Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The Return of Dramaturgy: Ellie Stewart on tour

Eden Court Theatre presents
The Return by Ellie Stewart
Scottish tour 15 Feb to 10 March
# TheReturn
Eden Court Theatre brings the mysterious true story of missing man Martin Guerre to life in Scottish Tour of The Return

·      The Return is written by rising-star of Scottish playwriting Ellie Stewart (Strictly -Traverse Theatre, Mischief - Play, Pie & Pint)
·      Produced by the creative team behind the hugely successful Eden Court production Not About Heroes
·      Directed by Philip Howard, former artistic director of Dundee Rep and the Traverse Theatre
·      Cast is Emilie Patry and Thoren Ferguson, and Greg Sinclair playing his cello score live.
·      Based on the mysterious true story of Martin Guerre written from the perspective of his wife.
·      Eden Court creates quality theatre in the highlands and champions the production of small scale quality touring throughout Scotland.

Eden Court Theatre’s new production, The Return, inspired by an old and still mysterious story embarks on a national tour in February and March 2018.
The true story of Martin Guerre is an intriguing one. One day in 1549, in the small village of Artigat in the foothills of the French Pyrenees, a young peasant man named Martin disappeared, leaving behind a wife, young son, and relatively well-off family. Things had not been going well for Martin in the days before his disappearance. He had a troubled relationship with his family, with his own father accusing him of stealing and selling family grain, but no one expected him to suddenly vanish.
What was the inspiration for this performance?
The play is inspired by a true story from 16th Century France.  A man leaves his family and village without word or trace, then appears to return seven years later.  At first he’s accepted but then questions are raised about his identity.  When I first saw the 1982 film Le Retour de Martin Guerre I was intrigued by the story.  I also thought ... ‘well Bertrande doesn’t get a lot to say.’

Then the story resurfaced for me more than twenty years later, when I returned to the Pyrenees.  Overwhelmed by sensory memories, and feeling both changed and unchanged, I was inspired to explore the story further, and I put Bertrande (the wife) at the heart of the exploration.
I think our telling of the story explores the nature of identity and the nature of truth, as well as human relationships.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Yes!  Real bodies and voices in a shared space can cut through spin and prejudice. I think it’s even more important now that a lot of our lives and communications are conducted ‘virtually’.

How did you become interested in making performance?

Maybe we all like making performance as children.  Rituals, dance, poetry ... all of these were important to me growing up.  And I like making things for other people, but I’m not really that good at crafts or building or cooking.  When I write a play script I feel like I’m offering a gift.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

If there’s a guiding light that I try to follow in my writing it’s to leave space for the audience.  The Director, Philip Howard, seems to have a similar approach in rehearsal when working with the performers.  He opens up possibilities, a palette of options, for the actors to choose from. I think there’s a strong synergy in this production.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

A sense of place is important to me. Also, I’m often told there’s a sparse (or economic) use of spoken language in my work.

What’s new for me, and exciting, is that The Return is touring to fifteen venues across Scotland, from village halls to large theatres. And it’s a full scale Eden Court production. We have a very strong creative team and the writing is just one thread in the production

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Vibrant storytelling, a sense of being transported to another place, beautiful performances and new angles on important questions.  A good night out.

Seven years later, Martin’s wife Bertrande is still in Artigat tending to her livestock and mothering her young, fatherless son. One day, out of the blue, a strangely familiar man walks into her life, full of mystery. Bertrande decides to present the man to the community as her long-lost spouse – returned. But is it really Martin?
Inspired by the true story of Martin Guerre, Ellie Stewart’s new play The Return is a gripping play about the mystery of identity and the survival instinct, and asks whether we can ever truly know even those we love the best.
Commissioned and premiered by Eden Court, The Return, is produced by the same creative team behind Eden Court’s Not About Heroes in 2015. Philip Howard, former artistic director of Dundee Rep & the Traverse Theatre, once again directs, joined by designer Kenneth MacLeod, who has worked with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Dundee Rep and Vox Motus amongst many others.
Playwright Ellie Stewart is a rising star of Scottish playwriting. Speaking of why she wrote the play, Ellie said:
I’ve been intrigued by the story of Martin Guerre since I first heard it about twenty-five years ago… It’s been told in different ways over the years, and I’ve always been interested in the pivotal role of his wife Bertrande. The story resurfaced for me recently when I returned to the Pyrenees and was bombarded with sensory memories.  My starting point for the writing was to explore the story from Bertrande’s point of view.
As I was writing I was thinking about people who are seeking refuge in our times, and about the challenges of relationships and parenting. And of course, it’s a love story.  Some things are timeless. Perhaps human instincts, emotions and behaviours haven’t changed that much over the years.”

The cast brings together Emilie Patry (Bertrande), Thoren Ferguson (Arnaud) and cellist Greg Sinclair on stage. 

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