Apr. 04, 2012 - Issue #859: Spring Style
The Love of the NightingaleA world view focused on power can be a dangerous thing.
The Walterdale Playhouse's production of The Love of the Nightingale—Timberlake Wertenbaker's modern take on the Greek myth of the rape of Philomena and the journey of two sisters determined to reunite—delves into the struggle for power and compromise, as well as the strength of loyalty, fidelity and lack thereof, the search for justice, and challenges audiences to reconsider the actions of others.
"One of the things I really like about Greek plays in general is that they're non-realistic. They evoke rather than depict something," explains director Alex Hawkins of the production's portrayal of these themes. "They evoke feelings, they evoke images, they're sort of indirect rather than directly depicting something. They're trying to cause the audiences to think about and to picture and to react."
Hawkins adds that The Love of the Nightingale examines a recurring theme among Greek plays that argues whether people's actions are manipulated by the gods or simply driven by their own human desires.
An example of this is the play's villain Tereus, King of Thrace, who truly believes he is an honourable person, despite the horrific acts he commits against others.
"I think it's possible now to say that there are things that perpetrators do and they don't necessarily understand why they've done those things," Hawkins notes, of not only Tereus's actions, but current events of the past decade, like the Russell Williams murder trial.
While Tereus is the antagonist, he's not a villain in the traditional sense.This posed a challenge for actor Justin Deveau, who had to learn to portray evil acts while maintaining Tereus's belief that his actions were honourable.
"I think the instinct when you're playing a villain is to vilify it up ... but his actions are quite horrific, so the audience is going to put that vilification on him already, so I don't need to help them with that," Deveau explains. "I guess the biggest challenge was to fight to urge to throw in a bit of the hand wringing, mustache twirling, 'I'm going to tie you to a train track' kind of thing and just completely keep that out and just play it straight as if everything he said, he honestly meant and honestly felt."
While taking on the villainous role of Tereus was a challenge, Deveau says playing the bad guy has a freeing quality.
"I think that potential to do horrid things is in everybody, so it is very freeing to let it out once in awhile and just be nasty," he adds.
On the other side is Procne, the eldest of the two sisters, played by Marsha Amanova, who she describes as very logical and very Athenian in her way of thinking.
"For her, it's all about words and discussion and word play and talking things out in order to understand them," she explains, adding this all changes when she's placed in a new culture where the way of thinking is opposite to her own and driven by emotion rather than logic, which becomes motivation to reunite with her sister.
Just as Deveau found it difficult to understand some of Tereus's actions, Amanova had similar issues understanding Procne's justification for her actions. When it comes down to it, she says it's up to the cast to make the audience understand where the character is coming from and that there is not one right and wrong.
"In so many ways we take it for granted there's grey areas and I think this play really muddles that," she says. "It takes the black and white and it counteracts them against each other."
Wed, Apr 4 – Sat, Apr 14 (8 pm; Matinee Sun, Apr 8 at 2 pm)
Directed by Alex Hawkins
Walterdale Playhouse, $12 – $16 vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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