Watermill - The Triumph of Love
9th April to 17th May 2003
This was from The Times.
The plot. Well, Leonide, a reigning princess, wishes to restore the
throne to the rightful heir, Agis, with whom she has fallen instantly in
love and who lives in seclusion with a philosopher and his unmarried
sister. A pert valet and a comical gardener attend them.
This was from the Newbury Weekly News.
Oh what tangled webs
The Triumph of Love, at The Watermill, Bagnor, until Saturday, May 17
It's funny how things pan out. On Friday, I listened to conductor Sir Roger Norrington, who devoted a large part of his career to exploring authenticity in early and late baroque music and who is involved with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
The Enlightenment was an age of change in European thinking which was still in my mind at the Watermill the following day for The Triumph of Love, Martin Crimp's new translation of Marivaux's Le Triomphe de l'Amour, which is a play steeped in the ideals of the period.
Indeed, the Parisian lawyer-turned playwright, born in 1688, would have drawn his material from debates with the leading Enlightenment philosophers like Voltaire and Rousseau.
This production was simple in its complexity, opening on the hedge-flanked Watermill lawn with a turf bridge signifying the entrance to philosopher Hermocrate's private garden. Enter, disguised as young men in fine white silks, Leonide, Princess of Sparta and her servant.
Their lengthy dialogue outlined the plot to breach the household and right an injustice to the reclusive prince, Agis.
It was to be engineered through deceiving the entire household with friendship and the promise of love. Oh what tangled webs we weave! Havoc is wreaked and all goes pear-shaped, but true love, of course, triumphs.
The scene set, we entered the auditorium which became the philosopher's garden, an intimate place, enclosed by mottled green walls representing those same tall hedges.
It was a place of trysts, where we were party to snatched meetings, unfinished conversations and declarations of love as Leonide manoeuvred her way towards the final enlightenment.
Marivaux's skill as an advocate wove through each of Leonide's encounters' throwing up philosophical and moral dilemmas and up above hung a myriad of light bulbs which, in time, fully illuminated, the significance of which was not lost.
It took a while to get into this production, but with fine performances by the more experienced actors underpinning those of the younger protagonists, together with some delicious comic moments, somewhere before the interval at 90 minutes I began to see the light.
This was from the Guardian.
This was from the Sunday Times.
Aimez-vous Marivaux? After a cool and intelligent production such as this one, by Jonathan Munby, you wonder. Princess Léonide (Anna Hewson) has inherited Sparta from her usurping parents. The rightful prince, Agis (Gary Shelford), is being brought up by an elderly, autocratic philosopher, Hermocrate (Paul Webster), and his elderly, stern sister, Léontine (Dinah Stabb), who plan to effect a regime change in Sparta and put their protégé on the throne. Léonide, disguised as a man, arrives with her servant, Corine (Megan Whelan), to win the confidence of the philosopher and his sister, liberate Agis and restore him to the throne. This, Léonide says, is her moral duty. She wins the servants over with lavish bribes, makes the iron virgin, Léontine, fall in love with her, and the prickly old philosopher, too, by revealing that shes a woman. This poor, desiccated couple are made to suffer the agonies of unrequitable love simply to get them out of the way. By this time, Agis, too, is in love with Léonide, and, she claims, she with him. This is the real theatre of cruelty, especially when you realise that by making Agis love her, she could become queen of Sparta which, you are entitled to surmise, inspired her project.
Marivaux manipulates his characters with the same cool and cruel brilliance with which Léonide manipulates everybody else. Neither has considered the plight of the lovesick oldies. The actors work with wit, elegance, polish and steely discipline: they know that in this ruthless game of love and chance, they must not take sides. Paradoxically, its the oldies who become the emotional centre of the play. They are the ones who feel and suffer; and Marivaux makes you wonder whether, having manipulated Agis, they deserve to be manipulated like this. Or does he? How, poor Léontine demands, can a moral end justify immoral means? True; but behind this piece of political correctness, you sense Marivauxs relish. An impeccable entertainment: witty, stylish, sophisticated and cold as ice.