The actor Diego Matamoros, a founding member of Toronto’s Soulpepper theatre troupe, plays the title role in the company’s current production of Tartuffe, Molière’s humourous 17th-century play about lust, religious hypocrisy and the triumph of good over evil. (Read The Globe's review here.) It’s Mr. Matamoros’s 50th production with the company. We spoke to the five-time Dora Award winner about art, Olivier and the role of the audience.
You’ve been with Soulpepper since the beginning, and your current title role in Molière’s Tartuffe is your 50th production with the company. What do you remember about the company’s first production, Don Carlos by Friederich von Schiller?
I spoke the very first line. I don’t remember what it was, though. It was over 16 years ago. It was a pretty crazy year, and it was an exciting production. We were thrilled with the company, and how the city embraced it. As an artist, you can do all the art you want, but if the public disregards it, then you’re not an artist. You’re made by your public.
When it came to starting a new company, how much of the excitement was trepidation?There was trepidation, of course. But we knew what we were doing and what we wanted to do. For me personally, I didn’t see any other options. I had been in the United States and at Stratford and other places across Canada. Soulpepper was the right step for me. I’d been acting for almost 20 years. For an actor, it’s important to find stability, and to find larger rehearsal period, so that the work can go deeper. That’s really what Soulpepper was about in a nutshell - to give the artist more time, in order to create better work.
Were there any examples, particularly in the beginning, where a production or a role didn’t quite come together?
I’m not sure. I think people decide what they like. I know enough about the work that I do that two people can be sitting side by side at the same production, and one person can absolutely adore the show and the other person can fall asleep. And they’re witnessing the exact same performance. So, I leave it up to the audience. And because I get such varying responses, I don’t gauge my success that way.
For what it’s worth, our critic gave Tartuffe a very favourable review.
Well, Molière is a great writer, and it’s a great role. It’s probably the most revered role in the French canon. It often has been referred to as being as famous in France as Hamlet is the English-speaking world. It’s a complex play, and it can be approached in so many different ways, because the character himself is the actor. He’s the pretender, which is what actors essentially are.
Are you pretending not be pleased with news of a favourable review?
Just to be reviewed is important. There’s a story which Olivier tells, about Richard Burton being depressed about his Hamlet, which got bad reviews. And Olivier told him, “What are you talking about? They took six paragraphs to say it. You’re a hit.”
So, the worst review is no review?
That’s really the bottom line. We don’t all dress the same. We don’t all hang up the same pictures in our houses. That’s art, and it is there to provoke. So, the moment you have one person who adores it and one person who hates it, you’ve got something.