Behind the Scenes: Mountain Giants

There are plays that reach the status of a rite of passage necessary to establish one’s talent. I have always told myself that as a director, I am an artist using human beings instead of paint or clay to craft my works. And what makes the performing arts thrilling is the fact that humans are never completely controllable, never static, and every audience witnesses a unique event. If performances change within the run of one production, what are we to say then when comparing different productions of a play, where all that remains are the words recorded by the script? The young British actor playing Hamlet or the mature French actress playing Phèdre – every culture has its own theatrical rites of passage – is aware of the long list of artists who performed that role before them. Some will want to research other takes on the character; others will avoid these to make sure that they are not influenced by anybody else. We all want to be original, and theatre leaves things open to the director and the actors’ interpretation… but then some interpretations can be just wrong. The Mountain Giants by Pirandello is one such play, but the person at test is not on stage.

When I translated the script and added a last scene, I wrote my reading of Italy’s best-known Modernist’s last work. By directing his “myth of art” I am telling the audience what I think theatre is – because that is precisely what this play is about. Giorgio Strehler, a famous Italian director (1921-1997), directed ‘Giants’ twice: once at the beginning of his career and once at the end of it… because, indeed, artistic opinions will change over time. I am not Strehler. I am a young graduate doing theatre in her spare time. Should I not be worried? To be honest, right now I am having too much fun rehearsing and preparing the show to stop and wonder if I should be allowed to do this. That’s Oxford drama: people, venues and funds are available to us and we learn hands on. Sure we can make mistakes, but my experiences have made me far more confident than any theoretical course would have done. We’re not professionals, but theatre is actually something we do. And so it is with passion that we will be telling you the story of Cotrone’s villa and Ilse’s vagrant actors.

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Mountain Giants is at the Keble O’Reilly in 4th week