In Search of Julia
Konstantin Mishin staged a play In search of Julia based on W.Somerset Maugham novel Theatre with Ira Gonto in the leading role.
The novel describes a successful actress and her husband, a theatre manager, her life and career being disturbed by a stormy affair with a young man.
Julia, a woman of breathtaking poise and talent, not loosing her great looks over the years draws attention of the audience. She is one of the greatest actresses in England, and she acts so good and lives as if never stop acting.
Roger, her son says, “You don’t know the difference between truth and make-believe. You never stop acting. It’s second nature to you. You act when there’s a party here. You act to the servants, you act to father, you act to me. To me you act the part of the fond, indulgent, celebrated mother. You don’t exist, you’re only the innumerable parts you’ve played. I’ve often wondered if there was ever a you or if you were never anything more than a vehicle for all these other people that you’ve pretended to be. When I’ve seen you go into an empty room I’ve sometimes wanted to open the door suddenly, but I’ve been afraid to in case I found nobody there.”
The play is going on and we see Julia, a girl becoming a successful actress; Julia, a woman, in love with Michael, an actor and “the handsomest man in England”; Julia, a wife, when her love for Michael eventually stops; Julia, a mother, with her mother capacity being affronted; Julia, a woman, falling in love again with Tom Fennell, an ordinary young man, her being loved and refused, surviving from the unexpected crush of love.
Love, how she defines it talking to her son Roger, “And you really think that was love?” “Well, it’s what most people mean by it, isn’t it?” “No, they don’t, they mean pain and anguish, shame, ecstasy, heaven and hell; they mean the sense of living more intensely, and unutterable boredom and slavery; they mean peace and unrest.”
Finally, we see Julia, an actress, celebrating her triumph over indulgence in her unrequited love, winning her own self back, and as an actress she talks about stage and real life.
“All the world’s stage, and all the men and women merely players.” But there’s the illusion, through that archway; it’s we, the actors, who are the reality. That’s the answer to Roger. They are our raw materials. We are the meaning of their lives. We take their silly little emotions and turn them into art, out of them we create beauty, and their significance is that they form the audience we must have to fulfill ourselves. They are the instruments on which we play, and what is an instrument without somebody to play on it?
“Roger says we don’t exist. Why, it’s only we who do exist. They are the shadows and we give them substance. We are the symbols of all this confused, aimless struggling that they call life, and it’s only the symbol which is real. They say acting is only make-believe. That make-believe is the only reality.”
At the theatre we all mix, actors and the audience, and we leave the theatre to play our life roles!
With gratitude to Konstantin Mishin, Ira Gonto and W. Somerset Maugham!
At the School of Drama Arts