“No Fry for You!” an analysis for production of The Lady’s not for Burning by Fry/Anouilh

ladies04

Originally published in FaceBook Notes March 2, 2014 at 2:54pm

The Lady’s Not for Burning the 1949 comedy by Christopher Fry and Jean Anouilh (8m, 3f) is a rambunctious and challenging read unleashing some wicked wordplay and thoughtful discourse on the value of living despite its often recurring inanity.  A recommended read from a good friend it fulfilled much of my wish-list: Single set, limited cast, non-Northeast setting (I suppose a small market town in Middle Ages England qualifies), pithy dialogue and cerebral theme.

There are several reasons why I’d love to see this play. First and foremost is its dark humor, so tightly written you would swear that it is a Shakespearean pastoral comedy in the vein of As You Like it:

“Alizon: Pride is one of the deadly sins.

Thomas: And it’s better to go for the lively ones.”

or

“Jennet: I hear a gay modulating anguish, rather like music.

Nicholas: It’s the chaplain extorting lightness of heart/From the guts of his viol…”

even

“Skipps:  Peace on Earth and good tall women!”.

Furthermore, the somber subject matter of a dialogue between a soldier who longs to die and a woman accused of witchcraft who would much rather go on living, gives rise to the aforementioned ribaldry while simultaneously invoking genuine existential debate:

“Jennet: I seem to wish to have some importance in the play of time. If not, then sad was my mother’s pain, sad my breath,/ Sad the articulation of my bones,/Sad, sad my alacritous web or nerves,/ Woefully, woefully sad my wondering brain,/ To be shaped and sharpened into such tendrils/ Of anticipation, to feed the swamp of space.”

Moreover, because our audience has been primed by such successful period pieces as A Lion in Winter and even A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, I think they would gleefully welcome actors festooned in tunics and tights. The friend who brought the piece to my attention would probably welcome the opportunity to pull the pieces from his closets! Several friends have long suggested that the local theatre attempt a classical work.

However, all possibilities stop here. The language is blank verse throughout. Even the best classically trained actor must be at his/her best to successfully accomplish the text. I lament that Pirates of Penzance was once proposed but failed to make the final cut.  Better yet that we should attempt a piece with which the audience may have more familiarity such as “The Taming of the Shrew” or even “Tartuffe.” Of course the nail in “The Lady’s…” coffin was driven home when I called it up in the Samuel French catalog to find “Licensing available for professional groups only.” Oh well!

http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/6574/ladys-not-for-burning-the

Advertisements

3 thoughts on ““No Fry for You!” an analysis for production of The Lady’s not for Burning by Fry/Anouilh”

  1. This still baffles me, 67-year-old play by a playwright who has been deceased for 10 years, but maybe it’s the estate’s recognition of the need for actors with enough skill to handle the language (not that I’d necessarily except the right community theater or include just any professional company in that). Certainly I could see it being appropriate and useful (if only for the theatrical history aspect of it) in a college setting, which is also precluded by the licensing

    Like

  2. Many years ago, my mother, Maxine Bean, sent a personal letter to Mr. Fry requesting that our Readers’ Theatre (Which aired on a now defunct Maryland radio station) be allowed to perform this, her favorite play. Christopher Fry wrote a postcard back, giving her permission to do so, along with the gentle request we perform in April, as it should be done. Both Christopher and Maxine have passed, but I still have his postcard. He had a right to ask for professional production of the work, but he was also susceptible to a kind request from an ardent fan of his work. I run a non-professional theatre company in Virginia, but, if I ever turned pro, it would be to produce this play. Sad that professional companies are the Keeper of the Gates, but so few attempt to produce “The Lady…”.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s