Preview: Two of a Kind
As Spring term draws to a close and other departments at the University prepare for a five week holiday of avoiding exam preparation and assessment work, the third year Writing, Directing and Performance students are already prepared and ready to perform the third and, for many, final practical assessment of their degree. Autumn term brought heavily physical renditions of Kafka’s The Trial and Metamorphosis as re-imagined for the stage by Stephen Berkhoff. This term offers Carlo Goldoni's Friends and Lovers, directed by Nick Green, whilst Will Edwards directs Pierre de Marivaux's The Game of Love and Chance. I met with Green and Edwards to discuss how the performances have been going so far.
As a two-parter, one would expect there to be some kind of link between the two plays chosen. Edwards confirms, “There are lots of similarities. Both are funny”. Green elaborates; “I think when you first read both plays, they’re funny on the page, but you don’t think they’re going to be funny once they’re brought to life. But the way that me and Will direct is quite similar – we always try and make sure the play is entertaining… the comedy of the piece is at the foreground”. Thematically, there’s also a lot of crossover. Friends and Lovers is about a man named Florindo who falls in love with his best friend’s fiancé. Typically, mayhem ensues. The Game of Love and Chance, similarly, examines the theme of obstacles between lovers, but does so through a story about a young girl named Sylvia who refuses to take the traditional role of the stay at home wife. Both written in the 18th century, Green and Edwards have both chosen to update and reset the plays – Green to 1850’s Bologna, Edwards to 1950’s England. But there are more contrasts to be found in the two productions than different times and settings, as Edward tells us, “The Friends and Lovers comedy is much subtler… much more subtle than The Game of Love and Chance, so they work well together as a ‘part one, part two’. Nick’s builds us up to the mayhem, and ours builds us down from the more serious, cutting tone of the end of Nick’s play. So they work really well together.”
Stylistically, both productions have drawn heavily on the work of Commedia Dell’arte. Will admits that, whilst he didn’t specifically go out to research to work on the company, there are aspects of their influence present in the heavily physical performances. Nick’s inclusion of their style is somewhat more purposeful, manifesting itself in “two characters, not central to the plot” – an old miserly father and a cheeky servant. “They really use the commedia style, so we’ve tried to bring that out and really make them the original stock commedia characters.” This has in turn affected the performances of the other characters. With regards to changing the setting to the mid 20th century, Will says “I wanted to try something new; I wanted to put our on spin on it. And 1950’s Britain works so well because it’s post-war – post tradition and pre-60’s madness. Which gets the atmosphere of the play that Marivaux wrote really well. Because he was writing at a time when women were starting to say “No, thank you, I’ll do what I want”. It also lets me impart my passion for British farce.”
So do the plays translate well to a modern day stage? Green pauses for thought. “Well, yeah,” he answers. “Because the issues that we’re talking about… Friends and Lovers is about whether friendship should conquer over love…that’s definitely still relevant today.” “Not only the issues,” Edwards chips in, “But the story of each play, whatever spin you put on it, at the heart of it they’re both very good stories. Nick and I are both of the opinion that when you’re putting on a play, the most important thing is the story. [The audience] can go off and think about it whatever you will, but my job for you is to tell you a story. And you can like it or not like it. So I do think they both work very well."
Each play will be performed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of week 9. Tickets cost £6/£4 concession and are available on the York Theatre Royal website.