It is 26 years ago that Terrence McNally’s, Love! Valour! Compassion! Lifted the Tony award for Best Play, it is also 26 years ago that I had my first encounter with the piece and now 22 years later since I directed the play in New Zealand and Australia. To this day I maintain that it is one of the greatest scripts of the modern playwright era. McNally is often referred to as the Modern-day Anton Chekov, a comparison that could not be truer in reality. His ability to layer characters in a text, carry minute details through a script, set pieces in a minimalist staging and use perfect words and punctuation for every line is truly a skill that very few contemporaries possess. The greatest art however, was doing all this whilst still giving actors and directors more than enough room to make characters and the overall play their own and this was something that Terrence cherished, watching his work stage differently in all countries around the world.
Love! Valour! Compassion! Is indeed a period piece, it gives us a snapshot of a very specific time in gay America and New York specifically, a time when things were by no means simply, a pandemic was out of control, the world was reeling and yet life went on and friendships and relationships become even more important, sound familiar? The key for me when embarking on talking this production on again was to ensure it maintained its period setting whilst finding a modern way to stage it in order to resonate strongly with a new and fresh theatre going audience, credit must go to my design team who fully understood my vision and found a way to execute it, not to mention a cast of actors who have brought it it life and that are completely invested and committed to this new vision of the play.
For me personally, I have always said that Love! Valour! Compassion! May use 8 gay men as its vehicle for the story but it is a play that’s message truly transcends sexual orientation boundaries. It is a play that every human-being will take a message from and relate to. I am proud to be heading the production that will carry the blazing torch of hope for the South African entertainment industry to get back to work after going through our own doldrums for so many months. I personally thank Frans Swart and Lefra Productions for having the vision to produce this play. I pay tribute to the great man, Terrence McNally who we sadly lost last year due to Covid. I thank my crew and creative team who have made what seemed impossible, possible. Finally I thank the dedication of my cast, who truly encapsulate the tagline of this production, “Friendship is Everything!”….