War and Peace at the Edmonton Fringe Festival

Ryan Gladstone in War and Peace. Photo credit: Kurt Firla

Ryan Gladstone in War and Peace. Photo credit: Kurt Firla

War and Peace by Ryan Gladstone, based on the novel of the same name by Leo Tolstoy
August 12 – 16, 18 – 21 at Venue #20: La Cité Francophone
More information: monstertheatre.com

An interview with Ryan Gladstone.

Describe your show in five words.

One actor’s version of WarandPeace! (Cheated!)

Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?

Honestly that sums it up! I sometimes describe it as a documentary about the book. So, certainly, first and foremost, it’s a mad dash, fast paced, race to tell the whole story from the book. But it is also a biography of Tolstoy’s incredible life, his famous love/hate story with his wife, about the Russia in which the book takes place, about the Russia in which the book was written, about Napoleon, about the nature of history, about finding meaning in our own lives. Gee, it’s kind of about everything now that I think about it…

Wow! What inspired you to create and perform a one-man adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace?

It’s been on my list of shows to do for about ten years. Over that time it changed from wanting to do a giant puppet version to this more cerebral, simple version. I have a three year old and every night I tell him bed time stories, sometimes made up, but often I’ll just summarize famous books, and they are really quite entertaining (granted, he’s 3). But in a way the style of presentation came from those “performances”.

I can imagine the research and development you did to create War and Peace was quite involved! How did you tackle the subject of getting to the “full meaning” of the novel?

Read War and Peace twice (could have read it four times), and a number of books about Tolstoy and War and Peace. But really, it is in the re-telling of the story itself that I feel like I became an expert in the subject matter. In making choices of what to cut, what can be combined, what must be included, I came to know the story in a deeper way than reading it, or about it.

In your press release, you mention the true beauty of Tolstoy’s War and Peace lies in it’s “10,000 simple moments”. Can you share a favourite one of these moments, and talk a bit about its beauty?

There’s a character named Pierre, and he is always on a search for meaning in life. He is always confused as to what he is supposed to be doing with his life. Searching, you know. At one point he gets arrested, and in prison he meets a guy who shares a potato with him. And there is this beautiful, simple scene of these two just eating a potato, knowing they may be killed tomorrow, letting go of the need to control the future, letting go of worrying about the past. Just, eating potatoes.

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?

On day one of rehearsal, two weeks before opening, I did a read through, at a very fast pace, and it was well over two hours. I needed it to come in at around 50 minutes to make room for laughs and what-not. So, over the two weeks of rehearsal I had to cut 2/3’s of the play. It was already as shrunken as possible, or so I thought. But I did it! Now I’m trying to find ways to jam in some of the golden material that was trimmed. Stay tuned for the three hour version sometime in the future!

The 35th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 11 – 21. Tickets go on sale August 3 at noon and will be available at tickets.fringetheatre.ca.

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