Rob Croser’s passion for the Church is evident – he has been a dedicated parishioner of St Peter’s Church in Glenelg for the past 45 years and a Lay Canon in more recent times.
But Rob has another driving passion that he channels into his role as Artistic Director of Adelaide theatre company Independent Theatre.
“I’m passionate about storytelling – about telling stories that move me and that have the capacity to move audiences to think about things in a different way,” Rob says.
Rob, who also works as a children’s lawyer, founded Independent Theatre with David Roach and John Logan in 1984 with a vision of bringing new South Australian plays and neglected classics to light.
“We were looking to form a company that focused itself on producing works of theatre that were not being seen in Adelaide elsewhere,” Rob says.
Thirty-one years later, Independent Theatre can claim over 90 successful productions.
Rob has directed all but two of these, seeking out plays with strong social messages and the potential to involve performers from a variety of cultures.
“Unlike most other theatre companies, we’ve worked on a very wide basis, with a wide spectrum of people, and looked at – in theatrical terms – issues such as apartheid, slavery, racial discrimination and capital punishment,” he says.
“As human beings we’re great storytellers – we’re the only creature that we know of that does tell stories and it’s been part of our history since before recorded time.
“So it’s doing that, engaging people’s emotions and then being able to engage their intellect that can challenge them to reconsider what they might have thought.”
With a keen eye for spotting “terrific dramatic material” within novels, Rob enjoys challenging himself to adapt these for the stage.
He recently took on the daunting task of creating a stage play from The Great Gatsby – a novel with little scripted dialogue between the love interest characters.
“I’ve always loved the novel and over the years I’ve come back to it but each time I’d move away from it thinking it was too difficult,” Rob says.
“What the various film versions have done is create their own dialogue and it always sounded fairly phoney to me.
“At the end of last year I had another look and saw that it’s not actually about the romance of Gatsby and Daisy primarily, it’s the story of the narrator Nick Carraway – his fascination and relationship with this mysterious neighbour next door.
“I saw a way into it by having Nick tell us his story as though he’s met one of us in the grounds of Gatsby’s house and is explaining why he’s there looking at it for the last time.”
Rob’s creative flair has proved an asset to St Peter’s Cathedral, where he regularly brings his storytelling skills to play.
This year he helped organise the Anzac centenary memorial service, enlisting actors from Independent Theatre to perform readings from old diaries and newspapers to music.
“I believe that ideas are best conveyed to people when their emotions are engaged and that’s where I think there is a real place for good acted performance within worship services,” Rob says.
“In the same way that music or a well-sung anthem engages emotionally, people will always respond to storytelling.”