The Lion in Winter by James Goldman
Blue Slipper Theatre, 2012
Directed and designed by Marc Beaudin
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Director’s Note from the Program:
“As above, so below” goes the Hermetic axiom.
In our play, this is expressed with the line “We are the world in small. A nation is a human thing: it does what we do, for our reasons.”
For me, this gets at the heart of what you will see tonight. On the surface, nation clashes with nation, king with queen, prince with prince; but that’s merely the surface. Deeper down, we find a family that has devolved from very auspicious beginnings to a Christmas that could not be more fraught with strife. We find people who, beneath the plotting and scheming, deceit and rage, are filled with love and the need to be loved. Unfortunately, like far too many modern families, the lines of communication have become, little by little, so twisted and tangled that any attempt to connect fails. Paradoxically, love that can’t be expressed, that must be buried and scorned, mutates into a grotesque: it becomes a severe kind of hate that only exists between people who love each other.
That’s the tragedy of this play. There are so many moments when the needed healing could come in; if only the characters could resist the game that hides their true feelings. Of course, it’s also within the playing of this game that great humor resides, without which the play, as with real life, would be unbearable.
So although this play consists of historical figures from the Middle Ages, this play is really about timeless emotions and needs. Thus the anachronisms both in the script and design. If we see this as a period piece or a history pageant, we miss the point. It’s about people we know, maybe ourselves, who find themselves trapped in emotional prisons of their own making. Yet, there is always the hope that they can break through the dungeon walls. As the above quoted line continues, “Surely, if we’re civilized, it must be possible to put the knives away.”
And our axiom goes both ways: Great changes of state, affecting the lives of millions, hinge on the personal relationships of individuals. Mass groups of people interact with other masses in the same ways that family members do. Despite all the strife and anger and horrible acts, despite the divisions of nations, races and cultures that keep our world at war, the truth is we are all one single family needing to connect. As below, so above.
A Note on the Set Design:
Two things inspired the design for this set. First, descriptions of the actual castle of Chinon where the play takes place, described as being more graceful and delicate than typical architecture of the time. I wanted to capture some of that grace and delicacy, rather than portray a stereotypically “heavy” castle. Second, I made a connection between the idea of lightness and delicacy with the architecture of Antoni Gaudí – his use of organic, flowing forms, specifically his Puerta de la Finca Miralles.
Adding to this basic concept was the feeling of the disjointed and fractured state of the characters. Every way a family should fit together is, for one reason or another, broken in this family. This fracturing is reflected in the set.