23 March 2016 /
Caption: Sian Thomas and Katherine Kingsley by Manuel Harlan
The Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden is one of the worst kept secrets in London – in our opinion. With its intimate atmosphere and front row seats that bring you eye-to-eye with world-renowned actors, it is no wonder that tickets are some of the most coveted in theatreland.
Sandaire decided to become a corporate member, first and foremost to support the Donmar in bringing great UK theatre to the stage, but also to host some of the most exciting live performances around.
I recently had the pleasure of seeing the latest production to tread the boards. Welcome Home, Captain Fox! by Anthony Weigh resets Jean Anouilh’s classic Le Voyageur sans Bagage to post-war America in 1959. Directed by Blanche McIntyre, it tells the story of a soldier found wandering the railway tracks 15 years after going missing in action. This fascinating protagonist has no memory of his previous existence and falls into the care of a somewhat unusual couple looking to find his real family.
Reluctantly coming to terms with what may or may not have been his former life, the soldier is quickly confronted with a distasteful family desperate to claim him as their own and pressured to assume the title Captain Jack Fox. It is at this point that the internal struggle really begins – should this soldier accept this family despite their increasingly obvious flaws? Should he start from scratch and live his life a new way, taking the opportunities presented to him?
As part of a Director’s Forum supporters evening, Sandaire participated in a post-show discussion with members of the company. Three of the cast, Rory Keenan (Captain Fox), Barnaby Kay (George Fox) and Katherine Kingsley (Mrs Marcee Dupont-Dufort) took a moment to explain why they were attracted to the script, how they prepare for each performance and how much they were guided by Anouilh’s original play.
What drew you to the play?
Barnaby: Definitely the script and its witty element but also my character, which is quite dark. I liked the overall style, period and the lightness of it. You can see how quick and fast the dialogue is and I think that’s great.
Rory: For me it was the script and the setting because it’s actually like pop-up theatre. The stage reaches the audience easily, which is really useful, plus Blanche is a playful director.
Barnaby: The advantage of being [at the Donmar] is the fact that you can play certain amounts of comedy to small sections of the audience who will get it very clearly and it doesn’t necessarily matter if others don’t see or hear it. You can play that because the audience is so close and that’s a joy.
Rory: Blanche is also very collaborative and open. It’s great because as an actor you never want to be told where to stand or how to stand. What Blanche is great at is allowing our instincts to come first. She casts really well and she knows that she’s casting those instincts along with those actors.
Can you tell us anything about the original play? Did you look at that at all?
Barnaby: The play itself [Anouilh’s play] didn’t help us with this production. What has been wonderful is that his family have been to see the play and they loved it. We took his play and did something new or Anthony [Anthony Weigh, Writer] did.
How do you prepare?
Barnaby: Build trust – I think it’s important because this play is so quick. Your line might be finished by someone else, who is in turn saved by someone else. The size and intimacy of the company make building trust easy, as we get to see each other a lot before the show. Occasionally when you’re in long runs of plays you don’t actually see an actor until you go on stage.
Do you become more relaxed now the play’s past opening night?
Katherine: Yes I think so. The key is to keep playing and having fun with it, otherwise it becomes quite formulaic. But what I’ve also noticed now that I’m more relaxed is how special this space is. It’s very brightly lit, so the audience is on stage too.
Rory: The other thing about relaxing into a run is witnessing audience expectation. Sometimes people don’t know that it’s okay not to laugh at points in this play. Because the title has an exclamation mark at the end of it, they think ‘ooh I’m in for a great night at the theatre’ but then suddenly the audience comes in and there’s a guy in a chair and a guy in a white suit and he’s being interrogated and they think ‘what the hell is this?’ It is fun to see the audience realise that there are real and complex layers to this play.
Welcome Home, Captain Fox! Runs from 18th February to 16th April at the Donmar Theatre, 41 Earlham Street, Seven Dials, London WC2H 9LX. To book tickets visit donmarwarehouse.com and to find out more about Sandaire’s support of the arts contact us here.
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