, he is Creative Director of a cutting edge advertising agency, lives with his Czech supermodel fiancé and drinks like he invented it. Ruben seems invincible, until one fated evening when he drinks so much vodka he thinks he can fly. Before Ruben knows it his fiancé has left him, his Mum is escorting him to AA meetings and his bottomless schooner of confidence has all but drained away. For the first time in his life… Ruben Guthrie is alone.”

In the Sydney Morning Herald article April 3rd Toby Schmitz, who plays the title role of Ruben states: “Our industry has no office. It has no meeting place other than the foyer and the bar, which is hard for the ginger ale drinker. I've been cast in plays, sealed deals, over a glass." It seems that the formulation of this production came from such a foyer experience: a few conversations and a few beers at the pub.

I asked Wayne how he came across Brendan Cowell’s newest work: “It wasn’t an email or a fax or a memo,” he said, it was “just Neil [Armfield] going 'oh, have a look at this, I think you might like it'.” And as far as finding the actor to play Ruben goes, this seems to ring true: “at the right place at the right time, [casting is] a bit about instinct and impulse and when the stars are in alignment... so Toby and I had a beer and the stars aligned.”

It’s easy talking to Wayne Blair. We sat on the leather couches in the Belvoir St Theatre foyer and chatted about the play and about his reflections on the subject of drinking and excessive lifestyles. And more than anything he’s honest. I asked him how this play reflects and fits into his life. “I relate to a lot of it big time…” In Blair’s steady way, he philosophizes on the themes, not that he’s a “sadistic person”, he assures me, but says “I liked the sadness, I like the grief and I liked him being alone.”

Ruben Guthrie is the second Murri fulla films production in the Belvoir St Downstairs Theatre in the last year, which follows the September 2007 production of “Jesus Hopped the A-train” (also Produced by the unstoppable Sam Hawker). And Wayne Blair seems at home here, in the role of Artistic Associate, who has an office…

The first 10 days or so have already sold out - a fantastic sign for the start of Ruben Guthrie’s run. Be sure to grab a ticket on what promises to be a bright start to B Sharp’s 2008 Season.

Ruben Guthrie is now playing and runs until May 11. For further information click here»

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