Translated from French by Margau Wright

The British theatre group CastawaysDrama has presented its new season and it’s no exaggeration to say that it’s switched gear.

 

Under the direction of Margau Wright, the four-hander “The Late Edwina Back” is styled in Victorian England. The action takes place behind closed doors in the aftermath of the death of Edwina, wife of Gregory Black, with whom his mistress, Lisa, is intent on sharing her life. Ellen, the housekeeper is witness to this relationship daily. Enter Inspector Martin just a few hours after the funeral, to announce that the death is suspicious and he has to carry out an enquiry. But we won’t spoil the intrigue for you…

 

This work by William Donner and William Morum was the subject of a film that came out in 1951. CastawaysDrama has dusted it off but without the iconoclastic mood that might have been expected by its public.

 

Edwina Black.jpeg

La Montagne's Review of

"The Late Edwina Black"

October 2015

Thanks to La Montagne! :

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The British theatre group CastawaysDrama has presented its new season and it’s no exaggeration to say that they've switched gear.

 

Under the direction of Margau Wright, four-hander “The Late Edwina Black” is styled in Victorian England. The action takes place behind closed doors in the aftermath of the death of Edwina, wife of Gregory Black, with whom his mistress, Lisa, is intent on sharing her life. Ellen, the housekeeper, is witness to this relationship on a daily basis. Enter Inspector Martin just a few hours after the funeral, to announce that the death is suspicious and he has to carry out an enquiry. But we won’t spoil the intrigue for you…

 

This work by William Donner and William Morum was the subject of a film that came out in 1951. CastawaysDrama has dusted it off but without the iconoclastic tone that might have been expected by its public.

 

No one can forget the comical twist given to Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, the group’s first presentation in 2013, nor that of “Snow White” the year after. Certainly, there aren’t many laughs in this latest offering but, once again, the British company has given a good lesson in theatrical art…

(The town’s) cultural associations would be surprised to see how Margau Wright took advantage of the Ancienne Mairie space: the stage was completely and skilfully screened by large panels forming another ("stage") in the centre of the hall in the middle of the audience. Occupying two or three rows, the audience surrounds the stage area on three sides, with discreet passageways through the audience linking backstage and crew, while the fourth (set of panels) plays a role in the scenery: a staircase giving access to the upper level.

 

This perspective is typically English, a central stage or theatre-in-the-round from the end of the 19th century, the organisation of which was initiated by Godwin Craig for the premiere of Homer’s Helen of Troy, produced in 1886 at Hengler’s Circus. It is inspired by original scenic space of ancient theatre that brought the arena closer to the audience and had a strong symbolic charge. The form evokes the Elizabethan wooden theatre with its circular roof open to the sky that Shakespeare named “the Wooden O”, an intermediate place between earth, the celestial and the supra-celestial worlds, a privileged area where the public can access all levels of expression. It frees itself from the limitations of time and space, within and without at the same time and it is a fine rendition. In this small hall of the Ancienne Mairie, this arrangement brings a further spiritual dimension: that of the intimate relationship between actors and audience.

 

The only regret, however, is that this meeting is not more appreciated by the French public. Gospel singing students could have included it in their holiday homework as part of an English course. With the actors’ perfect diction and schoolbook English, the show was also a good basis for revision and an exercise in learning.

Translated from La Montagne's article in French by Margau Wright

NOTE FROM THE DIRECTOR

Hi, I’m Margau and I was delighted to have the opportunity to direct my first play for CastawaysDrama, and thank "La Montagne" for their stunning review.

 

It started with an idea and a vision: one that would fit with the very limited resources we had available at the time, as we were a new and very small company.

 

While our first two shows had been successful and made our audiences laugh, I wanted to go to the other extreme and see if we could do something more "serious". I had already been involved in a production of “Edwina” in the UK and thought it could be very suitable for Castaways.

 

I put the idea to our Stage Managers, Tim and Karen, who with one voice said, “We’ll support you!” “Can I have a staircase?”, I asked rather meekly, exploring the idea of linking the hall floor to the stage. “Spiral? Stone?? Sweeping???” was Tim’s encouraging response...

The action of this two-act play all takes place in a Victorian parlour. Why not invite the audience in to its intimacy? I knew this play was ideal for “theatre-in-the-round” (or “square” as it turned out).

Our - then tiny - stage crew were to triumph in their transformation of the hall into a "Victorian parlour", complete with green-painted panels, carpeted staircase, rugs, chaise longue, bell-pulls, authentic furniture, candelabra, tapestries… and even a real azalea, most of which were provided by cast and crew members. Although this was very low budget, you wouldn't have known, it was top quality. And we mustn't forget either the very real Victorian-style whiskers!

 

In addition, ex-BBC sound engineer Paul produced high quality recorded cello and piano music with excerpts from Satie, Ravel and other composers of the era, and Bernie did not fail to design and ensure the subtle lighting changes from day to evening...

 

An added challenge for the director in theatre-in-the-round is that the action must look good from all sides, not just one as in the case of the conventional staging. Happily, I had cast well: two experienced and competent actors and two others who became so, and they all caught on fast, taking direction well, without exception; plus this was also the only Castaways’ play I remember having the bonus of an understudy in Jean-Charles!

 

Performances were feisty, studied, moody, menacing, probing and animated. Rehearsals were never boring. I was labelled "patient".

 

And how did the audience react? Initially they were stunned by the visual transformation of the hall of L'Ancienne Mairie into a Victorian parlour. Then they became completely engrossed in the complex dialogue that kept them guessing the dénouement until the very end. Banter, blame and accusation were passionately batted back and forth, bouncing from every corner of the parlour, and the audience’s head movements were likened those of Wimbledon spectators watching the final.

Encore! was the cry.

I loved this show and remain proud to have been its director.