A Phoenix Too Frequent
By Christopher Fry
All three cast members of A Phoenix Too Frequent agree that playwright Christopher Fry has crafted a beautifully articulated script infused with philosophy, wit and tragedy. For a short format show with a small cast, there’s also an especially rewarding range of emotions and temperaments displayed by the three characters.
“Doto is just such a funny little character”, says Fran Bugoyne of her part, the servant to Dynamene. “She just pops up and ruins any kind of tension that was possibly building”, just as the playwright intended. “It’s brilliant. I like making people laugh”, she adds with a laugh, of course.
The much more serious young widow, Dynamene, played by Angelique Fronicke is “intense, deep. A bit like myself” she says with a hint of a bashful smile. “I can relate to her. She’s very idealistic”.
“I think the audience will like the earnestness of my character” says actor Declan Lynch. For a Roman soldier, “Tegeus is quite a thinker. He’s taken life and now wants to save the lives of the two women”.
The cast has many favourite lines from the show, but one of the philosophical standouts is:… “at best we live our lives on loan, at worst in chains”.
But Angelique sums up the main attraction of the play as a love story, plain and simple. “The audience will love the whole thing of falling in love. And as a reminder to the reader of the ancient setting, "the costumes will look especially gorgeous under the lights".
After A phoenix Too Frequent completes its run, Angelique and Fran plan to try out for the December 2012 production of Twelfth Night to be co-produced by Combined Actors of Cambridge and BAWDS. Declan is looking forward to appearing in a new award-winning play Cubicle Four slated for the 2012 Edinburgh Festival.
About a week before opening night during one our rare English warm and rainless evenings, I had the pleasure of chatting with the seven actors of Combined Actors' summer double-bill, Overruled by Bernard Shaw and A Phoenix Too Frequent by Christopher Fry.
During our hour and a half discourse, while sipping beverages at a picnic table behind the rehearsal venue, I discovered that Director Chris Hudson has collected a highly articulate, enthusiastic & thoughtful bunch of performers. My concern that I wouldn't end up with enough material for an article was quickly swept aside as the cast members ‘attacked’ each question with zeal and perceptive insights into their characters and the scripts. The end result is that I could have put together seven full-length articles (one for each cast member). I feel I now have an unparalleled understanding of the two scripts through these actors. I went on to take production photos at the dress rehearsal and enjoyed the two shows immeasurably even though I saw most of the shows through a camera viewfinder.
By Bernard Shaw
Jenny Scudamore who plays the part of Saraphita Lunn welcomes the chance to perform in a comedy for a change. She has nothing against being in classical tragedies. “It’s just that if someone needs a madwomen, they tend to call me”, she says twinkling her eyes. In deciding to audition for a role in Overruled she was most attracted to the idea of comedy dominated by the two female characters.
Laura Clarke who plays Mrs Juno in this pre-Titanic era comedy agrees and adds that she loves the whole tone of the script. “Shaw intended his story to be irreverent to the upper classes of the day”. Strangely, Mrs Juno is the only character in the script without a first name, so Laura has supplied one: ‘Theresa’. “I’m not sure I’ve told the director about this” she says with a mock shudder.
The actresses agree that they enjoy seeing the script develop in such a way that the female characters get everything nicely organised without having to do very much. And the men end up doing just exactly what the women have already decided is going to happen. “It all just falls nicely into place” says Jenny.
As an actor, Stephen Kitson who plays Mr. Sibthorpe Juno is unequivocal about why he tried out for a part in the one act Overruled: “It’s short”. Realizing a clarification is in order after the other cast members break into laughter he explains, “because it’s short and there’s only four people in the cast, you do get a big chunk of the story”. Stephen is intrigued by the way his character likes the idea of being wicked. “But he’s not wicked at all. He’s just bored with the world and wants to be bad but without knowing how to go about doing it”.
Adam Daniels, as Gregory Lunn shares Stephen’s thought that a short script can be a very good thing for an actor. “With a small cast the characterization is perhaps a little more important. The relationships between all the characters means a bit more than in a larger cast”. And in the spirit of succinctness, Adam sums up his character as ‘sentimental’. “I think I’d probably like my character in real life”.
The foursome concur that all the Overruled characters have distinctly conflicting philosophies, and yet through Shaw’s deft handling of the plot, everything works out in the end for everyone.
As with the ‘Phoenix’ cast there’s a lot of interest in auditioning for the upcoming Twelfth Night production. Jenny has already committed to performing in a new play in October in the Playroom entitled Did You Say No Though? .