Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category

A Soldier’s Song Script

April 19, 2019

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It’s few weeks after the last performance of A Soldier’s Song and now it feels like I’m ready to move on to writing something new. Fortunately there’s the Crouch End Festival to think of, as well as a piece of historical writing to be done on Frantz Reichel. But if anyone would like to give me feedback on the script for ASoSo it can be found below …

A Soldier’s Song Final Script

Working on ‘A Soldier’s Song’ in the London Library

March 21, 2019

With ‘A Soldier’s Song’ due to première in a week’s time it’s time to pay my respects to the London Library – without the benefits that membership brings I doubt that I would have got the project off the ground.

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The EU flag flies over St James’s Square from the Cypriot High Commission’s balcony

One of those benefits is that it is by far my favourite place to work. Without the woof-ish distractions of my desk at home there are communal spaces or solitary nooks to suit my changing mood. Few nooks have as good a view as the one in the photograph above. Mental pauses can be spent watching the circling taxis, strolling pigeons, and scattered characters in St. James’s Square.

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Mucho Marivaux at the London Library

It just so happens that this desk is where Marivaux likes to hang out. Occupying three shelves of French Lit. you’ll find his novels, essays and plays – as well as critical studies of his work. This allows the translator/adaptor to access a comprehensive range of resources, all in one place.

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Yes, they are real. And they are spectacular.

And not just to access them – since the LL is a borrowing library you can take them away to study on the hoof. Much of the work on Les Fausses Confidences/A Soldier’s Song was done on trains to various cities and towns of the Midlands where I’ve been teaching over the last couple of years. Of course I wouldn’t take a 1732 edition of Marivaux’s work on the London Northwest Train to Marylebone, that’d be reckless! But it’s a nice object to contemplate as one struggles to wrestle marivaudage into the twentieth century.

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The Pléiade edition records the first performance of Les Fausses Confidences in March 1737.

Of course adapting is a more impure task than translation. For translation you require an original text, a thinking mind, perhaps a dictionary. For adaptation you have to imagine the original into another world – whether it’s a switch of genre or a switch of setting or gender. And by setting the action for our play in a house in 1919 London with a military man as the protagonist all kinds of resources that the Library has to offer were useful in capturing the language and feel of the period.

The resources deployed can be obvious – for example using histories of fashion to inflect the wardrobe or military histories to give a backstory to the young soldier, Hector.

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The Bing Boys – Ted Jeavons was a fan

Inspiration can come more obliquely too – Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time was a rich resource, especially the sections where Ted Jeavons reminisced about spending his leave from the front during WW1 in the music halls of London. In the end we didn’t use any songs from The Bing Boys Are Here but part of the joy of rattling round the stacks in the library is knowing that I could go from Uncle Ted’s fictional reminiscences in Fiction to specialist works on the music hall in S. Music Halls &c in two ticks.

And soon the show will come alive – as I said to the cast at our last rehearsal in a local church hall yesterday evening, the play is theirs now and not mine. The final process of adaptation is enaction. The text was once fixed by Marivaux in 1737. Then it was unfixed by the Comédie Italiennes for the King. And once more what was fixed by myself has been unfixed by the Crouch End Players and will become a living creation of their own.

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Actors – you gotta love ’em!

Go to the London Library’s website for a fuller flavour of the benefits that membership brings. Or pop in, they’re a very friendly bunch.

A Soldier’s Song runs from 27th – 30th March 2019 in the Moravian Hall, Priory Road, N8 7HR. Tickets are available now from crouchendplayers.co.uk

 

‘A Soldier’s Song’ visits the Inns of Court

March 5, 2019
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The Devil’s Own recruit from the quality.

‘He’s a devil this boy!’ I didn’t know when I wrote that line for A Soldier’s Song how apposite it would turn out. As part of the research for the production of the show we had a cast visit to the Inns of Court & City Yeomanry Museum in a crepuscular corner of Lincoln’s Inn where the Regiment still has its HQ.

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Appropriatley Dickensian digs for the Inns of Court & City Yeomanry

As you can see from the poster above the Inns of Court are nicknamed ‘The Devil’s Own’ so it seemed entirely correct that our Hector, the dashing World War 1 hero, should be described by his old batman Hobbs as a devil.

Major O’Beirne gave us an excellent tour of the bijou collection of memorabilia and photographs which tell the story of the regiment from its origins in England’s deep past right through wars local and global to the present day.

One sinister highlight was a Nazi flag rummaged from a box in a cupboard rumoured to have been swiped from Luneberg Heath on the day of the Germans’ surrender in 1945. The Devil’s Own themselves had had a tough introduction to Europe, landing in Normandy with instructions to blow bridges across the Orne only to find themselves under fire from some trigger happy American Typhoons.

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The Berkhamstead Boys pose in 1915

Of course we lapped up the tales of derring do but nudged our host in the direction of World War One – what had the IoY been up to between 1914 and 1918? By coincidence it turned out that they’d been based in our leading man’s backyard of Berkhamstead! Looking through the photographs he could pick out the golf course – once used for trench warfare – Kitchener’s Field parade ground, and local landmarks like this church porch.

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Looking through the sepia images of young men being trained for War it really was a most inspiring visit, especially with the wealth of visual detail that we were able to pick up. I only hope James’s moustache can live up to WW1 standards!

#theatre #London #ASoldiersSongPlay

Marivaux and Berlioz

February 19, 2019

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Rehearsals are in full swing for A Soldier’s Song and now, thanks to the wonderful Nick Kobyluch, we also have our artwork!

After a weekend of Berlioz on Radio 3 it’s also now time to reveal that ASoSo (as it’s become to cast and crew) is itself inspired in part by Hector Berlioz. On reading the original Marivaux it rapidly became apparent to me that the male lead’s romantic obsession with Araminte had a powerful resonance with the real life obsession that Berlioz had with the actress Harriet Smithson.

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Harriet Smithson – Shakespearean actress and Berlozian muse

It’s the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death this year and so there’s a lot of French romanticism in the air. I only hope that I’ve done the crazy old romantic justice and mashed up his life with Marivaux’s plot and my own sprinkling of English Romanticism to make something rather special.

Do come along to the Moravian Hall at the end of the month to find out! Tickets will be on sale from 25th February 2019.

#Berlioz150 #theatre #London

A Soldier’s Song, an original play by Geoff Levett adapted from Marivaux’s Les Fausses Confidences will run at the Moravian Hall from Wednesday 27th to Saturday 30th March 2019.

 

Cast is Announced!

December 28, 2018

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Having only produced small scale festival productions in my brief theatre career I’ve generally been a beggar rather than a choose when it comes to casting. But now that we’re doing a main show I get to play with nearly all of the toys in the Crouch End Players toybox and together with the director, Victoria, had to run auditions.

Fortunately Victoria is an old hand at this shit because frankly I didn’t have a bloody clue and Ayckbourne’s advice in his excellent book The Crafty Art of Playmaking advises producers to let the writer nowhere near the audition process. Alas I’m both producer and writer on this project so couldn’t duck the responsibility.

However, with Victoria at the helm and a couple of Players Legends on the team we were able to put the wannabe Comédien(ne)s through their paces. For those who didn’t make it to the final nine I have only craven apologies at having not been able to find room for everyone.

And what a final nine they are! Here is our final selection, they make a fine company …

A Soldier’s Song Cast

(In order of appearance)

Hector – James Allnutt

Clarke – Marion Dancoing

Hobbs – Jamin O’Donovan

Uncle Charles – Dave Mahon

Rose – Alex Seeetnam

Harriet – Hannah Shaw

Mrs Dubois – Rebecca Cutts

Lord Chilton – Matt Griffin

Sam – Vicky Murdoch

The show will run from Wednesday 27th March 2019 to Saturday 30th 2019 with four evening performances and a Saturday matinée at the Moravian Hall, Priory Rd, Hornsey, London N8 7HR.

#theatre #London

 

 

A New Year, A New Play

December 9, 2018

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Having two relatively succesful (Corbyn Island and A Door Should Be Open or Shut) Festival productions under my belt emboldened me to propose to the Crouch End Players committee that we should put on a version of a full length French classic. Seeing a production of Marivaux’s Le Jeu de l’Amour et du Hasard at the Théâtre Saint Martin earlier this year inspired me to tackle another of his plays.

Le Jeu de l’Amour at the Porte Martin, played in a style that Marivaux would have recognised, was outstanding. I had no intention of competing with the French on their own turf. No, I felt that I had to find a way of presenting his work that made it resonate with a contemporary London audience but wasn’t as directly political (or sweary, we’re looking for a larger audience after all) as our update of L’Ile des Esclaves.

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At first glance Les Fausses Confidences – in which a penniless young man who has fallen in love with a rich widow attempts to scheme his way into her heart – can seem a distinctly queasy proposition in these #MeToo (or #balancetonporc) times. To be blunt the way in which the leading man and his ex-valet scheme to serve his master’s interests, if entertaining, is nevertheless difficult to approve of. ‘His rampant mendancity has little jusitification.’ * For some critics, no matter how much they admired Marivaux as a writer such dubious morals ‘gâte toute la pièce’ or ruin the whole play. **

How to get around such a flawed leading man? By updating the action to 1919 and making him a serviceman recently returned from the Great War – our version is called A Soldier’s Song – I hope to have given a psychological motivation for such iniquitous behaviour. Hector (renamed from Dorante in the original) has developed an obsession for Harriet (Araminte, now a wealthy widow and music hall performer) for reasons that are hinted at though never over-explained during the course of the plot, thus elevating him from the rather amoral schemer of the eighteenth century original. Music buffs may also see the resonance in French culture of having a Hector obessed with a Harriet.

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Hector Berlioz – not a stranger to romantic obsession

And to my delight when I discussed the play with the director Victoria Welsh she took on this idea further, situating the play in a much more radical staging than I had envisaged that will reference the original Marivaux production by the Comédie-Italienne that will allow us to see Hector as just as much manipulated as manipulator. But more of that as I trace the development of the production over the forthcoming months.

We are in the process of auditions at the moment and my next blog post will be to give my own take on that process, which was entirely new to me. (Casts for previous shows, excellent though they proved to be, were assembled from the resources available rather than via the luxury of selection). The show will be happening in the last week of March 2019 at the Moravian Church Hall on Park Road, N8. If you’ve read this far please do come along and say hello. Or if you have staged or watched Marivaux yourself I’d really welcome comments and questions on your own experience of Les Fausses Confidences.

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My research into other adaptations, purely to see what had been done recently on the British stage, led me to a version that foreshadows a piece that the Crouch End Players will also produce later in the year. In 1983 Timberlake Wertenbaker translated the play pretty much straight for a production at the Lyric, Hammersmith, giving it the title False Admissions. In the autumn the CEPs will stage Our Country’s Good, her account of Thomas Kennealy’s novel The Playmaker, which concerns a group of officers and convicts putting on a play in colonial Australia. Which goes to show that the Players have a wonderfully diverse repertoire to offer the public in 2018.

* Kenneth McKee, The Theater of Marivaux (Peter Own: London, 1958), p. 211.

** Edouard Thierry, La Revue de France, March15th, 1881.

Musset update!

August 6, 2018

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Doing a bit of housekeeping on the homepage I noticed that last year I put a copy of the script for the festival on the Corbyn Island post. So if you want to download this year’s Musset translation click A Door (Should Be Open Or Shut).

If you’re interested in producing the play please contact me at geoffreylevett@me.com

The Crouch End Festival and Alfred de Musset

June 10, 2018

As anyone who read the post on Marivaux and last year’s Crouch End Festival piece, Corbyn Island, will know in adapting pieces I like to do some half-arsed research in the milieu of how the originals came about. And in contrast to Corbyn Island the update of A Door (Should be Open or Shut) is nevertheless a period piece rather than being located in contemporary Britain. Mid-century London wasn’t too much of a stretch for the update and fortunately the background and context for Musset’s play, Il Faut Qu’une Porte Soit Ouverte ou Fermée, was less unfamiliar to me if only because I’ve been something of a Delacroix obsessive for some time.*

Where’s the connection with Delacroix? Well, of course they’re both French Romantics though working in different disciplines, but the connection is much more personal than being inspired by the same mid-nineteenth century ideas. Delacroix was a great friend of the musician Frédéric Chopin and his lover, the writer Georges Sand. And Musset was previously a lover of Sand.

It was good to hear that Paul Kildea’s new book on Chopin’s Piano is in part concerned with recovering Sand’s reputation (in popular writing that is, it’s been a task undertaken with relish by feminist academics for decades) from its traducement by followers of Chopin (and Musset, especially his brother Paul) who have trashed her literary reputation largely out of unthinking misogyny.**

So as well as reading de Musset’s work I’ve been reading Delacroix’s diaries (an ongoing project over the past few years***, Sand’s memoirs and Paul de Musset’s (very) partial biography of his brother.

Props for 'A Door (Should be Open or Shut)

Props for A Door (Should be Open or Shut)

What did I take from this reading into the new production? Our production is set in 1940s Soho and when I realised that the production of Absolute Hell  would be using pretty much the same setting, and running at the same time as us, I was rather fearful that people would think that I’d been inspired by that. But in fact I was inspired by de Musset’s own life.

De Musset himself was a drinker. A serious drinker. As in he died of it. But this aspect of his life doesn’t bleed into the literary works that he created so I decided that to make the connection with his life I’d update the play from an aristocratic salon to somewhere more modern. Since we had a pub bar as a set it seemed natural that the setting I’d update it to would be one of London’s drinking clubs of the 1930s/40s.

Although there are references to Soho stalwarts such as Francis Bacon the model I was actually thinking of wasn’t the Colony Club. Rather I had in mind Foppa’s, which appears in A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell. So we’re more in 40s Fitzrovia than 50s Soho. To someone who never knew either in their prime Fitzrovia offers a rather more literary locus which looks back to the 19th Century (and de Musset) rather than forward to the late twentieth and Jeffrey Bernard. Although the female lead is an artist.

A fun part of the production has been assembling props – a 40s Woodbine astray, an old-fashioned bottle of scotch, a cigarette case and a whiff of 40s in the costume of the characters. And the cast – Anna Rogers, Matt Griffin and Ruari Johnson – have been extraordinarily successful at bringing Musset’s characters to life in a faux-Fitzrovian setting.

If you’ve read this far why not book a ticket now to see the show? You can visit the Crouch End Players website or email cepfestival@crouchendplayers.co.uk 

Thanks to Paul Travis for the photo of the props, and for other shots of the preview night.

#Theatre #London #crouchendfestival

* I’ve written about him before and I’m looking forward to visiting the blockbuster show of his work at the Louvre later this month.

**You can listen to an excellent podcast with Kildea here.

***i.e. the French unedited edition lies next to my bed. And has done for some time! The Phaidon edition in English is what I’d recommend if you want to read pretty much the best writer on art of the nineteenth century as well as one of its key practitioners.

Translating Musset

June 3, 2018

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After having had a pretty good experience producing Corbyn Island in 2017 I found myself in the dull gloom of January turning over ideas for the Crouch End Festival in 2018. Again, it being a Festival piece, I wanted something relatively short and preferably fewer characters than the Island. If I was going to be directing it myself (a new experience) I thought it’d be a lot easier with less traffic to manoeuvre on stage.

I’d seen a production of Alfred de Musset’s Il Faut Qu’une Porte Soit Ouverte ou Fermée in Paris the previous autumn in a production by the Comédie Française. A one act two-hander, it concerned itself with an on-off relationship between two French aristocrats at a Parisian salon in the 1840s. The CF had updated it to contemporary France, setting the actor in a sculptor’s studio, while retaining (naturellement!) the original language of Musset’s masterpiece.

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Musset’s Confession – a classic of romantic literature

Further research revealed that de Musset hadn’t written the piece with the intention of staging it at all – rather it was theatre de fauteuil, that is ‘armchair theatre’ written to be read as a literary piece like a novel or a short story. But it had become established as a classic of the French theatrical repertoire by the end of the twentieth century, produced every year by the Comédie Française to the extent that it was part of the social calendar in the early twentieth century.

However, post-World War Two it was performed much less frequently. Presumably the market for rom coms about brittle aristocrats was in decline in the age of Camus, the theatre of the absurd and existentialism. In fact I beleive that the production that we saw was the first at the Comédie Française for some forty years.

So my challenge was how to make it relevant to a Crouch End Festival audience. My initial instinct was to make the couple same sex but to wangle Musset’s text into the correct shape to do that proved beyond my translation abilities. I gave it a few hours of grappling on the commute to Leicester and then gave up.

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The tool’s of the translator’s craft – a biography, an autobiography and a Pléiade edition of the original. All that’s missing is the Chamber’s dictionary.

I then toyed with the idea of just translating de Musset’s original and staging it as a work of art. I would designate a chair in the Great Northern for people to read a printed translation of the play which they could borrow from the bar. But then if I was going to the trouble of translating the play (a much simpler business than tackling Marivaux, though with the peril of ruining the exquisite poetry of de Musset’s language) I did rather see it acted out.

So I needed to find some other way to create tension in the potential pairing (or not) of these two characters. And I think I came up with a good solution. But to find out what that solution was you’ll have to come along to the show!

But I can tell you that I updated the action to 1948 London, with the characters now meeting in a private club on a wet Sunday afternoon.* I’ve added a third character of a barman, played by Ruari Johnson. The female lead is taken by the director of Corbyn Island, Anna Rogers, and a newcomer, Matt Griffin, takes on the role of her suitor.

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Part of the fun of staging a period piece is assembling (and drinking) the props.

This year we’re producing the show as part of the Crouch End Players’ contribution to the Festival with our show running with an original piece of writing by Jen Richardson, The Road Not Taken, as part of a rom-com double bill. Running time will be around an hour in total with a break for drinks.

Performances are again in the upstairs bar of the Great Northern Railway Tavern, who have once more proved to be excellent hosts, and take place on 15th, 16th and 17th June 2018 at 7pm and tickets (which are FREE!) can be obtained by emailing crouchendplayers@hotmail.com. More details are also available at the Festival website.

It’ll be the perfect evening out for World Cup widows and widowers but if you are a football fan don’t worry, the Great Northern will have the games on the big screen in their back garden and the shows are timed to make sure that you miss very little of the action from Neymar and his chums!

#Theatre #Comedy #London

*Yes, I know this has shades of Absolute Hell! But our production has an entirely different sensibility.

The Crouch End Festival

May 29, 2018

Another post very quickly (as no-one likes a whinger) to talk of much more positive things associated with the Crouch End Festival. Last year’s Festival was my first experience of putting on a theatrical show and it was such a tremendously fun thing to do that I’ve decided to do it again.

But I’ll talk of that another time. The purpose of this post is to flag up other shows which are being put on by the Crouch End Players, who are a fine company of individuals who have just come off the back of a very successful production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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As part of a double bill with my play, A Door, Jen Richardson (the director of AMND) will star in an original piece of work of her own called The Road Not TakenBoth works are romantic comedies that discuss the nature of love and relationships. And both use the upstairs bar of the Great Northern Railway Tavern as their setting.

Another show that I’ve had a small part in producing (as co-writer with the highly talented Victoria Welsh) is The Trial 3: The Dinner Party. Regular Festival goers may have already seen a previous edition of this show which stages a courtroom thriller as an interactive piece of theatre which lets the audience question the suspects.

While not an official CEP production Storm in a Teacup, created by Sue Irwin-Hunt and Denize Levett, is from the same stable and again is a revival of an established format. It’s an improvisational comedy set in the homely surroundings of the Haberdashery.

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And last but by no means least CEP present What’s the Point?, another original work created by Virginia Vassura and her co-star Caroline Allouf which combines song, comedy, drama and a unicorn to talk about mental health and relationships.

Both The Trial and What’s the Point are to be staged in Hornsey Town Hall so this may be a final chance to get a shufty at the place before it is subjected to the developers. I hope to see you there!

Go to the Crouch End Festival website for details of all timings and venues, and of course to book your tickets! And look around for other great free stuff going on at the Festival. June isn’t only about the World Cup!!

#theatre #comedy #London

 


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