The Anatomy of Melancholy - Oval House Theatre
Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle
STAN’S Cafe is presenting The Anatomy of Melancholy, the first stage adaptation of Robert Burton’s 1,500 page “first self help manual” published in 1621, at the Oval House Theatre – from November 26 to November 30, 2013.
Described as “the greatest book ever written”, this 400 year old, 1,500 page attempt to identify the causes, symptoms and cures for all kinds of melancholy contains the arcane, outlandish and hilarious wisdom of its age, some of it still relevant today.
Ten years ago, a Serbian Festival Director, Nenad Prokic, challenged Stan’s Cafe to adapt this, his favourite book, for the stage, in the belief that they were the only company who could pull it off. This is it, their attempt to stage one of the most extraordinary books ever written.
Vicar and librarian Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy is admired throughout literary history. Its vast scope and epic learning, almost a digest of the 17th century library at Christ Church college, Oxford, where he worked, has inspired writers from Samuel Johnson to Charles Lamb and Keats, who said it was his favorite book.
Latterly Borges, Beckett and even Nick Cave have been inspired by Burton’s labyrinthine tome, where subjects range from military discipline to inland navigation, the morality of dancing schools and the symptoms of a woman vomiting pebbles and live eels, to a consideration of the simple pleasures of going for a walk and having a beer.
Burton continued to expand and re-edit the book through his life, admitting that he wrote to cure his own melancholy as well as that of others.
Inspired by the theory that he intended the process of reading his book to be as much a part of the cure as implementing its recommendations, Stan’s Cafe presents a show which both is and is about a cure for melancholy, with Burton in his rehearsal room, the script in all its richness still in flux.
Director James Yarker said: “We have been delighted at how well suited the book is to being performed. We are merely giving voice to it raging debate of stories, opinions and ideas. The language is energized, highly seductive, often funny and surprisingly personal. We’ve found that whilst Burton gives us insight into a fascinatingly arcane world he often appears to be speaking very directly and with great compassion to us about our lives now.”
Stan’s Cafe (pron. “Caff”) is a group of artists from a variety of disciplines, though primarily theatre practitioners, working under the artistic direction of James Yarker. The company consists of a core of long-term collaborators and a range of associated artists.
The Anatomy of Melancholy is devised and performed by Gerard Bell, Rochi Rampal, Graeme Rose and Craig Stephens and designed by Harry Trow and Stan’s Cafe, with costumes by Kay Wilton and music by Nina West.
The Anatomy of Melancholy is suitable for all ages.
Tickets: £14, £8 concessions, £10 Under 26s, Equity, BECTU – available from the box office on 020 75827680 or online at www.ovalhouse.com/.
Running Time: 2 hours 40 minutes (including interval).
The London dates are part of a national tour that will also visit Birmingham, Bradford, Lancaster and Lincoln.