The director chatted to Emma Clarendon about bringing The Rage of Narcissus to the Pleasance Theatre.
Hi Daniel – could you tell me more about what The Rage of Narcissus is about? Yes. Of course! It’s the story of Sergio Blanco – a professor-playwright and the author of the play – who arrives in Ljubljana to give a talk on Narcissus at a big international symposium. The the first thing he does after checking in to his hotel room is to get on an app and look for someone to have sex with. A few hours later, once Igor has come and gone, Sergio spots a dark brown stain on the floor. Looking closer, he sees that it’s a blood stain. And looking around, he discovers more and more blood stains all over the room. As he begins to investigate, he gets drawn deeper and deeper into a dark murky world of desire, infatuation and murder. All perfect material for a new play – if he can get out of Ljubljana alive.
How did you first come across the play? I met Sergio at a theatre festival in Colombia in 2013 where he was presenting his play Tebas Land. I saw it and thought it was a masterpiece. And so I asked him if I could translate it and direct it here in the UK and he said yes. I made the show three years ago and we presented it at the Arcola in December 2016 and then again in September 2017. It was the most amazing play to work on and it did really well, getting rave reviews and winning the OFFIE for Best Production, and most importantly, Sergio came to see it and loved the production. We immediately started talking about La Ira de Narciso, which Sergio had already written at the time and here we are.
What was it about the story that made you want to bring it to the stage? It is one of the most compelling plays I’ve ever read. I love its big ideas. I love its bravery. I love its playfulness. I love dark stuff and this is as dark as it gets but at the same time, it is also beautiful and full of love.
How are rehearsals been going so far? They’re going really well thanks. Sam’s brilliant to work with. He’s a super intelligent actor, always proposing, always exploring and that’s exactly what this piece needs. But it’s also a very hard show to make. We’re finding that we’re constantly having to strip back. It’s a play that demands simplicity and deftness of touch.
What are you most enjoying about bringing The Rage of Narcissus to the stage? It’s really exciting to be bringing this mind-boggling, multi-layered, genre-busting play to the stage. I felt the same before we opened Thebes Land because Sergio’s writing is so special. I’m excited about audiences having their minds blown.
What can those coming along expect? They can expect to be bamboozled, surprised, shocked and scared. This is a play that constantly pulls the rug from under you. It’s part thriller, part horror, part murder mystery, part documentary, part fiction and part TED talk, all rolled into one. Oh and it’s really funny in moments too.
By Emma Clarendon
The Rage of Narcissus plays at the Pleasance Theatre from the 18th February until the 8th March.