The Love of the Nightingale
Walterdale Playhouse (10322 – 83 Avenue)
Tickets: $12 – $16; Student night is free for students with a valid student ID
Student night is Monday, April 2 at 8:00 pm. Regular production runs April 4 – 14.
The synopses seems like a typical Greek tragedy: murder, rape, and passion are used to explore the cycle of violence and the consequences if it is not ended. Two sisters voyage to a foreign land – one to marry a king, and one to keep her sister company. After arriving, their lives are completely changed.However, according to director Alex Hawkins, The Love of the Nightingale is anything but a typical Greek tragedy.
Listen to one of the scenes from The Love of the Nightingale
Hawkins talks about his initial thought process behind choosing The Love of the Nightingale “When Sarah Van Tassel, the Artistic Director [of The Walterdale] was talking to me about a play that I might do this time, she was talking about a Greek play. But I didn’t want to do a Greek play. I know Greek tragedies very well and I don’t know if – because I teach Greek tragedy at the University – and I didn’t think that a Greek tragedy as such is something that would go over at Walterdale. But, a Greek theme, a Greek idea, I thought, okay. I have known The Love of the Nightingale for a while, I’d seen it three times at the university in in-house productions over the last 15 years or so… but it’s never been done in a public theatre for an advertised audience. So, I thought, “it’s about time.” So, I decided to do it. Part of it was my interest in Greek theatre, part of it was the kind of theatre that I’m interested in – which is, symbolic, non-realistic, flowing – where one thing becomes something else, becomes something else. That’s the theatre I like…
So, what did all the plays I’ve done before, how did they influence my approach to this play? I think that maybe it has to do with the fact that this play is in a neutral set where everything kind of flows and location, and situation, and character and relationship depends very much on our understanding of the play as it goes along, and the cues you get from the physicality of the actors and their relationship as well as the costumes. Whereas, it’s not carried by psychological realism or close character work… This play is incredibly fast-moving. When you read the play on the page, you get a sense that it’s kind of stately, but this just goes [zoom sound effect]. You can’t do anything subtle or spend a lot of time on technical stuff, so I really like that… When you see Greek tragedy done by most people, they see it as very stable, very still, and when we did Orestes and Agamemnon in particular, I think everybody was amazed at 1) how fast they moved and 2) how accessible they were… I like giving the audience that opportunity to see those plays as they’re meant to be seen, in my opinion. This play does this too.”
The Love of the Nightingale also plays with the typical good character/bad character assumptions that the audience may have walking into the play. Justin Deveau, who plays Tereus, talks about how his character is an unconventional villain, “Tereus, I don’t think he thinks he’s evil. I think that he thinks that everything he does is his only choice, and he has to do it. I think he can justify everything [he does] in his mind… If you ask most of the villainous people throughout history and you ask them, if you asked Hitler, I’m sure … he would consider himself to be doing what he had to do. It’s a matter of perspective. The people who are outside of that, looking at his actions, are able to say, ‘no, you are out of control and… need help. Or to be stopped.’ ” When asked about the personal perspective Deveau brings to the role, he answered, “I really played this as though, ‘no, I really had to do this.’ [Tereus] honestly believes everything he says. I took it that almost everything he says is face value… Whether [he thinks differently] in his subconscious… I leave that up to the audience.”
Director Alex Hawkins explains the impact Thereus has on the audience: “There is a conventional way of looking at these characters and what they do. That Tereus is a bad guy, and these two women – Philomele and Procne – are victims… That’s not what it’s about. But it’s not that simple. I don’t think Tereus himself understands why he does what he does. He believes that he’s doing what he’s doing because he’s being directed by the gods… When Philomele resists, he sees it as her simply not understanding the nature of the will of the gods… It’s up to the audience as well to be presented with a Tereus character who, in our version, it’s not that [they sympathize], it’s that they understand why he’s doing what he’s doing, and even though it’s wrong, there’s a question of ‘well, but what is his understanding of this?’ ”
But what about the people behind the production? The Walterdale Playhouse is almost completely volunteer-run – a quality that continues to amaze Hawkins. “I’m absolutely amazed at the number of dedicated people on the production teams…. If you look at the [list of] stitchers or set painters [in the playbook]… My wife, she’s one of the stitchers, she said last night that she counted the number of costume pieces on the show, and there’s 108 costume pieces – that’s individual dresses, belts, etcetera. That doesn’t include jewlery, or headpieces or shoes. So, that’s 108 things that have actually been made from scratch. And that’s just the… costume people.”
The Love of the Nightingale runs April 4-14, 2012 at 8:00 pm at Walterdale Plahouse (10322 – 83 avenue). Sunday, April 8 is a matinee show at 2 pm. Tickets are $12-$16. They can also be purchased at the door (cash only) one hour prior to each performance. Thursday, April 5 is 2-for-1 Thursday (tickets at the door only).
– Jenna Marynowski