A play adaptation of the classic novel VANITY FAIR is performing at the ADC Theatre next week. We spoke to the show's Director, Arianna Muñoz, to find out more about how the show is coming together.
What made you want to stage ‘Vanity Fair’?
So many things! Vanity Fair is a play that offers endless opportunities for director, cast, and crew alike. Kate Hamill’s script is so fun to work with, maintaining a perfect balance of comedy and drama. Each character, no matter how silly or exaggerated, is imbued with complexity and moments of vulnerability, which immediately drew me to the play and made me eager to begin working with the cast (who are incredibly, insanely talented) and break down the motivations, relationships, and complexities of these charming and nuanced individuals.
From an artistic perspective, Vanity Fair is a show that features over 30 different characters played by a cast of 9, as well as countless different settings and scene-changes. The opportunity to make this play the most visually engaging work I’ve directed was one I couldn’t ignore - this is a staging that takes influence from everything from Bridgerton to The Magic Flute to A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and so much more, creating a whimsical pastiche aesthetic that further heightens the play’s tongue-in-cheek attitude. I am so thankful to the amazing design team for the show (Cody Knight, Tirza Sey, Cat Salvini, Medomfo Owusu, and Ramisa Hassan), who have brought their invaluable vision and expertise and made my initial ideas come to life.
What makes ‘Vanity Fair’ unique?
This production of Vanity Fair is unique and close to my heart because it features a majority-BME cast and crew. From the outset, I knew that I wanted Vanity Fair to be an inclusive and diverse production - as a mixed-race Latina, I know first-hand how important representation is, and also know how too often it can feel that theatre and specifically period pieces are exclusively white, (often) male spaces. With Vanity Fair Kate Hamill turned an 800-page novel from the 19th century into an accessible, inviting show for a new generation of theatregoers; I wanted to further extend this inclusivity and direct a show that challenges who the canons of theatre and literature can be for, working alongside other BME creatives on a show and story we are too often excluded from. For me, then, Vanity Fair is the embodiment of what I aspire to create and reflect in my work, this aspiration reflected in the incredible talent, skill, and most importantly passion on display in every aspect of the show.
Why should people come to see the show?
Once again, it’s so hard to just point to one thing! They should see it for its eclectic and whimsical aesthetic, for its enthralling and unpredictable story, for the diversity of the cast and crew. But most importantly, people should come to Vanity Fair to see the incredible talent on display. The cast have worked tirelessly to create performances that are at once hilarious, entertaining, and stirring - Temi Idowu and Angela Okafor are the show’s core with their brilliant, contrasting performances as Becky and Amelia, respectively. The crew has likewise been non-stop at developing ideas from concept to reality; Ramisa Hassan, for example, has not only sourced beautiful costumes from the National Theatre, but alongside costume assistant Esme Bishop has designed and sewn most of the dresses in the show herself. In short, every aspect of this production has been approached with extensive detail and passion, resulting in a show that will be moving, memorable, and a joy to watch.
As Director, what have you found most challenging about staging this show?
The number of characters and scenes! This is a show with over 30 different characters and dozens of scene/set changes. This leads to lots of challenging but exciting opportunities for everyone involved: how do actors differentiate between their characters, often within seconds of one another? How does the set designer create multiple different interior and exterior spaces while still having fairly simple designs? How do we do costume changes…how does the lighting change…the list goes on. The joy of these questions as director has been working with the rest of the team to find creative solutions to the challenges posed, conversations and collaborations that have resulted in a stronger work overall.
Do you have a favourite scene/line from the show?
There are so many funny scenes in the show, but my favourite would probably be the dinner scene where Becky first faces off with the sleazy Sir Pitt, as Sir Pitt is such an awful yet horrifically funny character and Becky so perfectly and deftly holds her own against him. My favourite line, however, has to be Amelia’s: ‘I’m trying my best. To think the right thing, to do the right thing - to be good!’. I think it summarises how flawed yet earnest the characters in the play are: each is just trying their best to find happiness and fulfilment in a world that constantly seems against them.
What is one thing you’d like the audience to take away from the performance?
Easter term is always crazy, so particularly for an audience of my fellow exam-burdened peers, I hope that Vanity Fair offers a lighthearted but nevertheless moving theatrical experience where they can have fun, relax, and watch their friends put on an incredible show!