Preview: Cambridge International Theatre Festival

Alex Sorgo 1 February 2018

In a bold new initiative, the French, Italian Theatre and Spanish Theatre societies are hosting the inaugural Cambridge International Theatre Festival which will run from February 6 through to March 7. The festival will showcase three productions, one French: Rêver, Peut-Être (February 6-10, Corpus Playroom), one Italian: Morte Accidentale di Un Anarchico (February 15- 17, Robinson College Auditorium) and one Spanish: Historia de una Escalera (March 6-7, Fitzpatrick Hall, Queen’s College).

Though the plays will be performed in their original languages, the directors and producers have developed strategies to involve all audiences as the director of Morte Accidentale di Un Anarchico, Victor Rees, tells me: ‘We have tried to balance faithfulness to the original text with accessibility for all audience members regardless of linguistic background’. Harriet Phillips, who is involved in all three plays, explains: ‘We will have English supertitles for Morte Accidentale di Un Anarchico, but it is in the commedia dell’arte style which is highly physical. There will also be projections, making for a visually engaging performance’. The team behind Rêver, Peut-Être will take a different approach handing out leaflets explaining the production scene by scene before the show while the directors of Historia de una Escalera, Romy Welch and Aimée Ayaka, tell me: ‘We think that its emotive and exciting nature will make it more accessible to even non-Spanish speakers, and we’re also going to include a run-through of each scene in the programme, so the audience can enjoy it without having to worry about their rusty GCSE Spanish.

There is a good variety to choose from. Rêver, Peut-Être follows the absurd dreams of an actor preparing for the role of Hamlet (for more, see the TCS Preview in this edition) while Morte Accidentale di Un Anarchico is a dark comedy that follows the aftermath of the death of an anarchist who fell (or was he pushed?) from a window.

‘I chose Accidental Death because it’s one of the most internationally acclaimed Italian plays (for good reason!)’, Rees explains, ‘and so I felt there wouldn’t be as much of an obstacle in terms of name recognition – it’s also brilliantly funny whilst dealing with searing political commentary regarding corruption and the abuse of power that still feels very pertinent.’

Ayaka and Welch, both MML Spanish/ Arabic students, are excited to be directing a particularly important piece of Spanish theatre, Historia de una Escalera. ‘The play focuses on the stories of four families living in a run-down Madrid apartment block, and how the unfolding failure of their aspirations chart the hardships and frustrations of post-civil war Spanish society’ they tell me. ‘Buero Vallejo’s prize-winning play takes us through the whole range of the emotional spectrum and we hope this lively immediacy will mean the audience has as much fun watching as we’ve been having in rehearsals. We’re so excited that our play has gone from an old script Aimée picked up in a second-hand book store to being a part of a festival of drama celebrating art from multiple cultures.’

That plays in a foreign modern language is such a rarity for the Cambridge stage is a particular shame especially when you consider the popularity of the Greek Play which is performed in Ancient Greek and put on every two years. Sophie-Marie Niang, producer of Rêver, Peut-Être, hopes that the festival starts a tradition of yearly (or more often) modern language theatre productions. She also hopes to have provided a stage for those who are unable to get into theatre because of a language or accent barrier. In the future, the team hope to incorporate more and more languages. Phillips agrees: ‘This is really just the beginning – we hope that it will grow year on year, incorporating theatre from all over the world! I’d love to put on a Russian play’. Welch believes this year is a promising start: ‘I think the enthusiasm and support we’ve been shown so far shows there’s a real interest in international drama in Cambridge, and not just amongst MML students.’

For more information, find the Cambridge International Theatre Festival on facebook.