ACTOR CONOR Lovett of Gare St Lazare Players, best known for his acclaimed stagings of Beckett’s prose works, makes a welcome return to the Town Hall the week after next with his latest one-man show; Herman Melville’s classic tale Moby Dick.
Now considered as one the greatest novels in the English language, Moby Dick tells of the obsessive pursuit by Captain Ahab and his ship The Pequod of a fearsome white whale of tremendous size and ferocity. What prompted Conor Lovett to adapt the novel for the stage?
“It was actually Judy who read it first,” he says, referring to his wife and play director Judy Hegarty Lovett. “She gave it to me then and I really got into it. They say there are two kinds of Moby Dick readers, those who hate the documentary chapters about whaling life and those who like them and I have to say I really enjoyed them as well. Of course for the stage we have to whittle things down somewhat so our adaptation just concentrates on the central story of the chase of the whale.”
How does Lovett manage to render this epic saga, with its myriad characters, storms at sea, and battles with whales as a one-man stage performance?
“The story is told through the eyes of the narrator Ishmael, so we take that as the starting point and then I can essay other characterisations as the various personalities in the story appear,” he says. “I use minimal props and effects in the show, and largely rely on the audience’s own imagination to get everyone involved in the particulars of the story. It’s interesting comparing this to the work we have done previously on the likes of Beckett and Conor McPherson - there’s a common thread there of storytelling, that seems to be what we are about really.”
Moby Dick was originally published in 1851 but initial reviews were mixed at best, even dismissive, and Melville spent much of his remaining years in artistic obscurity, all but forgotten. It was not until the years following WWI that critical opinion began to change and Moby Dick increasingly came to be seen as a major work; with DH Lawrence counting among its early champions.
Today the novel is viewed as a pinnacle of American Romanticism and a profound exploration of violence, obsessiveness, and the big, immutable questions of life itself.
Interestingly, the novel has been adapted for stage before; Orson Welles - not long after he had appeared in John Huston’s film of the novel - mounted his own stage production entitled Moby Dick Rehearsed. Like Lovett, Welles also went for a minimal approach when it came to costumes and stage effects. As such, Lovett thus finds himself in notable company as he prepares to embark on his own epic voyage with Melville’s masterpiece.
Moby Dick comes to Galway as part of an extensive national tour and is at the Town Hall for two nights only on Monday May 11 and Tuesday 12 at 8pm. For tickets contact
091 - 569777.