Candide Director Lyndsey Turner explains why the play will make 'an extraordinary night at the theatre'.
How has it been working with Mark Ravenhill?
I've admired Mark's work for years and was really excited by his appointment as the RSC's Writer in Residence.
His version of Galileo was a something of a revelation to me, and his response to Candide is equally thrilling. He's a fantastic collaborator: a real visionary with an innate sense of theatre and stagecraft.
Mark has used Voltaire's book as a jumping off point for a piece which both honours the spirit of the original story and imagines how Candide might fare in the modern world. It's a play about ideas, but it's been written with a healthy dose of spectacle: sword fights, dances, songs and great parts for actors.
How would you describe the play?
A philosophical adventure story which collides Voltaire's book with a series of alternate realities. Whereas the novel transports its hero from country to country, Mark's play collides different time periods together, speeding us from the 18th century to the future over the course of five scenes.
The play is structured around two parallel narratives: one tells the story of Candide's attempts to reunite with his love Cunegonde; the other follows a woman who experiences a hugely traumatic event as she attempts to find a way back to happiness.
The playfulness of the writing and the audacity of the play's conception are going to make for an extraordinary night at the theatre.
The play takes place over numerous periods of time – how do you stage this?
Soutra Gilmour's design for the play responds to the challenge of the structure by engaging with each scene on its own terms.
We've drawn lots of references from contemporary art in an attempt to bring each of these realities to life: we've commissioned infographics from the RSC in-house team as well as a brilliant Canadian illustrator to make new work for the show.
Each scene has its own aesthetic, musical style and acting style: the challenge has been in keeping the paint colours separate and allowing each new reality to be itself.
What training are the actors doing during the rehearsal process?
There is an intricate musical underscore in one of the scenes which pays homage to an acting style of a different era, so the actors have been working closely with the composer to find a musical structure for that scene. These rehearsals have had more in common with the way opera singers work than a traditional new writing rehearsal room, but the company have really risen to the challenge.
We were also visited by the philosopher AC Grayling, who not only gave us an insight into the ideas Voltaire is playing with in Candide, but also gave us a vocabulary with which to talk about the play.
Photo: The cast of Candide in rehearsal, by Manuel Harlan.