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An Interview With Richard - Close-Up Culture
February 9, 2019
Richard was recently interviewed as part of a highlight on Beast on the Moon's production at the Finborough Theatre in London’s Chelsea. In it, he reveals his inspirations behind writing the international hit play, including his own personal experiences and those who lived through the hardships and destruction brought upon by the Armenian genocide.
Q: Did you enjoy watching your play revived at the Finborough Theatre? Did it bring back memories of your younger self?
A: I ENJOYED it a lot. The Finborough production has some outstanding characteristics, its fine delicacy being one of them. It also respects the pace of the play as intended by the playwright. So many directors are frightened to let the play breathe and move at the approximate pace of life.
Q: I thought Zarima was excellent in the play – literally transforming herself from childhood to womanhood over the course of two hours. Were you impressed with the acting?
A: I EXPECTED the acting to be effective. Coming to London one expects that. The use of an older gentleman to play the young Vincent [Hayward B Morse] I knew about. It mostly works because of Hayward’s portrayal of Vincent’s fragility. The two leads [Jovanovic as Aram, McDermott as Seta] are remarkable for different reasons. I saw the play twice – gladly – and wish I could be there now.
Q: The play is wonderfully paced – a slow burn. Although there is a strong a political undertone [the Armenian Genocide of the late 1910s] it is more about unburdening yourself from the past – and living again and loving again. Am I right in this assessment?
A: The PLAY was always intended to have the background as the background. That is, until it must come forefront when Seta confronts Aram about his obsession with the portrait [the poster for the Finborough production]. The slow burn was intended, but more importantly the play needs to establish its own context, hopefully not in a heavy-handed way.
Q: I love the way the conflicts in Aram’s life are portrayed by Jovanovic – desperate to live the American dream but clinging on to his faith and past. A complex character? Who is he based on?
A: George wrestles mightily with Aram’s internal conflicts. He evokes joy at times which some actors have not understood – George understands that need in the character. Aram was built out of listening and observing Armenian men who are fixated on the past and on their tribe.
Q: How close to the story told by your ex-wife’s grandparents is the play?
A: THE play does not have any immediate connection to my ex-wife’s grandparents. Those folks had very different lives from Aram and Seta, but their condition of being orphans because of the massacres is shared by my play’s two main characters Aram and Seta.
Q: The play is a little disturbing in terms of Seta’s age [15 when she marries Aram] and her fragility. Do you think that sits uncomfortably in the world we now live in?
A: IT is uncomfortable–especially now – but the play harks back to a different era and a largely traditional set of expectations for young women in Armenian history.
Q: Is faith important in your life? And is the cause of the Armenians close to your heart?
A: MY faith is hard to articulate, a combination of hope and the expectation of the presence of love lurking in our lives. The Armenian cause is noble and important. The cause is one of humanity, that one group has no right to deny the lives of another group. Rather obvious, of course, but still critical to understanding what the play wants to do.
Q: Are there any plans to take Beast On The Moon elsewhere?
A: MY fondest hope is that Beast On The Moon will become a feature film and that its theatrical productions will find great and conspicuous homes. This latter hope it has done to some degree but the play has not been in larger professional theatres, very often just small spaces. I think it deserves even more attention although as the playwright it’s not surprising that I think like that!
Q: Was this your first visit to the Finborough Theatre? What did you think of this tiny theatre of excellence tucked away in Chelsea?
A: THE Finborough Theatre is truly remarkable. What Neil McPherson, the theatre’s artistic director, has done is rather amazing.
Q: Are you still writing plays? Any projects you are working on?
A: I AM working on two plays right now. Front Room – about a female theatre professor and her hoarding mother. Also, A Bear in Winter – about an American football coach who is fired and is cut adrift because of it.