Just a quick update on my friend and colleague Rachel Illingworth; for the last several weeks, she's been working as Assistant Director on two rarely performed Maeterlinck plays, The Blind and The Intruder for Tarquin Productions at The Old Red Lion. The production officially opens tonight, so best wishes to all for a successful run. Here are the details:
Maurice Maeterlinck's 1911 Nobel laureateship cited THE BLIND and THE INTRUDER as two of his seminal works. A proponent of the Symbolist movement, with an unprecedented awareness of the human condition enveloped in a black sense of humour, Maeterlinck's simple but effective style of writing is rarely performed in the UK.
Two plays. Two views of the world. One terrifying subject: the blindness of humankind to the mysteries of our existence.
A recent 'tweet' from Michael Billington:
'Maeterlinck double-bill at Old Red Lion till the 27th. Do give it a go. Fascinating evening.'
"Not to know where one is, not to know where one has come from, and always darkness, darkness! I would rather not live."
Tuesday 2nd April to Saturday 27th April 2013 at 7:30pm
Matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 3:00pm
Old Red Lion Theatre
418 St John Street
Rachel with Designer Jacob Hughes. Directed by Benji Sperring.
"This is connoisseur's theatre at its best " - That's Theatre Darling review blog
"...a gem of a production" - views from the gods review blog
Monday 8th April Update: Today's Guardian review by Michael Billington: 3 stars out of 5
The Blind &The Intruder – review
Old Red Lion, London
Terrifying void … The Blind.
It's a good bet that not many British theatre-goers are intimate
with the work of Maurice Maeterlinck (1862–1949). Yet in his day this Belgian playwright and symbolist poet, who won the 1911 Nobel prize for literature
pioneered drama built out of stasis, silence and lack of overt
conflict. While these two short plays dating from 1890 now seem like
historical curiosities, you can detect their influence on the work of
The Intruder, played first, is a spooky piece in which a family is gathered to await the arrival of a sister of mercy to attend an ailing woman
the flickering light, the silence in the garden and the blind
grandfather's sense that death has entered the room put me in mind of
the ghost stories of MR James as much as the theatrical avant garde.
What Maeterlinck understood was that waiting is itself inherently dramatic. In The Blind, we see a group of sightless people apparently abandoned on a desolate island clifftop
by the priest who cares for them: filling the terrifying void with
fractious argument and speculation, they suddenly stumble across the
corpse of their protective pastor.
You can measure how much times have changed by contrasting The Blind with Brian Friel's Molly Sweeney
to Maeterlinck, the sightless were symbolic victims living in
unrelieved darkness, where Friel focuses on his heroine's rich interior
life. But, if you strip away the gothic element in Maeterlinck, you can
see that he was edging towards a new kind of drama in which waiting was
as important as arrival, and the image mattered as much as the word. And
it is the images I shall remember from Benji Sperring's production:
vividly designed by Jacob Hughes, The Blind shows white-uniformed
characters sitting on a floor strewn with paper and domestic detritus,
as if survivors of some natural disaster. In an eight-strong cast, John
Canmore as the tetchy grandfather and Gina Abolins as a wistful romantic
While this revival is a fascinating collector's item,
it also demonstrates that Maeterlinck suffered the fate of many artistic
revolutionaries – seeing his ideas absorbed into the mainstream.
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...so, very well done to Rachel and all those involved in the production!