Craig Ilott

Craig Ilott is the director and co creator (with iOTA) of Smoke & Mirrors, the acrobatic/musical/theatrical experience which recently featured at the Sydney Festival and is now showing in Melbourne before heading to New Zealand. He has received the Green Room Award for Best Director (2007 for Hedwig and the Angry Itch) and his production The Pillowman was nominated for 6 Sydney Theatre Awards. Originally a performer, Craig is now a director like no other. 

If you could travel through the past or through the future, what time period would you choose, and why? The present moment.  I spend enough time in the past and future.

When and how were you initially drawn to directing? Even though I had many years as a performer I was always more interested with the overall process.  As a child I was always obsessed with how things worked.  But also I was blessed with many mentors as a developing artist and they were all directors – Baz Luhrmann, Neil Armfield, Jim Sharman. Perhaps if they were publicans or politicians…

As a child, I never thought that… I would ever get to sleep.

You have been involved with the directing of musicals and theatre, such as Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Buddy, the Buddy Holly Story, as well as films such as Candy, and collaborations such as with Smoke & Mirrors (recently performed as part of the Sydney Festival) – what form of media do you enjoy directing most?
Theatre.  The few experiences I have had with the film medium left me numb and frustrated.  There seems little creative about it – a hierarchical land ruled by budgets.  I found the amalgam of forms in Smoke (& Mirrors) to be an exciting thing to helm and wrangle.  
After directing Let It Be, who is your favourite Beatle, and what is your favourite Beatles’ song?
Definitely Lennon.  Probably as much for his post Beatle work.  Day in the Life – I love the theatricality in the piece.
What inspires you?
People displaying great integrity.
How and when did your collaboration with iOTA begin?
We first worked together on Hedwig (And the Angry Itch).  We are both extremely independent people so it took a little while to realise the collaboration was working for us both.  But that was just the actor/director relationship. We didn’t expect it to translate into the writing side of things, but it did.  I simply like where our ideas meet.
My guiltiest pleasure is…
Mindlessly wandering shopping centres.  I find it strangely relaxing.
Can you describe the first time you went to a circus?
A vague memory.  I think it was Ashton’s Circus.  Just remember it didn’t smell very good.  Lots of straw and elephant shit.
How difficult was it to coordinate Smoke & Mirrors? There were always things happening at once.
You know, it was a complex thing to pull off but it actually wasn’t difficult at all.  It was one of those rare occasions when everything feels like it’s meant to happen; you find a zone, and the rest follows.     
What was your favourite part of Smoke & Mirrors?
Collaborating with such a wonderful and eclectic bunch of performers and finding a new language to communicate with all.
What do you think of modern special effects, such as the use of green screens, as opposed to more traditional techniques and illusions such as smoke and mirrors? 
I don’t mind what technique is used as long as the end result has the capacity to move people.
If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Sicilian olives.  With wine.  Or kalamata olives.  With beer.
If you were a serial killer, what would your trademark be?
A fake moustache. 
What’s next for Craig Ilott?
I’m about to direct a Jane Harrison play called Rainbow’s End which heads out on a national tour. It’s an ambitious piece with a big heart and important story to tell.  I also have a couple of new works in early stages of development. 
Smoke & Mirrors (Melbourne
Smoke & Mirrors (New Zealand