Sunday, 22 September 2013
Meeting Mister Pepys at the Wymondham Words Festival
This is a handsome production of the life of Pepys through letters, song, the diary itself and through new original poems by the poet and deviser of the script, Caroline Gilfillan. It's for four hands. Between them they split up the script forming a sequence of tableau-like scenes.
We begin with Pepys's relatively humble birth and origins and trace his lfe through to the death of his wife Elizabeth by which time he had ceased to write his diary because his eyes were no longer up to it. All that writing by candlelight had done for him. The piece concentrates very much on his private life, and indeed the most human parts of it. One of five surviving children from a family of eleven he survived an operation for bladder stones, the excruciating description of which forms the first major set piece in the production. After that it is chiefly his relations with his wife and servants that supplies the narrative, the plague and the fire being only parts of the whole. The exotic of specific historical circumstance and period song is lodged in the familiar terrain of personal relations and personal ambitions.
The diaries themselves supply only a relatively small part of the text; the letters of Elizabeth and other members of Pepys's family and circle helping to round out that lively, flirtatious, almost irrepressible figure. The poetry part is finely written as a kind of interlaced commentary - quietly present, often only picked out by its slight extra glittering and sense of imagined presence and participation.
And the performance? Very nice and bright by all, with some lyrical singing of contemporary songs by Lynn Wykes, a nicely spiced up Pepys in the form of David Radley, Dee Orr taking on many miscellaneous parts and Caroline Gilfillan herself as Elizabeth. Pepys himself did not dominate the proceedings but popped in and out of the story being woven about him, in fact the four actors occupied roughly equal parts of the script. Associate director, Camilla Falconbridge has moved her players round to effect, without fuss, enabling each to take centre stage at appropriate times.
The piece is going to London, Sudbury, and Cley after this. Do go and see it if you have the chance.