Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Styles: Fairview Park Public Library

When all is said and done, I have to go back and read this novel again. I want to know how Hastings comes across to me now, how much of my impression of his is influenced by the adaptation I made, how much by James' performance, how much is pure Christie.

As received in both Styles and Curtain (the only two Hastings novels I have read) Hastings may come off as slow off the mark, but more stiff than he is in this production. Perhaps his age is supposed to be in his mid-to-late twenties. Here he is early twenties. And James has been encouraged to be energetic and engaging, in a way that may not match the book.

Hastings is excited by the prospect of solving a crime. James is visibly excited. Hastings does attempt flirtations with both Cynthia and Mary in the novel, here they happen virtually one right after the other that it seems perhaps thoughtless ... but he is a young man! This is all very romantic to him. And his romantic nature is a point of description in the stories. In Curtain, as an old man, he is particularly dreary and wistful. In our production, he is the eternal optimist.

He also changes things up a lot. In his absence, if there were some way that Poirot were introduced to the case without Hastings there (it is Hastings who brings Poirot into the proceedings, and immediately after the crime) things would not have been nearly as interesting. He's not just a person that Poirot can confide in, to share this information with the audience, even if I thought at first he might be only that. There is a generous back and forth, and it shapes Poirot's thoughts and actions.

In spite of his upbringing, Hastings is a catalyst for change. Poirot, on the other hand, is a stickler for the status quo. The "happiness between one man and one woman" Poirot speaks of before departing, I think Michael summed it up best just as I stepped off-stage tonight.

"Well," he whispered to me, "... happiness for the one man, anyway."

We performed at Fairview Park Public Library tonight, another capacity crowd with a lively discussion following. Kristy Lee was present, she of last year's Decameron tour, and with her Brian who is one of our actor-teachers. There were a lot of family and friends, too.

One gentleman pointed out, correctly, that if Hastings were always in uniform, everyone would be calling him Captain Hastings, and not Mister. My explanation is that this is a memory play, framed by the confidence in which Hastings takes his audience. He is remembering himself at that time, from what he later reveals to be decades later. No doubt he was not in uniform at Styles Court, he was vacationing. But in his mind, he was. I don't know if that was Esther's idea or not in choosing that costume, but it's the one I have kept with me and I like it.

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