Frontier Productions is a recently founded theatre company with a unique mission statement. It aims to open doors for actors in their sixties and seventies, and provide creative theatre roles and opportunities befitting the later stages in their careers. The Lovers of Viorne by Marguerite Duras is certainly a creative text to choose in order to fulfil this intention, as its cryptic plot and contrasting roles provide a necessary challenge for the actors staging the play.
Charlotte Cornwell confronts the role of Claire, a psychotic murderess who is interviewed about her repulsive and criminal activities. Martin Turner portrays Pierre, Claire’s husband, who is bemused by his wife’s actions and regrets the time he spent with his once “one true love”. Turner is particularly impressive as he performs with an air of nonchalant acceptance of Claire’s abhorrent murder of her cousin. He simultaneously portrays disgust for his wife and also a sense of resigned regret for how he wasted his life with a woman for whom his love faded. In contrast, Kevin Trainor’s interpretation of the Interrogator is comparable to a Jack Russell, relentlessly snapping away at his interviewees, determined to glean the optimum amount of information from Claire and Pierre. Whilst his ardent interest in his subjects is believable, the clarity of his character’s disposition is sometimes questionable, as he adopts a muddled accent and exhibits some animated, over-dramatic expressions.
The Theatre Room is an unlikely venue. Prior to the show, I was led up a staircase into a small room lined with plastic chairs forming a makeshift auditorium. I was intrigued as to how Frontier Theatre Productions’s current production of The Lovers of Viorne would cope in such a restricted space. Fortunately, the interview nature of the Marguerite Duras play requires little movement. Whilst the static nature of the performance is fortuitous considering the spatial limitations, the lack of movement is also the play’s downfall. Although the characters all deliver Duras’s pre-prescribed lines with commitment and dynamism, it is difficult for the audience to maintain interest when for the majority of the play the characters are stationary on chairs, denying spectators visual variety.
The Lovers of Viorne is Duras’s most celebrated play; however, it has certainly proved a challenging text for both Frontier Theatre Productions, and also the audience trying to comprehend it. Its interview structure presents directorial problems in terms of creative use of space; the actors are required to embody challenging roles; and spectators struggle to make sense of Duras’s puzzling narrative and the ambiguous deeper meaning. However, one cannot deny that Frontier’s latest play demonstrates how providing stimulating projects for elder actors can create intriguing and unusual theatre.
The Lovers of Viorne is playing at the Theatre Room, 6 Frederick’s Place until 21 May. For more information see the Frontier Theatre Productions website. Photo: Oscar Blustin