Gesher Theatre, Tel Aviv, Israel
premiere 9 August 2012
Director and musical
150 min., with intermission
Asaff Rott, Nadav Rubinstein
Sasha Demidov, Neta Spiegelmann, Micky Leon, Gillad Kleter, Henry David, Barr Sade, Iritt Dekel, Karin Seruya, Alon Friedmann, Ruth Rasyuk, Shir Shenar, Orie Yaniv, Paolo E. Moura, Tal Kalay
In this role Kynaston had such a thunderous, lion's grandeur, that his speech kept the audience in a tremulous delight.
~ Colley Cibber, on one of his his male roles
The charming romantic comedy of the renowned American playwright Jeffrey Hatcher is based on a true story about the life of an English actor who used to shine on theatre stages in 17th century. He was devilishly talented, unbelievably beautiful and magically charming.
Every evening Edward Kynaston - one of the last "boy performers" on English stage, would dress-up in women's clothes, put on some make up and enter the stage as a woman. It was forbidden for women to appear onstage before the Restoration period. Kynaston was so good in female roles that he inevitably managed to call for audience's compassion and empathy. Theatre critics often raised suspicion that there could possibly be an actress who would touch the viewers' hearts so deeply as he did. Kynaston's world falls to pieces when the King issues an order allowing women to go on stage. With the time the actor made attempts to perform male roles. Due to his impeccable stage manners, perfect gesture management and skillful costume change he made two wonderful appearances in Dryden's "Aureng-Zebe" and "Don Sebastian" - characters in a constant on and off craze with uncontrollable passion, or by the words of the plаywright himself: "too fierce an actor to be chained in rhymes".
At the time of personal crisis for Kynaston, the star of the wardrobe master Margaret rises and she becomes a preferred performer on the royal theatre stage. Those historical archives inspire the author to ponder on vicissitudes of destiny, masculinity and femininity, masks and real faces, the cruel reality and the world of illusion, and about the inescapable desire to perform in life and live on stage. Hollywood's production "Stage Beauty" is based on this witty and elegant play.
I stumbled upon Samuel Pepys' diary by chance in a bookinist shop. There I saw the name of Ed Kynaston. Pepys referred to him as "the most beautiful woman in the whole theatre company" and he's mentioned in the book three or four times. In the beginning as an incredibly handsome boy performing female roles, but later Pepys notes that his voice did not sound very well (obviously having in mind that he had problems with the vocal cords). That's why, he says, Kynaston was beaten in the park by group of thugs hired by the local aristocrat and unsuccessful playwright, Sir Charles Sedley. Further in the diaries, after the permission for women to perform on stage, Kynaston is again mentioned as a very beautiful actor. From various historical sources I came to know that Kynaston attended а theatre school run by a former actor during theatre ban by the Puritans when noone was allowed to set foot on stage. However this profession continued to be practiced in cellars and basements as the theatre workers knew that this ban would not last long, so they continued training actors for the days when the doors to the stage will be unlocked. Kynaston was one of those actors. There are rumors that he was a lover of the Duke of Buckingham, while Charles Sedley had an affair with Margaret Hughes at the same time. Hughes was the first professional female actress in England, appearing in "Othello". The last thing I learned about Kynaston is that, eventually, he married and had children. And here we have this character - an actor famous for his female roles, with several homosexual relations (the favoured slut of many aristocrats), who was beaten by the lover of the first actress in England - all of this implies a certain conflict, the rivalry between them. And I thought - someone should write a play about this and if Stoppard still hasn't, then I should hurry up!
~ Jeffrey Hatcher
Women and English stage
The road of the first English actresses was not an easy one - the audience was hardly accepting this uncommon European fashion. It all began in 1629 when the young Queen Henrietta Maria invited a French company including some professional actresses. The show at the Blackfriars theatre was a disaster - the poor actresses were booed and chased away from the stage by the audience, throwing apples at them. Thomas Brandt even wrote a letter to the Bishop of London, saying "what if those actresses never attempt to go onstage again!". Three years later, in 1632, in Brome's "The Court Beggar" we would find the line of a leading female character, of course perfomed by a young boy, saying "The boy's a pretty actor, and his mother can play her part: women-actors now grow in request." But what is the address of such a message? The conservative mores of the audience and their innate
Find a programme for the production in Russian here:
snobbery could not vanish in a blink of an eye. In 1633 Prynne brought out his Histrio-Mastix, in which he stigmatized all "woman-actors" as "monsters," and applied to their performances such adjectives as "impudent," "shameful," and "unwomanish.".
On December 8, 1660, Killigrew gave, at the theatre in Vere Street, a representation of Othello, in which the role of Desdemona was performed by a woman. The occasion was signalized by a prologue from the pen of Thomas Jordan, in which attention was drawn to the special attraction:
"I come, uknown to any of the rest.
To tell the news; I saw the lady drest-
The woman plays to-day; mistake me not,
No man in gown or page in petticoat."
"Primadonna" leads the viewer to the backstage of theatre with all its magic and monstrosity. Thanks to the first class actors this journey turns into a real delight. An exceptional production by Alexander Morfov - a deep impression, overcoming the "forth wall" and inviting the audience to participate in the course of the performance. An evening that calls for some serious thinking about world's fame and changing fashions whose merciless foots run over all those left behind."
"England is an unmatched theatre empire. In itself, "Gesher" theatre, is also an empire, be it a smaller one. The citizens of this empire are leading gladiator fights and the highest in rang - Israel (Sasha) Demidov, enters a new combat with each new role. He is excellent in every detail of his performing. Like only he can be. And for such moments and for such roles I say - thank you! The advantages of the production - reached under the guidance of the translator Roy Hen, obviously enjoying his work, and the passionate director Alexander Morfov, grow into a violent hedonistic orgy of play, albeit at moments purposely exaggerated. This we also find in the rampant costumes by Mihail Kramenko and in the set by Nikola Toromanov."
"Primadonna" - a bright production: spectacular stage adaptation, virtuoso directing. A huge amount of beautiful and diverse costumes, rich set... All of this can easily address any international stage. Original set design: the set is layered into more than one levels which permits creating a rich mise-en-scene. The way the director uses those endless space opportunities keeps impressing and enjoying the audience up until the end of the show. The plot lightly moves from cabaret to opera, from circus to vaudeville, from 17th to 20th century, without losing its modernity, not even for a single moment. This is a spectacle in the full sense of this word. It doesn't have a single dead point - none of those that could kill even the perfect show."
"At the "Gesher" theatre it doesn't matter what the production is about - it is always a holiday. For Morfov and for "Gesher" this is history - an occasion to celebrate the grand fact for itself - the being of "Gesher" theatre, of "Theatre" as a whole... In this case - not by accident - the staged play comments the same problems, that is, theatre and love for theatre. The uniqueness of the production is Sasha Demidov. He is an epitome of "Gesher". In the end of the evening the actor, whom Demidov embodies, steps down from stage after his failure and that is why it is important to remind - our present Kynaston was good in all of his roles, as a woman or as a man. And Demidov is also good - like always, like he proved once again tonight. A spectacular production - a complete triumph of theatre that holds your attention during every second of the two-and-a-half-hour show."