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THEATRE INTERVIEW: Peter Darney talks with RR’s James Cowan



Mr. Arden of Faversham is in trouble.
His wife Alice wants him dead.
His wife’s lover wants him dead.
So do Michael, Greene, Clarke, Black Will and Shakebag.
Come and see which, if any, succeed......


Well Rioters, from tomorrow till next month there is to be an event of cataclysmic proportions. Peter Darney’s Em-Lou players will be at the or-igi-nal Elizabethan stage of old London town – The Rose Theatre – with ‘The Most Lamentable and True Tragedie of Mr. Arden of Faversham’. A darkly comic tale based on a true story, of what the lust, greed and ambition of real people makes them capable of. It is argued by many to be Shakespeare’s earliest surviving work; Arden of Faversham is the first English domestic tragedy.

Run Riot blogger James Cowan is to play the role of Arden’s loyal (ahem) manservant (under the guise of Spencer Cowan – my stage name darlings!). Peter and I sat down after rehearsal to have a chat about ‘Arden’ and his other work and how he feels to be an up and coming mover, shaker, and director.


RR: So Peter, to start at the beginning…where you from, what’s your background, how’d you find yersen ere?

Peter: Well I’m a proud Welshman by birth, which is what probably drew me back there many moons ago to do my original training as an actor at the Royal Welsh College. I enjoyed uncommon luck as an actor once I began to work and was fortunate enough to be able to survive solely on those earnings without having to resort to a day job – which was nice. However I was overwhelmingly underwhelmed by the directors I was working with. A collection of academics that knew only enough to tell me I was doing it wrong but had no concept of how to make it right. I had a wish to communicate with an actor in such a way, as they would be able to positively respond. And I really wanted the control…the power!! As an actor I had performed a number of book readings for radio and loved having all the characters under my control – I found it very fulfilling.

So…I took the requisite time out to re-assess my life and decided to retrain as a director. This I did and soon after formed Em-Lou Productions and have since been directing under this and other production houses.

RR: What has been the zenith of your directorial career so far? (Not including Arden of Faversham obviously!!)

Peter: It has to be the production of ‘Beautiful Thing’ that I directed for a series of performances at Battersea Arts Centre. I have never felt so proud of anything in all my life than of that. It just all came together so perfectly, it was beautiful!

RR: What first drew you to ‘Arden of Faversham’?

Peter: Back in 2000 I was preparing for the Carlton Hobbs Award and whilst researching speeches I came across Mosby’s speech in the argument scene (scene viii). I completely fell in love with this speech as an actor and ever since I have been desperate to put it on. As a director it is an exciting challenge to work on a classical text such as this, not necessarily for it’s obscurity but simply to have the chance to re-tell a bloody brilliant story! Add to that the fact that we’re to put it on at the Rose Theatre on Bankside and you certainly have an exciting opportunity.

RR: How did you approach the Rose? It is the perfect space for such a show.

Peter: Unsurprisingly, they have wanted to put ‘Arden’ in the space for a long time, so really it couldn’t have been easier. A friend of mine had performed one of the Henry’s there and knew the manager Pepe Pryke. Pepe wanted it to be performed around Valentines Day, which is when the murder occurred for real, but we couldn’t get it organized for then.

RR: What will draw RunRioters Bums to these seats?

Peter: It is a great story and it is a true story. This means that the characters are honest, straightforward and very relatable. ‘Arden of Faversham’ can be considered the first kitchen-sink drama and therefore proves to be unlike many other plays of the time that were focused on the troubled lives of Kings and Nobility. It is a story of the common man and has enduring traits. With this in mind I almost set it in the 1950’s, as it wasn’t until very recently that women such as Alice (Arden’s adulterous wife) were given the liberty to escape from an unhappy marriage with their honour and reputation in tact. I do feel some pity for Alice, as she is trapped in an unhappy relationship and in love with someone new, at this time her options of escape were few and far between, it was destitution, suicide, or murder. She’s like a fox with its leg caught in a trap, gnawing through its ankle for freedom!

I decided in the end that it was better set in the original period as it was far more befitting to the space. And one must be true to the space.

RR: ‘Arden’ is written anonymously, there have been suggestions that Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Kyd may all have had a hand it it’s creation. Perhaps just one, perhaps together? Whatchafink?

Peter: : For me, as a director, I don’t really give a fuck! It doesn’t really affect our work. Whoever wrote it did a great job, although having said that I have had to make a few cuts. As with anything the occasional cut must be made to ensure clarity. With the RSC budget and more time I wouldn’t change a word but sadly our quick rehearsal process will not allow us to fully realise the text.

RR: ‘Arden’ is written anonymously, there have been suggestions that Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Kyd may all have had a hand it it’s creation. Perhaps, just one, perhaps together? Whatchafink?

Peter: For me, as a director, I don’t really give a fuck! It doesn’t really affect our work. Whoever wrote it did a great job, although having said that I have had to make a few cuts. As with anything the occasional cut must be made to ensure clarity. With the RSC budget and more time I wouldn’t change a word but sadly our quick rehearsal process will not allow us to fully realise the text.

RR: It has been quick hasn’t it! I feel we only started rehearsing yesterday and it’ll be on in less than a week!! I know how I’m fixed for the next month but what, pray tell, is next for Peter?

Peter: I am taking a play called ‘Mysterious Skin’ to Edinburgh Festival.

RR: Tell us more?

Peter: It is an American play by Prince Gomovillies based on a book by Scott Heim. It is set in 1990’s New York and Kansas, and is based upon the parallel lives of two young men, one is a Yankee rent boy (Neil), and the other firmly believes aliens abducted him as a child (Brian). Brian later discovers that the truth is in fact that he was sexually abused as a child, with Neil. It tackles some incredibly controversial issues such as the sexuality of children, paedophilia, misguided desire, disassociation, and parallels within relationships.

It is to be the European Premier at The Gilded Balloon in Edinburgh from the 4th – 30th August, tickets are £8-£10, and I’m incredibly excited! I’m also incredibly stressed, trying to arrange funding for the whole run is rather difficult. But mostly I’m just excited!! If anyone’s up for the festival then come see us!

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Details of Arden Of Faversham

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