Interview with 'Two Princes' director Jonathan Kemp
Can you tell me a bit about the play?
The play is set in the fevered and cut-throat world of local council politics. A post-industrial town in Wales decides to commission a statue of its mythical founder - Ianto the Good - as a means of instilling local pride and community cohesion. Of course, it unleashes the opposite - everyone has an opinion and an agenda and nothing but conflict and drama ensue. Eventually the piece is commissioned, made and set up on the hillside above the town, changing the life of at least one young roadman who is otherwise set for a life of underachievement. The play finishes with a look at the original legend on which the myth of Ianto is built - it turns out the statue is maybe not quite such an accurate representation of history ater all.
How is it set?
We have an episodic text with a lot of scenes that jump between the naturalistic and eventually highly stylised. The stage is divided into isolated areas representing the various interests at play in the story. As we become less and less tied to the modern, familiar, contemporary world the setting breaks down until the whole space becomes the world of Ianto, many hundreds of years ago.
What are some of the main themes that you hope to bring out?
The theme that jumps out at us in 2021 is the role of statues in public life. After the Colston incident in Bristol, their function has never been more hotly debated. Do we believe the history behind them - purely because of the fact of their existence? As one of the characters says:
"People have it all wrong. They think we rewrite history when we pull a statue down, when what we do is rewrite history when we put one up."
There is also a domestic drama at the heart of the play - Roz, the mother who is trying to keep her sons out of trouble and failing, represents the people for whom the statue is made. How does she react to public art in her life, and what is the effect it has on her family? The answer is unexpected.
What are some of the challenges presented by the play?
It's about a twenty foot high full metal statue of a man on a horse - we can't put that on stage! - so we're coming up with clever ways to represent it and tell the story nonetheless.
Can you describe it in 3 words?
Relevant. Intelligent. Witty.