Award-winning director Kristine Landon-Smith joins us on Close-up Culture to talk about her upcoming production of The Orchestra, the neglected classic by French dramatist Jean Anouilh.
Q: What are your memories of the first time you saw ‘The Orchestra’?
A: Many, many years ago I saw a production of The Orchestra at the King’s Head in London. I found the play about a group of musicians so bewitching.
There were the subtle moments and then heightened moments of comedy, where the actors were miming playing musical instruments. The more technically precise they were with their miming, the funnier it was to watch.
It was wonderful, and I admired how skilled the actors were at getting it so right. I thought it was a real gem of a piece, and I wanted to direct it.
Q: What has drawn you back to this play 10 years after you first directed it?
A: My path crossed with Stefania Licari, one of the actors I’d tutored at the East 15 Acting School. She was keen on us working together and this forgotten gem of a play seemed such a great project for her to sink her producing and acting teeth into. It was great timing for a London revival.
Jean Anouilh wrote such wonderful witty comedies. I’ve noticed there are plays in my repertoire that I often get drawn back to and direct them more than once to see what else they bring. Revivals are always fresh because of the different people you bring each time and their own responses to the work are so different each time.
I’ve just been doing The Serpent’s Teeth, about war and conflict, and I have directed that one before. It’s funny how you return to plays that you love. I often return to Blood Wedding by Federico Garcia Lorca too.
Q: How do you feel you have changed over the decade?
A: You do change and over a long time, of course, you are always paying attention to how you are developing your practice.
I see a lot – theatre and film mainly – and I find myself more and more influenced by what I see. I watch and learn and am often almost subconsciously effected by what I see – I notice I am weaving in various influences more and more in my work.
Q: Likewise, how has your vision of this production changed over the last decade?
A: Certainly, the production this time will be slightly different and that is in response to who is now in the collaborative endeavour.
You have to listen and respond to what is in front of you – so to some extent the make-up of the team then gives you the ideas around how to make the work in this moment. It’s always an evolving thing.
Q: Set in post-war France, the play explores the corruption of human relationships. Do you feel the play has new context in 2019?
A: Human relationships are so complex and can be so frail. We can all be vulnerable and, particularly now, I think we all feel rather exposed and fragile due to recent political developments at home and further afield. So the play has resonance for today, let’s say.
Q: Of course, a fresh cast will always bring a new spin on things. Can you tell us about working with Amanda Osbourne, Stefania Licari and the rest of this talented cast?
A: This is an international cast where actors have come from France, Brazil, China, Italy and England. They are all settled in London and now come together in this work. Their own backgrounds, of course, have a bearing on how the work unfolds and it is extremely exciting to bring their experiences together in this play.
We play with difference and it is that difference that underpins the interpretation.
Q: What should audiences expect and be excited about?
A: It’s a very unusual piece – subtle and deft comedy, yet heightened moments where the actors mime the orchestrations. We hope the audience will smile quietly and laugh out loud.
Q: Lastly, how are you feeling as we approach opening night? Are you the excited or nervous type?
A: I can be excited and nervous at the same time – that is exactly how I am feeling!