ClassicsFest 2010: ‘Peace in Our Time’

As ClassicsFest 2010 unspools, we’ll be featuring insights from the project initiators about what inspired them to choose their plays and their experience of working on them.

Peace in Our Time by Noël Coward

When Jeanie Hackett approached me about adapting Peace in Our Time to include music, a moment’s consideration was all I needed to agree.

With the international success of London’s Knee High Company’s Brief Encounter in mind, I’ve edited Peace and integrated some of Coward’s lesser known songs – most of them of, or around the period in which the play is set.

As exemplified by Brief Encounter, I see this exercise not as a “musical” in the Broadway sense of the term, but as a serious play with musical elements. In editing the play I’ve trimmed about thirty minutes from the text to accommodate the music. Over a period of three weeks, I read and re-read the play to determine how much of the wartime political polemic was relevant to 2010 and abridged some of this along with some of the lengthier arguments between allies and collaborators.

Given that most London pubs of my youth contained a sturdy upright piano, there is a logic to including music, some springing from the text, some sung by characters at the piano. An added joy is to be working once again with the talented and enthusiastic members of the Antaeus Academy.

My devotion to the work of Noël Coward has lasted as long as my own career in the theatre and I’ve had the pleasure of performing several of his plays and many of his songs in cabaret. My London doctor and good friend was Patrick Woodcock, Noël’s doctor, and Gladys Calthrop, Noël’s celebrated designer, was a friend and theatre-going companion of ours; so it seemed inevitable that I met the Master socially in 1970 just prior to his knighthood. It was like meeting God – except, I think, that Noël Coward had a better sense of construction.

-Barry Creyton, Project Adapter and Production Supervisor

Peace in Our Time plays:
July 6, 7, 8 at 8pm
July 10 at 3pm

Peter van Norden on ‘King Lear’

One of the benefits of an ensemble company is the wisdom and insights of those offstage as well as the talents of those appearing in a particular production. Throughout the run of our production of King Lear and ClassicsFest 2010, we’ll be sharing thoughts from Antaeus company members about their experiences of the shows they see.

Peter Van Norden on King Lear
Okay. Lear. I’ve done the play twice and seen it countless times, so it’s the small, interesting choices that I’m drawn to – that fascinate me. So, here’s two moments that I found quite striking…one an image and one a “surprise” that I found quite affecting.

‘Lear’ before the hovel, at the end of the storm, III, iv.
It’s a famous speech, of course, ‘Lear’ praying in the tempest – “Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are…” — but both Dakin and Harry have found a fully realized moment with “O, I have ta’en too little care of this.” It becomes a sudden, surprising revelation to both Kings — and it humanizes ‘Lear’ in a visceral, beautifully moving way. In both performances, this sudden self-realization quite literally took my breath away. I’ve never seen the moment presented as clearly or as movingly.

Another “surprising image” that startlingly brings the depth of the play into a shattering focus is provided by both our ‘Edgars’ and ‘Edmunds’ — at the very end of their fight. When ‘Edgar’ finally has the upper hand in the battle…he suddenly and viciously goes for ‘Edmund’s’ eyes, as if to pluck them out. For me, this horrifying image brought an extra level to their struggle – a level that I found quite affecting and that reflects on all that’s gone before it. Not only is this a political battle (for power), and not only is it ‘Edgar’s’ personal revenge for what’s been done to him…but it’s ‘Edgar’s’ uncontrollable response to what has been so unjustly done to their father (‘Gloucester’). It solidifies the ‘Gloucester/Edgar’ relationship in one startling, almost unbearable moment. Kudos to Bart and Ramon/John/Seamus/Daniel for coming up with this idea. Great moment….