Daniel Goldman is the director and translator of Franco-Uruguayan playwright Sergio Blanco’s The Rage of Narcissus. The play’s UK premier is currently running at The Pleasance Theatre. He took the time to talk to us this week about the production and his methods of directing.
Firstly, could you tell me a bit about the plot and the key themes of The Rage of Narcissus?
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 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 so he begins to investigate and gets drawn deeper and deeper into a dark murky world of desire, infatuation and murder.
The themes of the play are identity, narcissism, egocentrism, the gaze, infatuation, desire, loneliness, mental health, the creative spirit, metatheatre, the art of writing, violence, the rise of fascism, climate change, the end of the world, socio-political apathy.
Is it true that this production has been three years in the making? What initially drew you to this particular play?
Sort of. I did the first draft of the translation just after Thebes Land closed and that was about two and a half years ago. Since then, it’s been all about finding the right time and place. I’ve been away a lot over the past couple of years directing all over the world… but it’s been brilliant coming back to direct at home in London.
Having directed Thebes Land, Sergio’s previous play, I was always going to be interested in The Rage of Narcissus. And then I read it and ran around the room laughing when I finished it because I thought it was so brilliant.
The production is being touted as “a fascinating and disturbing exploration of the darkness within us all”. What kind of exercises do you do with the cast in the rehearsal room to access those deep emotional places?
We don’t actually go to very dark emotional places. It wouldn’t be particularly healthy and I’ve never been interested in “method” acting. The process has been the opposite. It’s been full of laughter and light. It’s been a really lovely creative experience with Sam Crane, who acts in the show, and Amy Spall (our stage manager) and the whole creative team.
So you are the translator as well as director of this project. How do you go about the translation process? Are there any benefits or drawbacks to having the two roles performed by the same person?
All benefits. It’s almost like being the writer in the room. Sergio gave me full license to change anything and everything… and so it allowed us to be super responsive to what was happening in the room. I say us because Sam and Amy were very much also involved in the rewriting of the show in the rehearsal room. Lots of changes, cuts, edits happen in the room in any process I’m involved in – it’s how I like it… so having control of the translation and the freedom that came with that, was amazing.
You founded your theatre company Tangram Theatre in 2006. How do you decide which plays fit the ethos and character of the company?
I wish I knew. And I wish we had consistency. Every show is so wildly different. Great for me, us… but our poor audiences. If they like one show, they won’t get more of the same. I guess that what I’m looking for are plays that are about big ideas, that are complex and deep, and that question how we live our lives today, now, here.
Finally, why should people come to see The Rage of Narcissus at The Pleasance Theatre?
Because it’s the most brilliant play, given the most outstanding performance by Sam Crane and beautifully designed by Natalie Johnson, Richard Williamson and Kieran Lucas.
And all the reviews have been ridiculously good.
And because there’s nothing else like it. That’s what Lyn Gardner said and I agree. This is total outlier territory. And radical and exciting for it. No one else in the world can write this stuff. Sergio’s one of the greatest playwrights in the world and this is a masterpiece of a play.
The Rage of Narcissus is running at The Pleasance Theatre until 13th March: more info available here.
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