La Locandiera | Il Baccaro
Interview by: Caomhan Keane
Classic comedy, live music and fine dining - La Locandiera transforms restaurants into eighteenth century Florentine Inns. The seductive innkeeper Mirandolina has every man at her feet. They cover her in diamonds and cower about her like puppy dogs. Until 'the declared enemy of Italian women' - the Ulster Gentleman checks in.
Piqued, Mirandolina vows to vindicate her ex by making him fall in love with her. Who will lose the fight? The misogynist Gent or the seductive Locandiera?
Director Alice Coughlan speaks to Caomhan Keane.
Tell me about La Locandiera? What made you want to stage the project?
I had this dream of combining an Italian restaurant experience with a great play, combining food with theatre. When I was studying in Italy this play was on my literature course and I suddenly thought it could work in this environment. I've been in dinner theatres before, where there is a stage and then there is the audience. But here the players are in the midst of the audience.
For those who don't know it, what is the basic story?
It's a battle of the sexes. Essentially you have Mirandolina, the most beautiful, desirable woman in the world, and four men fall in love with her. And then along comes the Ulster gentleman, played by Conolly Heron, the world's greatest misogynist. He decides to teach her a lesson and she decides to teach him a lesson and so they naturally come into conflict. The supporting cast are all the characters that are wildly in love with her.
What does La Locandiera have to say about the world today?
I think it has a lot to say about love and relationships. There have been extreme productions where Mirandolina has been played by a man to explore gender, but I think it remains very relevant because of its basic storyline of a woman who uses her sexuality to control men. Women are more empowered now but they still use their sexuality to give them power in a situation where they may not otherwise have it. And it's great to see the different reactions of an audience when they have alcohol in them. We have had a lot of instances of the audience breaking out into spontaneous jeering or cheering.
Tell me about Wonderland's production history with the project?
It began in the Port House in March 2009, a month long run followed by five national tours and a stint at the last Edinburgh Festival. We have performed it in Wicklow and Bray and we have been asked to do it as part of the 20-year anniversary of the Made in Temple Bar Festival. We are performing it in Il Baccaro, which is ironically the restaurant I most wanted to do it in, in the beginning.
How did you go about getting the piece on its feet, changing it from something that could be staged in the Proscenium arch to a site-specific piece?
It was straightforward because it is a play that is largely set in an Inn. We just had to change a few lines. In our imaginations the audience are like the men who can never leave. She flirts with them all the time. And the actors act as waiters.
What challenges does this type of show place on your actors and how do you get them to rise to it?
In the beginning it was very frightening to be so close to a member of the audience. We had to think about what the audience might do to us. We have had incidents where some rich guy from Cork gets a reaction from one Ad Lib and then he's gone for the night. He keeps wanting to make the people at his table laugh and not enjoy the show as much. And that can be difficult, if they get really, really drunk and they don't listen as much or if the show moves too much into the audience. So you sometimes have to give out to them... in character of course. We would rather have an audience that we are just about keeping control of though, because that adds to the fun. You have to plunge into that wave as an actor and just ride it. There is no division. You are in it.
Tell me about your forthcoming productions?
We are in the process or rehearsing a show called Sylvia's Quest, which we are presenting as a work in progress this summer. It's a very ambitious, different project. It's about a Bulgarian teenager in Dublin. She has had many worlds, not just the real world, and she takes the audience out into Temple Bar and shares these fantasy worlds with them. The audience wear headphones so they get all these sounds and characters as well as the extracts given in person. We are experimenting with that during the Made in Temple Bar Festival.
Wonderland Theatre are developing it through a number of work in progress showings for it to open in July 2012.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Tuesday 19th July 2011 | Theatre
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