BY PHILIP POGSON
The interaction between master and student is a complex and fascinating one.
The famous French novel and film Tous les matins de monde (‘All the mornings of the world’) is an acutely sensitive, fictional exploration of the relationship between two great artists: the famed viola da gambist and composer Marin Marais, and his distinguished mentor Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe, along with Sainte-Colombe’s two daughters.
Never one to stand still, Marais Project founder and director Jennifer Eriksson has put together a collaboration with leading young Australian actor, writer and film-maker James Fraser. A budding star, James has appeared in celebrated films such as The Water Diviner, The Devil’s Playground and The Turning.
Together, James and Jennifer they have created a series of reflections on Tour les matins du monde in words and music. The result, Master and Pupil, premiered in 2016 with one performance only, receiving critical acclaim. It’ll return to audiences this month as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival.
James, your favourite actor?
This changes frequently, but right now – Tom Hardy.
And your favourite movie?
That also changes frequently, but today I’ll say Seven Samurai.
What was it like working with Russell Crowe?
Russell expects 110 per cent from himself and everyone around him, always. It can be exhausting if you’re not totally prepared but it’s also inspiring. Whatever it is that drives him, I want some.
Can you tell us a little bit about your appearance in the film version of The Turning?
Tim Winton’s book The Turning consists of 18 short stories [portrayed by] 18 different directors. Making the film was therefore a massive project! Being the lead in my segment, I was treated with the same narrative significance as those characters played by Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh and Rose Byrne – all idols of mine. So that was amazing – to be given the same story-telling responsibilities they had.
On top of that, my piece, Big World, was directed by Warwick Thornton. Warwick also directed one of my favourite Australian films, Samson and Delilah, so working with him was a privilege in itself. Plus, they ended up taking a still from our part of the film for the poster. So that back you see on the DVD cover, that’s my back!
What has been interesting for you about getting to know the book and film about Marin Marais, Tous les matins du monde?
The book argues two sides to a debate about art that I’ve often mused over myself. Is it wrong for an artist to want recognition? Are the rewards of art in the execution or the reception?
The younger Monsieur Marais wants his music to reach people. He wants to touch an audience and be respected for it. He wants people to know his work. The older Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe, Marais’s teacher, believes music should be kept between the musician and the supernatural, he plays almost exclusively in solitude and feels that sharing it with people tarnishes the magic of its expression.
In a society so obsessed with turning artists into celebrities, it can sometimes feel like the only way of maintaining integrity is to keep it to ourselves. On the other hand, engaging with an audience is the point of art. I guess the trick is finding the right viewers.
What are you looking forward to in the upcoming performance of Master and Pupil?
It’s going to be great to act for a live audience again.