Gertraud Ingeborg has produced all of Harlos' productions, the latest of which is Hamlet, currently enjoying a season at Bondi Pavilion. Australian Stage's Brad Syke put a few questions to her.

Gertraud IngeborgGertraud, you've been on and off-stage, internationally, for well over 20 years now. When and how did you discover theatre, as a vocation? Was it destiny, determination, or happenstance, that ensured your gravitation?
I grew up in Vienna where theatre, music, dance is part of your education. I always wanted to be a performer but didn't get the chance to actually pursue it until I came to Sydney, where I went to a drama school. Realising I was a bit old for the waiting game, I started my own production company. It's pure determination, stubbornness, courage and hard work that keeps you in this business.

How do you balance your production managerial duties, with Harlos, with your career as an actor outside the company?
Harlos produces no more than 1 or 2 plays per year.

Do you lose track of the roles you've played? Can you enumerate them, as well as name a few favourites, explaining why they're faves?
I don't lose track of what I've played. Each role was and is different; you put a lot into each character and something of that always stays with you. I don't know how many roles I have had, nor did I ever count them, but some of my favourites are The Fool in 'King Lear', Mary Stuart in 'Mary Stuart', by Darcia Maraini (a two-hander), Mother Courage in 'Mother Courage and her Children' and Mrs Snellgrave in 'One Flea Spare'.

You act, produce and direct. Which of those roles is the most demanding, and why?
I think producing is the most demanding job because you are responsible for the whole production and the people involved and on top of that I quite often act in my own productions as well, which would put a lot of pressure on any person.

In recent years you've focused Harlos on Shakespeare. What's been the stimulus for returning to the classics? Do you feel you've something to add; something to say that hasn't been said before?
No, we do it because we get audiences: mainly HSC students and their teachers. And they're very grateful we keep doing the plays they need to see.

You've pioneered a number of European plays in Australia, including Stallerhof, Quartet, Shakespeare in the Sex Shop, Visiting Hours & Bedford Drive 1941. What affinities did you feel such plays would find with Australian audiences? Were you surprised by reactions to them? Did you feel, and do you, that our dramatic exposure, downunder, is too limited? Are we too parochial?
Yes, we started with European plays because I thought we could bring something different to the theatre scene in Sydney. And in a way we did: we got terrific reviews, but unfortunately not enough people came to see our plays and our company lost quite a bit of money in the process. It's always a risk to do a play where the playwright is unknown in the English-speaking world, unless you are the STC. But things have changed since the time when I started. I don't think theatre today is so parochial, so I might try it again.

Harlos, under director David Ritchie, has made an interesting choice in having two actors alternating as the great Dane: Angela Bauer & Damien Ryan. How is this more than a gimmick? What's the rationale?
A very simple rationale. Damien Ryan, who wanted to play this role one more time (he already played the Dane in a New Theatre production under the direction of David Ritchie) couldn't do any mornings or afternoon performances because of his job. Most actors, as you probably know, have to have a 'proper' job to survive. And since Angela had played Hamlet for us before, we came to this rather unique, but very interesting, solution.

Gertraud IngeborgYou have roles on and off-stage. On, as Gertrude. What do you admire, if anything, about her? And what, if anything, do you detest?
When I play a part I always like the character because I try to understand their actions. I don't detest anything about Gertrude. In a way, she's a victim, like Ophelia. Gertrude doesn't get much chance to display her character except in the closet scene and the beautiful description of Ophelia's death. To me she is a very passionate woman, but in love with the wrong man.

The Denmark this production evokes is, by all accounts, a rather more modern one, very much subject to dark, fascistic tendencies. Are you sounding a warning about where modern Europe is once again heading?
No, it's not a warning, these are just facts. Fascistic tendencies exist. Look at Germany, Denmark, Austria, France; to name just a few.

Harlos Productions' Hamlet plays at the Bondi Pavilion, Sydney, until May 29, 2010. Further details»

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