was going to be a very good year: Cyrano de Bergerac, the acclaimed film by Jamie Lloyd’s James McAvoy, was about to go to New York; his production of “The Seagull” with Emilia Clarke premiered; and he had Jessica Chastain lined up for his next play. Then the lock hit, and it all went out the window. Two years later, ‘Cyrano’ and its star are back in London and ‘The Seagull’ is ready to fly again.
We were expecting ‘The Seagull’ to come back but it was a nice surprise to see ‘Cyrano’ again…
“It felt good to bring everyone together. We were asked to bring it to BAM [in New York]but we also wanted to be part of reopening the West End, bringing it back as a party – and creating jobs! »
It is a rather distant ‘Cyrano’.
“You could actually do a very traditional production of Martin Crimp’s text. But it was a conscious decision to cast people who were into rap or spoken word. They make it their own, which is why the language often sounds like rap or slam poetry.
Did you have any doubts about eliminating Cyrano’s big nose?
“There are great lessons in these classic plays: the great spiritual and philosophical questions of our history. Then with “The Seagull”, everyone always says to themselves: do you have a samovar? And it’s so funny: it’s not the subject of the play. With that, it’s just not about having a nose on stage.
James McAvoy is your usual main character – what’s so special about him?
“I just think he’s a great artist. He takes such bold risks, he goes to the real depths of human emotions, but he has this touch of levity. But to be honest, the bottom line is that it’s a very good guy: look at the pandemic, all the money he’s given to the NHS, and that’s just what he does publicly, he’s constantly looking out for others and wants everyone to have a good time and ‘he’s being cared for, and I think maybe it’s because of some of the challenges he’s faced in his own life. Ultimately what you see on stage is a big heart. I absolutely love her.
What was it like when ‘The Seagull’ had to close?
“I actually wasn’t there that day because I had what I assume was Covid. When Broadway was closed, I thought: I’m not sure it’s a cool thing for us to do, to ask people to sit in a packed room. So when the decision was made, it was a bit of a relief. But we all thought it would only be a few months, right? »
Is there a sense of unfinished business in “The Seagull” company?
‘Yes of course. But WhatsApp is amazing, right? It’s a way of keeping a small community together. I don’t know if the lineup will literally allow everyone to come back, but everyone is in. It’s been two and a half years, and we’ve only done a few performances: it’s totally unfinished. We are all different people now.
Will “A Doll’s House” with Jessica Chastain still take place?
“We were sending an e-mail the other day! She is more passionate than ever about it. It’s just a matter of finding the dates because she’s obviously very busy. Maybe this year, maybe next year, but it will happen for sure”.
You have directed several Steven Sondheim musicals: what memories do you have of him?
‘Like you do when someone dies, you look at correspondence, emails and of course their letters have become such a famous thing – everyone has a letter from Sondheim! You look at the level of support and the fact that he came to see it all, it was amazing. And some very funny comments, and so specific and grateful, it’s pretty amazing. He was a huge huge loss.
And Antony Sher also passed away recently – he was amazing in your production of Pinter’s “One for the Road”, which was largely his penultimate stage role…
“I was very emotional because he said it was one of the things he was most proud of in his whole career, he had never done Pinter before.” It was an outstanding performance, wasn’t it? And a bit unexpected. To be honest, he almost came with that performance all done on day one. The preparation was crazy. And he would come before every rehearsal and performance and lead the whole thing. And on a day off, he was running the lines with my assistant. He was really hungry for feedback and he put everything you suggested into it, it was pretty amazing and he was such a nice man.
‘And of course we lost our friend [actor] Seun Shote, we dedicate both productions to him. He was an essential part of the creation of “Cyrano”, it’s still very moving today, when you hear a line he said. There is a hole in the center of this production that is really hard to fill. It’s been a sad year!
‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ is at the Harold Pinter Theater. Until March 12. To buy tickets here.
‘The Seagull’ is at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Jun 29-Sep 10 Buy tickets here.
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