L’amante anglaise is an incredibly special piece of theatre. It is now in its second encore season at fortyfivedownstairs and has an incredible four Melbourne sold out seasons under its belt – thus is the power of this production!
Its capacity to resonate with audiences and communicate on a deep level are only part of the ongoing success of the play. Another aspect is the work’s exploration of what happens to everyday human beings when faced with extraordinary and gruesome horror.
Director Laurence Strangio continues to be heartened that audiences come and appreciate work as ‘pure’ and as demanding as this. “We are rarely treated to the opportunity to watch consummate performers present their craft without any extraneous theatrical distractions – a high-wire act that demands much of both audience and actor – and it doesn’t get much purer, and rewarding, than this,” says Strangio. “Also it seems that we are constantly fascinated by gruesome crimes and the motives behind them, but like our own Helen Garner, Duras turns this fascination on its head revealing depths of humanity and familiar desires and frailties that engage our sympathy and resonate with our own frustrations and aspirations.”
Strangio describes L’amante anglaise as a personal ‘touchstone’ piece. “It demands such concentration and delicacy as performers and in its direction that I frequently refer to it (just in my own consciousness) while working on other theatre pieces,” he admits. “For its first ever season back in 1994 it took some time to find the right people to tackle it with me – the wonderful Brenda Palmer and John Flaus – creating a piece that was stripped of theatrical artifice: just actors, an audience, a space and a text – a production even simpler than that described in the script itself – and I remember thinking at the time: ‘This is what theatre can be and should aspire towards!'”
L’amante anglaise was one of the first Marguerite Duras texts that Strangio read, fresh out of Drama school, and as well as its simplicity and subtlety he remembers being impressed by the potency of Duras’ language and her ability to reveal the richness of a character’s inner life and most particularly by her audacity in subverting the audience’s expectation for any narrative resolution. “She was and remains a remarkable advocate for the voice of those dispossessed by life and circumstance,” he states. “In seven different seasons – three with the initial cast and four with Rob Meldrum & Jillian Murray – I have had the exquisite pleasure of working with performers who are equally committed to finding the truth and simplicity of the text and giving voice to these rich and complex characters with utter transparency. They inspire and challenge me every day – what more could I want?”
Award winning Strangio is an independent director, dramaturg, theatre-maker and educator. Over the years, his plays have been produced at ASTRA, La Mama, Malthouse, Melbourne Festival, Playbox, Red Stitch and Castlemaine State Festival. Whether it be his adaptation of Chekov’s Uncle Vanya or his collaboration with performer Margherita Peluso to translate and create contemporary Italian theatre for Melbourne audiences or his passion for L’amante anglaise, Strangio is drawn towards darker material with moral complexities.
“I am constantly fascinated with the choices that we make in negotiating our lives and relationships, and theatre gives us the opportunity to explore those situations in more extreme circumstances and to question our assumptions and pose alternative perspectives,” he says. “Theatre is a precious opportunity for us to think creatively together in a room and we should hold it close and use it well!”
“Next up I am very lucky to be involved in a few projects for La Mama Theatre’s 50th birthday celebrations in July this year, working with some of my favourite collaborators and bringing back an old favourite for one night only (can’t say yet, sorry!) and creating a couple of new productions, one with local writer Tes Lyssiotis and the other some Beckett pieces (another personal favourite). And there’s always more Duras on the way…'”
L’amante anglaise is a compelling piece of theatre that will not disappoint. Four sold out seasons speak for themselves!
The play will run till February 19