_ Courtenay In
Mark Fisher talks to Tom Courtenay about his leading role in The Miser.
If there‘s one line that sums up Moliere’s classic farce. The Miser. it‘s the one that runs ‘my money. my poor money. my poor dear money. my dear dear money. my beloved money'. Under the control of a skilled comic actor like Tom Courtenay. every one of those phrases can get a laugh. Not bad for a comedy written for a French audience over three hundred years ago. ‘All ofhis jokes about money go down well today.’ says Courtenay before going on stage to a polite. but appreciative audience in Bath. ‘1 think ofthat all his plays it is the most understandable today. because we do live in a very materialistic society. A friend of mine‘said they're not laughing at someone else. they‘re laughing at themselves.‘ Courtenay. who first came to national prominence as part of the early ()(ls British New
Wave in films such as The Dresser. The Loneliness r
of the Long Distance Runner and Billy Liar.’ . plays Harpagon. the lead role in Manchester Royal Exchange‘s touring production of The Miser which updates the play to 1930s bourgeois France. Dressed in an outfit that has been described as a cross between Salvador Dali and Dr Who. Courtenay takes centre stage as the lusty father jealously guarding his horde oftwo million francs. with a performance as intense as it is exuberant. Now getting used to big. traditional proscenium arch theatres after the intimacy ofthe Royal Exchange. Courtenay modestly justifies the energy he invests in the performance. even ifit means he has to spend an hour and a half in bed
LISTINGS: THEATRE 46 id;
every afternoon. ‘I don't see how you could do it any other way.” he says. galantly nursing the beginnings ofa cold. ‘That's how it’s written.‘
Making use of the mime skills he developed while working in Czechoslovakia a few years ago. Courtenay keeps to the spirit of Moliere. who was an actor as well as a writer. employing plenty of physical stage business and athletic gags. What is surprising is just how little has had to be changed to keep the play funny: two French teachers
accused Courtenay of playing for laughs what they
‘Some of his business that was written all those many years ago gets the most tremendous laughs.’
thought should be a serious monologue. but the actor points out that the phrase ‘why are you laughing?‘ is in the original text and would be meaningless unless the audience was in uproar. ‘We‘ve had to work hard on some scenes more than others to make them work.‘ says Courtenay. ‘11 might be finding a bit ofbusiness at a certain moment when you feel a laugh is required. Do the other hand. some of his business that was written all those many years ago gets the most tremendous laughs. One of the biggest laughs is when I tell one of my servants that he's done me a service and that deserves a reward. and as I‘m saying
8 DANCE 49:—
Tom Courtenay: physical stage business and athletic gags
and-(hai-deseri'es-a-reward. I’m reaching in my pocket and I pull out a handkerchief. And that’s in the original.’
The influence of commedia dell 'arie is strong in Moliere‘s work and again Courtenay keeps with him a sense ofspontaneity. aware at all times of the audience‘s presence. ‘There‘s a sense of not being entirely sure how one‘s going to do it.‘ he says. ‘A lot depends on the reaction ofthe audience. We had a huge audience in Newcastle on Saturday night — 1200 people — who were
' extremely responsive and I was able to do a couple
i ofthings that really I haven't felt able to do this
week in Bath because ofthis slightly more genteel reaction. I‘m not saying they‘re not enjoying it here. but they‘re not as vociferous. It‘s never quite the same every time and sometimes it seems to rise more than others.‘
Newly translated by Robert (‘ogo-Fawcett and director Braham Murray. The Miser tries to hit the balance between being fresh for a modern audience and faithful to Moliere. ‘The rhythm is very important.‘ says Courtenay who. because of the working relationship. has been able to contribute to the translation too. ‘lfit's a short line in the French. it should be in the English. The trouble with most translations is they‘re done by people who don‘t work in the theatre. We're fortunate in that our translators do.‘
The Miser. King's Theatre. Edinburgh. Mon 1 7—Sat 22 Feb.
imma- Zulu cause I
know it today, was born.
‘Siye Goli' (Return to Johannesburg), Adzido’s newest show, is the result of research that Dzikunu carried out in
the dances,‘ Dzikunu explains. ‘They brought samples of costumes with them as we always like to get costumes and drums from the original source.
Adzido, Pan African Dance Ensemble, are a rare example of a Manpower Services Commission training scheme that is still in existence. In 1984 George Dzikunu, now the company’s Artistic Director, started to train unemployed adults in the traditional African arts of dance and drumming. So successful was he that in 1986 his first full-length show ‘Under African Skies’ attracted an Arts Council grant and Adzido, as we
Africa in 1990. He looked especially at the migration, in the 19803, of people away from South Africa to other countries such as Ghana and Malawi, and the consequent merging of different dance styles. Dzikunu noted the Zulu influences in contemporary Zimbabwean dance and music, for example, and uses these and a wide range of other traditional dances, to describe two centuries of South African history.
The show has been written by Nigerian poet and writer 0dia Ofeimun and directed by Stephen Unwin. ‘We invited master artists and musicians from Africa to come to Britain and teach
The aim of the company is to present African dance, not as exotic, or something that is looked down upon, but respected and given the chance to be performed in big theatres like Sadlers Wells alongside any other national dance company- an artistic form in its own right.‘ (Tamsin Grainger)
Siye Goli, Tramway, Glasgow, Wed 26—Fri 28 Feb.
0N FOLLOWING PAGES: FIFTH ESTATE O CITZ TRIPLE O BADENHEIM 1939
42 The List 14 — 27 February.1992