Monday, 26 February 2007
Sunday, 25 February 2007
I was also in Edinburgh last year with Slingshot Theatre's "The 'It' Girls".
"Where does life end and art begin?" was the question asked by the cast of Ted
Hughes’ Tales from Ovid chose to explore, but the question posed for those
who came to see the play in The Cooler last week seemed more to be “where
does the audience end and the play begin?” Entering into a darkened space
with the lights already up and the actors dancing in intimate couples on
both levels of the stage, it was as if we were intruding late into a
mellow and tranquil scene, an atmosphere which was soon cut by a shout of
pain issued by James Marvin’s Ted Hughes/ Jupiter as his wife Sylvia bites
his lip, setting the scene for the inextricably linked passion and
violence which was to follow.
“Using Tim Supple’s engaging adaptation of Ted Hughes’ Tales from Ovid,
Hannah Pidsley and Katy Whitehead’s production focused on the classic
tragedy that is Ted Hughes’ and Sylvia Plath’s life together. The tales,
based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, were cleverly transformed into a fantasy
that surrounds the central couple. At the heart of this play was
transformation itself, with the cast of eleven assuming 36 roles, changing
character as many times as their characters changed form. The difficulties
of a production on a tight budget were realising the necessary
transformations in the script as humans change into birds, trees and
flowers. These were realised through simple and stylised gestures; two
branches and a chair symbolised Myrrah’s metamorphosis into a tree,
allowing the audience to concentrate on the look of anguish on her face
rather than her costume.
“The choice of cast appeared flawless and the nature of the play allowed
each member to shine in a prominent role: Sam Smith was especially good as the debauched god Bacchus, playing the part with a listing drunken grace
and jaunty cocked hat. Claire Trevien’s Sylvia/ Juno had a fragility of
mind and movement counter-balanced exactly by James’ violent strength.
Their relationship worked so well as a framing device for the stories that
it would be difficult for anyone who saw the play to see it imagined in
any other way. The passion of the central relationship was brought out not
only in the bed scenes, where the bed was the central object on stage, but
also through violence, as their electrifying relationship turns to
bitterness, resentment and eventually death, demonstrating the shifting identities
and destructive nature of love in it's many forms."
Friday, 23 February 2007
"I rather hope I’m not the only one who noticed the pleasing aptness of the fact that Codpiece’s latest offering, Ted Hughes’ Ovid, is a play, adapted from Hughes’ poetry, adapted from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In fact, the text itself appears to have gone through almost as many transformations as the characters it depicts.
"Weaving the domestic and the fantastical to tell the story of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath’s relationship through the medium of classical mythology seems, if you’ll pardon the phrase, a somewhat epic task, but one that was executed with style and aplomb by both cast and crew.
"Despite not having an Arts Centre budget (which would have been well and truly deserved), the technical effects were sophisticated and well executed, but the real strength of this play does not stem from any technical wizardry, but from the cohesion and strong performances from the cast. I was happy to see that Katy Whitehead, the director, had decided to take a risk, and cast a profusion of fresh faces rather than stick with all the old ones, and I was even more delighted to find that there was not a weak link among them. Ovid seems very much an ensemble piece: being made of so many short tales linked together, the play could easily have descended into a rather bitty affair, but this was very much an ensemble production, and the cast managed to successfully weave all the strands into one cohesive whole. As a result I find it difficult to single out any one member of the cast for praise or blame, with the possible exception of James Marvin, whose performance as Ted Hughes/ Jupiter was powerful, intense and hopefully a good indication of things to come.
"No production is ever flawless, though I think I can say with some certainty that any flaws Ovid exhibited were inconsequential – misbehaving bed-sheets and the like. The energy and effort put into every scene made this a fantastic production, and if you missed it, you should be kicking yourself."
Wednesday, 21 February 2007
Hannah Pidsley - Producer
Martha Greengrass - Costume Designer and Maker
Karl Niklas, Joe Lawson, Joe Phipps, Tim Franklin - Special Effects Team
Tim Leach - Stage Manager
Niki Seth - Smith - Musical Director
Sholeh Johnston - Singer
Paul Tavner - Publicity
Joe Tait, Adam Wilbourne - Lighting and Sound
James Marvin Ted Hughes/Jupiter/Lycabus/Tereus
Claire Trevien Sylvia Plath/Juno/Minerva/Procne
Bruce Dean Tiresias/Nurse
Sam Smith Bacchus/Hermaphroditus/Itys
Gwen Kent Arachne/Salmacis/Ino
Sam Kinchin-Smith Acoetes/Narcissus/Silenus
Sandra Schira Semele/Philomela/Autone
Tom Steward Midas/Cinyras/Opheltes/Pandion
Rose Biggin Tiresias(female)/Myrrah/Echo
Joe Watson Pentheus/Storyteller/Man
Katy Brooke-Bullard Agave/Storyteller/Nymph/Woman
Publius Ovidius Naso was a Roman poet known to the English-speaking world as Ovid. He wrote on topics of love, abandoned women, and mythological transformations.
Edward James Hughes, referred to normally as Ted Hughes, was an English poet and children's writer. He is considered by many to be one of the best poets of his generation. He wrote on topics of love, mythological transformations and abandoned women.
I'm Hannah, the producer of Ted Hughes' Ovid. I found the script to this play in the "reduced items" bin at the RSC shop in Stratford, and bought it for 99p. I've always loved Ovid's Metmorphoses, and so when I read this script, I adored it straight away! I asked if any of my friends were interested in directing it, and Katy said she would... One night, very late when we'd both been at a party, she told me she had a concept: frame it by telling the story of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath... I knew immediatly it would work, and that if anyone could pull it off, it was Katy...
I've loved doing this play; we have a wonderful cast and a great crew, and we've just had so much fun!
I have also produced Othello and Oleanna for Warwick Drama.
By conflating the stories of Ted Hughes and Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the latter is seen refracted through the commonly known biographical detail of Hughes’s life, but in a way that brings renewed depth to Hughes’ story and renewed relevance to Ovid’s.
Through this simple step, out of the ashes of Ovid’s archaism a whole new story can rise: A story about fantasy in the purely Freudian sense: revolutionary, pre-civilization, but fantasy that is not alienated from our day to day life but entwined within it- resultantly we hope to show how Greek myths are relevant since they inform our current dreams, actions, and unconscious thought patterns.
· The stories of Metamorphoses are only connected through narrative in the loosest sense – this refraction imposes a framework around them that makes them more digestible to a modern, theatre going audience who will expect a story.
· By bridging the gap between domestic/ biographical drama and mythic fantasy we hope to elevate banal, daily life to the level of epic fantasy.
· Encourages the audience to exercise their imagination and extend their fantasy vocabulary.
· Investigate from the perspective of literary criticism and psychoanalytic theory what in Hughes private life drew him to this ancient work, selecting only the twelve stories that he did and interpreting/ translating them in this way.
· Highlighting the mythic status we imbue on (among others) literary celebrities.
· From a purely practical setting- this concept allows us to achieve many of the transformations stipulated in the stage directions but in a symbolic manner, using household furniture – E.g. when man and woman become one in Hermaphroditus and Salmacis this can occur behind a shower curtain e.t.c.
The play unfolds on the set of a London open plan flat; the stage is cast in a lilac-grey dusk. In the bed a couple are making love. The sex is passionate, alternating between tenderness and playful aggression. An arm is raised, another arm brings it lower. The love-making is almost complete. Lights come up on a singer, and she begins to sing:
In nova fert animus mutates dicere formas corpora:
Now I am ready to tell how bodies are changed
Into different bodies.
Some are transformed just once
And live their whole lives after in that shape.
Others have a facility
For changing themselves as they please.
Now am I ready to tell how bodies are changed
Into different bodies:
In nova fert animus mutates dicere formas corpora.
During her song the sex act is completed, and half of the couple has removed himself from the bed. The lights on her go down, the lights on the main stage are lifted. Standing over the bed and fixing his white flannel dressing gown is a male character, assessable by posture to be in his mid thirties: this is Ted. In the bed lies Sylvia. The dialogue begins:
Ted: One time, Jupiter, happy to be idle,
Swept the cosmic mystery aside
And draining another goblet of ambrosia
Sylvia: Who drowsed in bed beside him.
Ted/ Jupiter: This love of male and female is a strange business.
Fifty-fifty investment in the madness,
Yet she ends up with nine-tenths of the pleasure.
Sylvia/ Juno: A man might think so.
And so a night begins of erotically charged and startlingly evocative storytelling between man and wife, prefiguring the translation Ted would come to make of Ovid’s Metamorphosis much later, after Sylvia’s death. As the stories the couple tells each other of classical myths and fallen deities become gradually more complex, brutal and fantastic, the literary duo are joined on stage by the cast of their visions- Gods, nymphs, satyrs, kings, judges, hogs, spiders, nightingales and trees in a golden hued realm of the imagination. Through the tales they tell though we see not one play, but two: as the biographical detail of Ted and Sylvia’s life is refracted through the lens of legend, and new light is, hopefully, shed on both. This is the concept for our re-imagining of Ted Hughes’ translation of Ovid’s Metamorphosis, adapted for the stage by Tim Supple and Simon Reade.