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    ‘The Gett’ Review: Jewish History and a Woman’s Future

    The ancient and contemporary swirl together in Liba Vaynberg’s ambitious, off-kilter play about life after a divorce.It is something of a shock to encounter Jennifer Westfeldt, as gorgeous and screwball-comedy perfect as ever, playing the mother of an actual grown-up — a daughter deep enough into adulthood that not only has she gotten married, but now she’s getting a divorce.Your brain may do some contortions as it attempts to adjust, but the effervescent Westfeldt — star of the classic rom-com movies “Friends With Kids” and “Kissing Jessica Stein” — has indeed taken up the Jewish-mother mantle. As Mama in Liba Vaynberg’s ambitious, off-kilter play “The Gett,” at Rattlestick Theater in Greenwich Village, Westfeldt handily steals the show.Mama’s daughter, Ida (pronounced EE-da), a poet with a day job at a library, is rather less interesting. This is unfortunate, given that she is the main character.One Dec. 25, en route to a friend’s party, Ida (Vaynberg) gets stuck in an elevator with a guy who is smolderingly hot despite his penchant for magic tricks. (The show’s magic consultant is Alexander Boyce.) The stranger is attracted to Ida even after she flosses her teeth in front of him, right there in the elevator.This is Baal (Ben Edelman), Ida’s future husband and eventual ex. His name, a note in the script explains, “is the Hebrew word for husband, master, and a false violent god who is eventually banished.” Romantically, Baal is not a healthy choice.Directed by Daniella Topol, “The Gett” is about his banishment, but its principal subject is Ida’s struggle to remake herself after their divorce. (A gett is a Jewish divorce decree.) Subtitled “One Woman’s Creation Myth,” the play borrows its seven-part structure from the seven-day creation of the heavens and Earth in the Book of Genesis. Within that framework, the first day is Ida and Baal’s meet-cute.The play slip-slides between the contemporary and the ancient, the real and the surreal. When Ida asks her divorce lawyer (Luis Vega) what the date is, he replies: “Well, there was light on the first day, and now we’re drawing a line that separates the heavens from the earth. So, the second day of creation.”It’s a difficult tone to strike, more so given the production’s unbalanced dynamic. Ida is curiously drab, lacking the pull of sympathy; scenes between her and a series of male characters (played by Vega) don’t breathe as deeply as they need to. But whenever Baal appears, things perk up — because the dark magnetism that makes it so hard for Ida to get him out of her head works on the audience, too. He is a beguiling presence, inhabiting a nearly spectral dimension.And Mama is all exuberance, with a delightful comic fizz. Rambling to Ida in voice mail after voice mail, she roots for her unconditionally.“You were so weird,” she tells Ida, remembering her as a child, and there’s no mistaking that this oddness was a good thing, worth cherishing.Produced in partnership with Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, “The Gett” intends to work on two levels, as one woman’s divorce story and as a play laden with meaning from Jewish history and culture. The script contains plenty of layers. But in performance, flatness too often dominates.Then the scene changes, Ida’s voice mail beeps, and Mama returns, persistent in her love.“This is your mother,” she says, and for a few moments all is well again.The GettThrough Dec. 11 at Rattlestick Theater, Manhattan; rattlestick.org. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. More

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    After a 70-Year Run in London, ‘The Mousetrap’ Heads to Broadway

    The enduring Agatha Christie whodunit, which has stumped West End theatergoers since 1952, will come to New York next year. (No spoilers, please.)For the past 70 years, London theatergoers have enjoyed trying to figure out the identity of the murderer in “The Mousetrap,” Agatha Christie’s enduring whodunit.Now, Broadway audiences will get a chance to try to solve it.On Friday, keen-eyed theatergoers discovered a website for the Broadway iteration, which announced that the murder mystery, whose London production holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s longest-running play, would make its Broadway debut some time in 2023.The website did not give details about the run’s start date, location or cast, but said the production’s set would be “a loving recreation” of the chintzy West End design and even borrow its wind machine, which is used to create a storm.On Friday, Adam Spiegel, the show’s British producer, confirmed the transfer of the show in a telephone interview from St. Martin’s Theater in London, where he was hosting a special matinee of “The Mousetrap” to celebrate its 70th birthday.Spiegel said he “was not ready” to provide any details of the Broadway run, but insisted it was going ahead. “Oh God, yes, it will happen in 2023,” he said.He is producing the show with Kevin McCollum, the Tony Award-winning producer who recently helped take “Six,” the hit musical about the wives of Henry VIII, from London to Broadway.It is unclear why “The Mousetrap,” which began as a radio play, has never reached Broadway before. For decades — even when it was merely middle-aged, and still far from becoming a septuagenarian — some critics have called it an anachronism, noting its old-fashioned staging, with creaking windows the closest thing to a special effect.A New York production did open Off Broadway in 1960, at the Maidman Playhouse. “‘The Mousetrap’ will not exactly shake you up, but neither will it let you down,” Lewis Funke wrote in The New York Times. But it never moved to Broadway.The original 1952 production starred Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim, who were married. All told, the show has been performed over 28,915 times in London, the production said on Friday in a news release, and has been seen by over 10 million people. Queen Elizabeth II attended its 50th anniversary performance in 2002.A decade ago, when the show was celebrating its 60th anniversary, Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times that seeing it in London was like “being part of a field trip to a historic site,” because he found himself surrounded by so many tourists and schoolchildren. But he loved its cozy mystery. “Oh, bliss, it’s a living Clue board,” he said.“So, yes, ‘The Mousetrap’ creaks,” he wrote, “but old houses do; that’s part of their charm.”The show’s long West End run was interrupted by the lengthy coronavirus shutdown. Spiegel said the idea for the transfer to Broadway arose soon after “The Mousetrap” reopened in May 2021. Ever since, it “has probably had the most successful run of its life,” Spiegel said, “so suddenly we got a renewed sense of purpose about where else it might work, and New York seemed a good place.”“The Mousetrap” is set for a limited engagement, according to the website. Asked if that could end up actually being for 70 years, like in London, Spiegel demurred. “That might be a bit ambitious,” he said, “but we might as well aim for the moon.”Wherever “The Mousetrap” ends up being staged on Broadway, one thing about the production is guaranteed: Spiegel said that it would “of course” end every performance just as it does in London, with a member of the cast asking the audience to keep the identity of the killer to themselves. The no-spoilers plea has helped keep the ending a surprise for 70 years. More

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    ‘The Rat Trap’ Review: Together for Better, but Mostly for Worse

    Noël Coward’s bleak portrait of a collapsing marriage between two artists has its American premiere at New York City Center.Sheila Brandreth and Keld Maxwell are in love and about to get married. She is a novelist and he is a playwright, both at the start of their careers: It’s a union made in literary heaven, and Sheila (Sarin Monae West) looks forward to “the joy of working together and helping one another to make our way in the world.”But when Keld (James Evans) is out of earshot, Sheila’s roommate, Olive Lloyd-Kennedy (Elisabeth Gray), offers a more jaundiced perspective. “You are much the cleverer of the two,” she tells Sheila, “and because of that I prophesy that you will be the one to give in.”Alas, it is Olive who is right.This is not much of a spoiler considering that the play is called “The Rat Trap,” the title revealing a gloomy — cynical souls might say realistic — view of marriage as terribly wrong for one party, possibly even both. That this all ends on an uncompromisingly depressing note is all the more startling considering that the show, presented by the Mint Theater, was written in 1918 and is meant to be a comedy.Then again, its author is Noël Coward, whose view of matrimony was like a cocktail of Champagne and strychnine.Written when Coward was 18, “The Rat Trap” was first staged in London in 1926 and is just now making its American debut. Elements of his signature style already figure in this piece of juvenilia, including such epigrams as “Marriage nowadays is nothing but a temporary refuge for those who are uncomfortable at home.” What’s more remarkable is that the teenage Coward had an uncanny sense of the agonizing friction between artistic ambitions and domestic life.Alexander Lass’s underpowered production at New York City Center does not bother exploring some tantalizing possibilities — like, for example, the nature of Olive’s feelings for Sheila — and it does not quite manage to hit either the comic highs or the dramatic lows. (There are also some questionable set and blocking choices, like a sofa positioned in such a way that the actors sitting on it must contort themselves to avoid showing their backs to the audience.)But West shines, first as a woman in love then as one who shrivels into seething disillusion when her career stalls while her husband’s blossoms. Because of course Sheila’s ambitions end up taking a back seat to his. “I gave up my working brain for you,” she tells Keld, who responds with a classic anthem of weaselly self-justification.The play appears to suggest this imbalance is baked into the conventions of bourgeois relationships. But it also satirizes the bohemian pretensions of Naomi Frith-Bassington (Heloise Lowenthal) and Edmund Crowe (Ramzi Khalaf), a couple of proto-hipsters who prefer free love to the officially licensed kind.Coward later wrote that “The Rat Trap” had some merits, but “the last act is an inconclusive shambles.” He was too harsh — the ending is trenchant rather than inconclusive. In love as in war, it seems to say, everybody loses.The Rat TrapThrough Dec. 10 at New York City Center Stage II, Manhattan; minttheater.org. Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes. More

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    London’s Theater Cuts Matter, on Broadway and Beyond

    The cushion of state money let the Hampstead and Donmar playhouses develop broad programs with international reach. Now they must find creative ways to play on.LONDON — Standing ovations at London theaters are drearily routine these days, but I experienced one a few weeks ago that felt genuinely impassioned. I’m thinking of the fervent audience response to a new two-character play, “Blackout Songs,” on Hampstead Theater’s intimate second stage. (The show runs at the 100-seat Hampstead Downstairs until Dec. 10.)Chronicling the bruised and bruising relationship between two self-destructive drinkers who meet at an A.A. meeting, Joe White’s spiky tragicomedy is impressive on several fronts. Its performers, Alex Austin and Rebecca Humphries, fearlessly inhabit two restless lovers trying to stave off psychic and physical ruin. The writing plays with time, asking the audience to piece together a fragmented narrative that views these characters — unnamed until the very end — at critical points as they ricochet in and out of each other’s lives.The play asks a lot of the two actors, who meet its demands with force. But there was an additional reason for the palpable excitement in the house at the show’s end that night. The excellence of the show dealt a direct rebuke to the still fresh news of major cuts in government ‌subsidies for arts institutions across London, in which the Hampstead lost its entire grant. Work like “Blackout Songs” is what the Hampstead exists to do, and suddenly the theater felt at risk.The same fate befell the venerable Donmar Warehouse, another small theater with an outsize reach. Might the activity of two playhouses so crucial to the theatrical ecosystem — not just in London — be somehow curtailed? Would they have to become safer, less adventurous?Both houses have long shown their importance, here and overseas. Equipped with three auditoriums between them (the Hampstead has a 370-seat main stage as well), they have generated a substantial body of work, sending shows from London into the world and also offering homes to shows from abroad. The Donmar has just staged the European premiere of “The Band’s Visit”; a second American musical, “Next to Normal,” is scheduled to arrive there next year.To cut these theaters’ subsidies is to advocate, willingly or not, for shrunken ambitions. Philanthropy and commercial activities can pick up the slack, of course, as in the United States. But donor bases don’t arrive overnight. The cushion of state money let the Hampstead and the Donmar develop broad programs with international reach. Unless the theaters tread carefully, the effects of the cut will be felt far beyond London.I can easily see international producers snapping up “Blackout Songs,” not least because its compactness — two characters, one set — is attractive financially. But the director Guy Jones’s production sets the bar high. On a bare stage with just a few chairs, the play’s jagged, nonlinear style is accompanied by whiplash shifts in mood that Humphries and the compellingly volatile Austin capture with ease. The impact couldn’t be stronger, prompting the best sort of guessing game about where the play might end up next.“The Band’s Visit” at the Donmar Warehouse, directed by Michael Longhurst.Marc BrennerThe Hampstead has a history of birthing plays that have entered the theatrical canon. Bernard Pomerance’s “The Elephant Man” and Mike Leigh’s “Abigail’s Party” premiered there, as did Harold Pinter’s seminal two-hander, “The Dumb Waiter.” The flow of writing works both ways: The Hampstead has hosted multiple American Pulitzer Prize-winners and finalists, including Marsha Norman, Martyna Majok, Tony Kushner and Stephen Karam.“The Humans,” the Karam play that won the 2016 Tony Award, traveled to the Hampstead in 2018 with its American cast. An earlier Karam play, “Sons of the Prophet,” will receive an overdue British premiere on the Hampstead’s ‌main stage on Dec. 12: further evidence of that two-way traffic.Sure, not every Hampstead offering has been of comparable value. It has faltered of late with plays like “The Breach” and “The Snail House,” two misfires from Naomi Wallace and Richard Eyre; the current main stage play, Rona Munro’s history-minded “Mary,” is beautifully directed by the Hampstead’s artistic director, Roxana Silbert, but doesn’t galvanize the audience as “Blackout Songs” does downstairs. (It also requires more background knowledge of Mary, Queen of Scots and her court than most playgoers will possess.)Still, it’s important to the Hampstead to program a range of work across its two theaters and throughout the year. “What’s the point of a theater not having shows?” Greg Ripley-Duggan, the Hampstead’s executive producer, said pointedly by phone this week. But, he added, the lost subsidy was “an awful lot of money to make up, and to make up from one year to the next. The business model is going to have to change radically.”An absence of state funding will mean greater reliance on corporate and individual philanthropy, and pressure on ticket prices in a city where playgoing — especially away from the West End — is still reasonably affordable. Tickets for “Blackout Songs” can be had for about $12, a sum unheard-of in New York.Across town at the Donmar, a recent 30th-anniversary gala fell within days of the funding cut announcement, and the playhouse’s current and former artistic directors took to the stage at the event to celebrate the 251-seat powerhouse and argue for its survival. The Donmar is also lucky to be hosting a show just now that plays to its strengths: “The Band’s Visit.” On view through Dec. 3, the production is the first musical at this address from its current artistic director, Michael Longhurst, whose career spans both sides of the Atlantic, much like the Donmar itself. “Frost/Nixon” and “Red” are just two Broadway hits first seen there, as was Richard Greenberg’s “Take Me Out,” which is now back onstage in New York through Feb. 5.“The Band’s Visit” has gone in the other direction. Much lauded on Broadway, this adaptation of a 2007 Israeli movie of the same name has an unshowy sweetness ‌that suits the intimacy of the Donmar — all the better for a musical set in an Israeli backwater that is transformed by the unexpected appearance of a‌‌ group of Egyptian ‌musicians lost on‌ their way to somewhere else.Like “Blackout Songs,” this loving reappraisal of “The Band’s Visit” brought the audience to its feet. Let’s hope the Donmar, and the Hampstead, find creative ways to play on.Blackout Songs. Directed by Guy Jones. Hampstead Downstairs through Dec. 10.The Band’s Visit. Directed by Michael Longhurst. Donmar Warehouse through Dec. 3. More

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    Interview: Let’s Go Once More Unto The Breach

    James Cooney on performing in Henry V at Shakespeare’s Globe

    Shakespeare’s Henry V is the play launching the winter season in the fabulously candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe. It’s the first time this work has been put on there, so we were excited to get a chance to talk to actor James Cooney, who will be playing Thomas of Lancaster along with other roles in the production.

    Wow, James! This is exciting stuff. Henry V is a real powerhouse of a play to be staged in such an intimate venue. And it’s being directed by Holly Race Roughan from Headlong. How do you feel about being a part of it all?

    It was a no brainer for me when I was asked to be a part of this production. All of Shakespeare’s plays have an uncanny ability to speak to our time. Henry V however might be one of the most soul-shakingly (I might have made this phrase up!) relevant plays for an English audience in 2022/23. You can’t help but ask what it means to be English when you read it and how this play resonates for us now.

    Can you tell us about the different characters you will be playing? Which is your favourite?

    I play Thomas, brother to King Henry V; Orleans, a friend and lover to Prince Louis of France; and Gower, a captain in the English army. The beauty of playing multiple roles is they all have their own quirks that I enjoy exploring. But Thomas is the most interesting to me from a psychological perspective. It’s interesting to consider what it is like to be so close to the throne but knowing you will probably never become king. The complexity of family dynamics is something we have explored in detail in our production .

    The Globe is renowned for their ensemble productions. What’s it like working with this particular company?

    Ensemble is definitely the word! Holly has set up a space where collaboration is encouraged and it is supported by all the staff at the Globe. Entering a rehearsal space can be a daunting prospect whatever your experience level. But from day one the Globe welcomed us all with open arms. Most theatres do a meet and greet on day one, but this was the first time I had experienced EVERYONE in the building coming together to introduce themselves. It makes such a difference to start off on an equal footing and feeling like I belonged in the room.

    You really will be acting in very close proximity to the audience in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse: are you ready for going to full scale battle in a Jacobean theatre?

    Thankfully, Shakespeare recognised the power of the imagination! Devoid of CGI Shakespeare calls upon the audience to “work your thoughts” and imagine the war happening on stage. It’s what theatre does better than other media – asking the audience to create the story with the people on stage. In the Playhouse you really can see every single audience member’s face and that complicity of imagination and play between the audience and the actors can be electrifying!

    You’ve had some experience of drama that makes contemporary political commentary, having been in The 47th at the Old Vic, last year – a play about Donald Trump.  How do you think this production reflects on today’s Britain?

    I am a massive football fan and with the World Cup starting I am waiting to hear some of those famous Henry V speeches used in a motivational video before England play an important game! I think this play is a part of the fabric of England whether you like it or not! It asks so many questions about nationalism, patriotism, Englishness, Britishness, the relationship between those in power to those subject to power. The list goes on. Whether we accept or reject the ideas Shakespeare presents is up to the individual, but there’s no doubting its relevancy in a country which finds itself questioning its identity.

    What do you think the audiences are going to take away from this Henry V?

    I am always wary of telling an audience what they SHOULD take away. We are sharing a story and not a lecture. However, as a company I think there was a recognition that we had to re-interrogate Henry V in 2022. Is Henry an English hero? Or was he a “foolish youth” as mentioned by his own father and the French nobility? Was Agincourt some divine miracle? Or did the English get lucky in the face of overwhelming odds? And how does all of this relate to an English identity in 2022? I guess what I am trying to say is I hope audience leave with more questions. And that most importantly it was two hours well spent!

    We’d like to thank James very much for taking the time to chat with us, and wish him well for the coming season.  Henry V plays at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse from Thursday 10 November to Saturday 4 February. Get your tickets now because, to quote the Bard himself:

    “… gentlemen in England now-a-bedShall think themselves accurs’d they were not here”

    Henry V is a Shakespeare’s Globe and Headlong Production with Leeds Playhouse and Royal & Derngate Northampton. It is on now in the indoor, candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse through to 4 February. Tickets and information available here. More

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    Interview: The many languages of Europe

    Francesco Baj & Flavio Marigliani on Teatro Multilingue and Goodbye Papà

    Teatro Multilingue are a new European based theatre company presenting plays in multiple languages. We caught their last play, Mrs Green, when it stopped off at Camden Fringe in August, whilst their latest work, Goodbye Papà will be making a visit to Bristol’s Alma Theatre (8 Dec) before reaching London and The Hope Theatre (11 & 12 Dec). We think they are doing some fascinating work and bringing us a taste of continental Europe, so were thrilled to chat with co-founders Francesco Baj and Flavio Marigliani about all things Teatro Multilingue and Goodbye Papà.

    Before we dive into asking you about Goodbye Papà, first tell us a little about Teatro Multilingue and your presentation of shows in several languages?

    Teatro Multilingue is a Pan-European project born in 2020 out of the idea of combining several languages within the same story; organically, in a way that makes sense. You watch one play and you “hear” it in more than one way. Why? First, our world is increasingly multilingual but our stages aren’t; and second, if we look at recent years, we find that a lot of the struggle inside and outside Europe is presented as a clash of cultures whereas if you just take one step and go beyond the opposition “mine”/“yours” or, in language, between “native” and “foreign”, lots of barriers simply collapse and new worlds of understanding open up right away. This is what we aim to explore, and that’s why our theatre has no subtitles. Thanks to a carefully devised multilingual script, we believe that theatre is a powerful enough medium to make that connection happen, to have audiences go beyond the barrier of language and, therefore, meaning. In a way, it’s nothing new: multilingual scripts were part of the commedia dell’arte and have sometimes been used in cinema and plays; what we do is, however, a little different: we don’t take language, whatever language, for granted and build layers of story telling and meaning based on this.

    Goodbye Papà plays at The Alma Theatre in Bristol and then The Hope Theatre in December, what can audiences expect?

    A full immersion into our work! We invite them all to come and be surprised at how easy it is to follow the story even though you don’t speak all the languages! Compared to Mrs Green, our first UK product which focused on the implications of Brexit, Goodbye Papà works on a more intimate and personal note. It all starts with a rather bizarre family story and grows into a quest for meaning through language and music. It is, we guess, the work which best represents the philosophy behind our multilingual project. It’s a monologue in English, Italian and Modern Greek, and the people that have seen it when it played in Rome and in Kingston upon Thames have told us of how easy it is to just embrace the story and “forget” the language the actor is using. Goodbye Papà may work on the personal level but it’s nonetheless an all-encompassing journey, real and imaginary, through borders, cultures and languages.

    What’s the writing process within Teatro Multilingue? Does a show get written in one language and then translated for another…? We assume, but please do correct us if we are wrong, that this lends itself to a collaborative approach?

    FRANCESCO: It is a collaborative approach, but no, there’s no translation involved. Once we have an idea, we either already have in mind which languages we’re going to use, or these get sorted out shortly afterwards, so that by the time I actually sit down and start working on the first draft, the script is in those languages. The balance between them is so important (for the story and for the audience) that it wouldn’t work in translation. And that’s why, when we start rehearsing, some things inevitably end up not working or needing readjusting as the actors “speak” because that’s when you really “hear” the languages at work. I don’t mean readjusting as in grammatically correct or incorrect – this depends on the story – but in how naturally the balance flows throughout the script. Also, I tend to write multilingually but I’m no expert in all of them, so a little helps is always needed!

    Goodbye Papà is in English, Italian and Modern Greek – do you speak all three? 😉 Are there extra challenges as an actor when acting or reacting to multiple languages?

    FLAVIO: Being born in Italy, I guess I can say that I speak Italian 😉 I’ve studied and worked with English, and as for Greek, I studied Ancient Greek in school so Modern Greek has been a fun and interesting challenge for me! I know the language, though, and actually Francesco and I met while we were both in Athens! Personal note aside, yes, using several languages may be a challenge particularly within the structure of a monologue where it’s all on you on stage, but I think of it more as a chance. As an actor, it has allowed me to focus on what real theatrical communication is and how far that can go beyond speech itself. The gestures, emotions and body language that accompany a word very often carry more meaning than the meaning of the word itself, and this helps to blend and unite what you’re saying in whatever language that is. An actor’s body, and voice, also change according to the language and this is important to notice and embrace as it broadens the spectrum of your expressive possibilities: there isn’t only one way to say one thing.

    How do you find the casting process? Do you look specifically for multilingual speakers or do you work with a cast to learn the lines in a language they don’t know?

    It depends, to be honest; each project is different. If we need a “native” speaker, we look for one; otherwise we much prefer to go for the actor and what they can bring to the story with their own personal background. Sometimes, it’s just a question of how they “sound.” Apart from the balance of languages, one piece of feedback we often get is how beautiful it is to hear a particular accent or intonation and how that alone gives more meaning to the story being told. And this can be “native” or “foreign”, we don’t really pay too much attention on that, unless the story demands it. We don’t aim at purity, rather at clarity and how organically each sound blends into the story. As for the actors being multilingual, you know, the secret is not so much in how many languages they can speak, as in how in sync with the multilingual project they are or can grow to be. Exactly what Flavio was saying about being an actor in a multilingual project.

    Just before Goodbye Papà plays theatres in the UK, you have a new short film called Making My Day coming out. What can you tell us about that and where can people see it?

    Making My Day is a short film we’re co-producing and it’s part of the Film/On Demand sector of Teatro Multilingue. When we started back in 2020 in Rome theatres were all closed so we created the trilogy #Europe21, a hybrid of theatre and cinema. We found the medium of film so interesting that we decided to explore it even further. The creative process is a bit different, as in films you have to have subtitles so the work we do with languages is a bit less rigid than when we’re live on stage. The spirit, however, is exactly the same. Making My Day is also an example of commissioned work, i.e. the writer of the screenplay asked us if we wanted to turn it into a film and rework it multilingually. And that’s how it all started. Making My Day will be available online as of 27 November – if anyone’s interested they can get the details at our website.

    Normally, we’d like to ask what you have coming up next but here, you are taking Goodbye Papà to Italy and Greece, tell us about that and anything else you have planned for 2023?

    Yes, Goodbye Papà will go (back) to Italy and will also travel to Greece, and we couldn’t be happier about all this. We are also working on a new batch of short films, on another commissioned project (this time from the Balkans!); we have a few exciting ideas planned for Madrid, and then our brand new full multilingual show: La Reine de marbre, a modern revisitation of the commedia dell’arte with a strong social and political message. It’ll debut in Rome in March and will then start travelling around Europe. This will also be the first show in which we don’t tell the audience which languages are spoken in the play. It’ll really be: come and be surprised by the multilingue effect!

    Finally, as a bit of a fun question, if you count up, how many languages do you think are spoken within the Teatro Multilingue Company?

    Hmh… we’ve never really counted them! So far we’ve worked with five: Italian, English, French, Spanish and Greek. But the list is expanding. One of our actresses, originally from Colombia, is also mastering Quechua which, sooner or later, we will have to include in one of our plays! 🙂

    Go raibh maith agat (that’s thank you in Irish!) to Francesco and Flavio for taking the time to talk with us. You can visit Teatro Multilingue’s website here and follow them on Twitter here.

    Goodbye Papà plays Alma Tavern & Theatre in Bristol on December 8 and then plays The Hope Theatre on December 11 and 12. More

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    In ‘House of Us,’ Irina Brook Steps Out of Her Family’s Shadow

    At 60, and already a renowned theater maker, Irina Brook is rethinking her work and tackling the legacy of her famous parents: “I’m only just emerging from my cocoon.”RYE, England — A couple of years ago, the theater director Irina Brook became obsessed with shadows. She kept photographing her own, and filmed others moving around her.It was a transparent metaphor for the feelings she was working through, because Brook’s parents have cast a long shadow over her life and career. Her latest work, “House of Us,” which opens in Venice on Nov. 29, is dedicated to her mother, the English actress Natasha Parry, whose rich stage and screen career lasted more than six decades. As for her father? You may have heard of Peter Brook, one of the most influential theater directors of the past century, who died this year, in Paris, at age 97.Brook, 60, is only just coming to terms with her family history, by laying much of it bare in “House of Us.” In this immersive work, which will be staged over two floors at Casa dei Tre Oci, a Venetian palazzo turned art space, visitors wander through a series of rooms inspired by Brook’s life, and her mother’s.Some are dreamlike reinventions of Parry’s bedroom and dressing room; another is a close reproduction of Brook’s kitchen, furnished with her possessions. (She shipped her kitchen table to Venice for the production.) Actors appear in multiple rooms, and private mementos, including family albums and Brook’s diaries, are on display throughout, as well as Brook’s images of shadows, transferred on oversize Japanese-style scrolls.“I somehow realized how invisible and shadowed I felt for all my life,” Brook said recently in an interview. “I’m only just emerging from my cocoon, belatedly.”Brook followed in her parents’ footsteps from a young age — “blindly,” she said — first by taking up acting, then moving to directing. Her first production, a 1996 staging of Richard Kalinoski’s “Beast on the Moon,” was an instant hit, and led to a steady, decades-long stream of gigs on prestigious European stages. Then, three years ago, she had an epiphany: Theater was “the wrong business” for her all along, she said.A lot has changed in her life since then. Brook left the Théâtre National de Nice, a major playhouse in southern France that she had led since 2014. She rented a house near the south coast of England, with panoramic countryside views. And she plotted “House of Us” — a “permanent moving work in progress” that would be so “insanely personal,” she said recently, while sitting at her kitchen table before it was packed off to Venice, “that it becomes insanely universal.”“House of Us” features video projections, as well as scenes performed by live actors.Suzie Howell for The New York TimesThe audience in Venice will be free to roam between the Casa dei Tre Oci’s rooms.Suzie Howell for The New York TimesThe installation includes private mementos like family albums and diaries, and Brook’s images of shadows on scrolls.Suzie Howell for The New York TimesThe Venice version will be the third iteration of “House of Us,” which was shown in Palermo, Sicily, in 2021, and briefly in Britain this past summer. Each has featured different performers: In Venice, 11 actors, including 10 local drama students, will perform the roles of Brook’s family members as well as characters from several plays by Chekhov, whose “Cherry Orchard” Brook and Parry once performed together.“House of Us” is a rebuttal of the type of shows Brook made for decades: “narrative, normal theater,” as she called it, including stagings of classic plays by Ibsen and Shakespeare (who was, incidentally, the playwright most identified symbolically with her father). “After I became a director,” Brook recalled, “I thought: ‘I’m not going to try and do anything new or different, because my dad’s already invented all that. What’s even the point?’”Brook, who grew up between France and Britain, performed in some of Peter Brook’s productions, but she didn’t see much of her father as a child. “As a man and as a director of his time, he was single-mindedly working, and children were not part of that equation,” she said. “We were totally invited to come and sit on a Wednesday afternoon now and then, but we’d get into trouble if we got fidgety, or fell asleep.”Her mother was often gone, too. “I adored her, but I just never saw enough of her, for all my life,” Brook said. “All she wanted to do was to act.” Still, Parry struggled at times to get work, because she also lived under her famous husband’s shadow. “I even wrote a letter to her agent as a little girl, saying: ‘Why don’t you get my mummy more work? She’s the best and the most beautiful,’” Brook said.A rehearsal for “House of Us” in Venice.Serena PeaAfter leaving boarding school in England, and after a stint in New York City in the early 1980s, an undeterred Brook experienced a taste of her mother’s suffering as an out-of-work performer. She knew she was “not really very good,” and “not really meant to be an actress at all,” she said, but she stuck with theater.“I just had no concept that anything else could possibly exist,” Brook said. “I wish that someone, when I was 19 or 20, had said to me, ‘Go to art school, go to film school.’”Instead, starting in the mid-1990s, directing became an outlet for Brook’s childhood longing for family. “I just always wanted a big table with lots of people sitting at the kitchen table enjoying themselves,” she said. “My directorship was very maternal.”Brook has also directed her own daughter, the actress and musician Maia Jemmett, 20, in several productions, including “Romeo and Juliet” and the British version of “House of Us.” Her mother’s “main focus is on making the actors shine,” Jemmett said. In addition to performing leading roles in Brook’s productions as a teenager, Jemmett also appeared in Peter Brook’s “Shakespeare Resonance” in 2020. She described her mother’s directing style and her grandfather’s as “unbelievably different.” While “there wasn’t much laughter” in Peter Brook’s rehearsals, she said, “with my mom’s rehearsals, it’s like being a child again, playing and having fun.”Yet Brook said those rehearsals didn’t bring her quite as much joy. In the years after her mother’s sudden death from a stroke in 2015, she began feeling increasingly unhappy in the director’s role, she said. “It’s like when you hold a party,” she added. “What host ever has fun?”During a difficult run of Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt” in 2018, she reached a breaking point. “I went to see the show one night, and I just thought: ‘My god, they’re not my real family. Maybe they are just lovely actors,’” she said. “I think at one point I could not stand the fact that theater is so ephemeral.”“I somehow realized how invisible and shadowed I felt for all my life,” Brook said recently.Suzie Howell for The New York TimesBy then, she also knew she was unsuited to directing a “big, heavy” French playhouse like the Théâtre National de Nice, Brook said. “I went in like a revolutionary, innocent fool,” she said. She enlisted teenagers from local schools to revisit Shakespeare plays and in 2015, staged a festival focused on climate change. But there was little willingness to put in effect the structural changes she wanted, she said.Brook left Nice in 2019, without finishing her second term as the theater’s artistic director, and threw herself into collecting material for “House of Us.” The show’s first two outings, and the Venice run, are only the first part of the work; Brook calls this section “The Mother.” She plans two additional installments: “The Son,” which will focus on the loneliness of young people today, and “The Daughter,” inspired by Brook’s childhood in the French countryside.What about “The Father”?“That’s the million-dollar question,” Brook said, with a wry smile. Peter Brook was supportive of “House of Us” until his death in July, she said, but when asked if she felt a responsibility for his theatrical legacy now, Brook answered: “He was a light person, and he wouldn’t want that weight to go on now. His favorite saying was: ‘Hold on tightly; let go lightly.’”It took confronting some shadows for Brook to let go, but with “House of Us,” she is reclaiming her sense of self. “I feel like sort of a young artist,” she said. “Starting my life at last.”House of Us: Part 1 — The MotherNov. 29 through Dec. 11 at Casa dei Tre Oci in Venice, produced by Teatro Stabile del Veneto; teatrostabileveneto.it. More