Veteran of both stage and screen, George Shevtsov has certainly become a respected talent over the course of his career. His latest role is in an original work by the Perth Theatre Company. We caught up with Shevtsov to chat about working in a premiere piece, and how music has become an important part of his life.
The Song Was Wrong is a new work penned by Perth Theatre Company Director Melissa Cantwell. Based on a tale told in a Saigon bar many years ago, it is a love story about a pianist and a woman that spans three generations. “It’s always great to do a new work,” explains Shevtsov. “Because you can make a contribution, it’s a fascinating story. With all developments it is your contribution that gives direction (if it’s valid) for the writer. It’s all filtered through the writer’s idea of what she is trying to say. On stage, you also want an audience to come at things with fresh eyes. With this piece the audience can interpret it in multiple ways. It’s not scripted about how you see it, each member of the audience can make up their mind about what they are experiencing. That’s the best sort of theatre.”
The hardest task for Shevtsov was an unexpected one, a skill he surprisingly didn’t have when being cast as the elder musician. “I had to learn to play the piano, which was great. Fortunately we have a piano back home, which I didn’t play. It’s a family heirloom and really needs repairs, but we tune it every five years or so and it works. So at the end of last year I began teaching myself. Fortunately we had some beginner books, so I got used to the piano and having my hands around it. Then I got some of the music I have to play in the piece and learnt how to play that. It inspired me. I’m going to fix the piano and continue learning.”
Although he loves working on both stage and screen, Shevtsov admits they are very different beasts to perform in. “They require a very different approach, very different energy, a whole different environment. Both are stimulating. What’s great about theatre is you have a long (well, maybe not that long) rehearsal process, and a chance to do it every night and keep it growing. In film and TV the takes are where you keep it growing till there’s one take that gets chosen and then gets manipulated in the editing room. In a way you haven’t got control over your performance, but it is thrilling to see it come out in the final cut. Both are rewarding and fantastic experience.”
Although with a bit of holiday time on the horizon, Shevtsov still has a few previously completed works coming later this year. He has just arrived back from the Tribecca Film Festival, where he premiered his latest film, Backtrack. An Australian supernatural thriller, Backtrack sees him sharing the screen with Oscar winner Adrian Brody. Closer to home, he also makes an appearance in local band Hailmary’s latest video. Shevtsov is the father of the drummer Vas, and stars as a chained-up hippie in the clip.
The Song Was Wrong runs from Thursday, June 4, until Saturday, June 20, at Studio Underground in the State Theatre Centre. Go to perththeatre.com.au for tickets and session times.