Although we’re far from the opening night, I can already tell this is going to be a production filled with energy and creativity. Les Acteurs, written by Marivaux in the eighteenth century, has multiple translations and parts of the play are still being translated today. This has given the actors a lot of freedom with the interpretation of their characters. The script itself is fairly basic, so the cast have to take it as it is, build on it, and read through the subtext so they can act out their characters how they feel is apt. This has enabled Symone Thompson and Yoshi Colwell to write the characters so they fit for the cast; providing them with the opportunity to creatively develop their ideas and allow the actors to have a clear ownership of their characters.
Les Acteurs is a comedy about a marriage between two households, and the servants of these households putting on a play for their masters. Formed in the style of the Comedia dell’Arte, the play is mainly made up of stock characters, meaning the cast have to read between the lines and act out the characters imaginatively.
An interesting element to the play, given when it was written, is that the two characters of status are women, who never even mention husbands. The men in the play are not strong, whereas the women play on manipulation, power, and subtext. They are described as “dealing with things in a sneaky way like they do in Mean Girls” – and if that isn’t enough to make you book a ticket right now, I don’t know what is.
Holly Morgan, who plays Madame Argent, said “I found it challenging at first to work with with a stock character because it was difficult to find any depth, and the script is constantly changing. In the end, I decided to just make her batshit crazy.” Megan Conway who played Madame Amelin said “it’s been fun to just act bitchy.”
Fiona Kingwill and Symone Thompson play Eraste and Merlin, the comedic duo of master and servant, “who aren’t friends but like each other,” as Fiona put it. They took inspiration from other double acts from Blackadder and Merlin, and have enjoyed the freedom that has been given to them as they shape their stock characters how they like.
Featuring an almost exclusively female cast, Fiona and Symone explained how their characters don’t rely on gender, which they found interesting for the time. As girls playing the only boys in the play, they can still make the characters fairly androgynous. Lucy Walters, who does costume, made sure the girls didn’t wear anything overtly masculine or else it would just look farcical.
The play has been fun to act for them: there is nearly always more than two people on stage, and they’ve been able to play with the quick dialogue. It’s a comedy based on manipulation, power play and trickery. In this sense, it can also be seen as a comedy of manners of a comedy of hierarchy. The set has a corridor effect to it and multiple levels, meaning that the actors can use this to enhance the comedic effect.
Director James Dixon and assistant director Andrea Barok said how it had been “good fun” working with the play, and are excited for the opening night. Andrea said “this is my favourite part of the production, when everything is finally coming together.” James said how the characters are “clearly strong and quirky,” and they have preserved as much as they can of the unique style of language. As a play about manipulation and trickery, it’s a “cheeky play.”
Comedic duo, strong female and manipulative characters, what more could you ask for? Make sure you book tickets for what looks like a hilarious and imaginative performance of Les Acteurs.
Performed as a double bill 5th-7th March, 7.30pm at the Scenic Stage Theatre, YO10 5GB.
Tickets £6/£8. store.york.ac.uk
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