Jonathan Kent (director)

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Jonathan Kent (born 1946, South Africa) is an English theatre director and opera director. He is best known as a director/producer partner of Ian McDiarmid at the Almeida Theatre from 1990 to 2002. After an upbringing in South Africa, educated at the Diocesan College, he came to London in the late 1960s and trained as an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama.

Career[edit]

Actor[edit]

Working under Giles Havergal and Philip Prowse at the Glasgow Citizens Theatre, he found that "acting taught him just how difficult it is to act .... acting is a valiant pursuit".[1] In 1982, he played Tom Ripley in a 1982 episode of The South Bank Show titled "Patricia Highsmith: A Gift for Murder", dramatizing segments of Patricia Highsmith's novel Ripley Under Ground.[2] Highsmith later praised Kent as the embodiment of the character: "I have just questioned this young man [she says to the director director and producer Jack Bond] and he admits that he is playing the part of Tom Ripley. Is this your idea of Tom Ripley?.....he's perfect".[3]

In 1985, Kent appeared as the King of Navarre in the BBC TV production of William Shakespeare's Love's Labor's Lost.

Stage director[edit]

By 1990 Kent had formed an association with the Scottish actor Ian McDiarmid, and between 1990 and 2002 as joint artistic directors, they turned the Almeida into a major producing theatre. The success of this venture—presenting a wide range of international plays—led to 14 plays produced under Kent's tenure being transferred to the West End and also to Broadway.[4]

In 1995/6, he directed Mother Courage and Her Children at the Royal National Theatre, which helped Diana Rigg earn an Evening Standard Theatre Award for her performance in the title role. For the stage, Kent's most recent production of Brian Friel's Faith Healer was a success in both Dublin and on Broadway.[date missing]

In 2007 Kent was invited to direct three plays at the Haymarket Theatre as a means of re-invigorating the West End theatre scene. These were William Wycherley's The Country Wife, Edward Bond's The Sea, and Marguerite, a musical based on La Dame aux camélias, with music by Michel Legrand and book by Alain Boublil[5]

Opera director[edit]

Following his departure from the Almeida, Kent has emerged as a significant force in the world of opera. His operatic directing debut was during The Santa Fe Opera's 2003 season production of Katya Kabanova, a production received with great acclaim, as noted by Simon Williams in Opera News: "Director Jonathan Kent is new to opera, having made his name in spoken drama in London. He displayed a natural feel for the dynamics and rhetoric of opera, and he directed with unwavering attention to the score. In short, this was an outstanding interpretation of a great modern tragedy".[6]

His first British production was not actually an opera at all but Michael Tippett's oratorio, A Child of Our Time in 2005. He returned that same year to Santa Fe for Mozart's Lucio Silla and again in 2006, when he directed the US premiere of Thomas Adès' The Tempest, which received significant critical acclaim. London's The Sunday Times critic, Hugh Canning wrote:

Kent's production began with one of the most magical stage images I can recall in recent opera seasons. Paul Brown's permanent set is a sandy island with a pool of water representing the sea: in the prelude, a procession of fully clothed people (presumably the Neapolitan shipwreck survivors) walk out of the water like amphibious creatures, a dazzlingly surreal opening gambit in a production remarkable for its narrative clarity and observant delineation of character. Kent and Brown achieve an organic fusion of theatrical elements with the simplest of means. The dune-like 'island' provides opportunities for wittily surprising entrances — at one point, Ariel's head pops out of Prospero’s magic cabinet — and perilous exits — the comic characters, Stefano and Trinculo, are swallowed up as if by quicksand.[7]

In Britain in 2006, Kent's developed a new production of Puccini's Tosca for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Expectations were high, since this was Covent Garden's replacement for the famous Franco Zeffirelli production for Maria Callas in 1964, and which had been in use for 42 years. Kent "believes Tosca, which Puccini adapted from a five-act French play, is an ideal vehicle for his talents:

What I admire about it, quite apart from the thrilling music, is its theatre craft", he said...."It's a taut, sinewy melodrama, exquisitely put together. There isn't an ounce of flesh on it.... "That's what interested me: to find a way within that hurtling narrative to examine the relationships and its themes of sex, power and death.[8]

In 2007 Kent directed Richard Strauss' Elektra at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg and Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw for the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in its 2007 season.[9]

He returned to the The Santa Fe Opera in June 2008 to direct a new production of The Marriage of Figaro and again in 2009 when he directed the premiere of a new opera by Paul Moravec and Terry Teachout, The Letter based on Somerset Maugham's 1927 stage version of his short story of the same name.[10]

Kent's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni was presented at Glyndebourne in 2010.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kate Kellaway, "Almeida: end of Act One", The Observer (London), 27 January 2002 (Interview with Jonathan Kent as he departs)
  2. ^ "The South Bank Show" Patricia Highsmith: A Gift for Murder (1982) - The Internet Movie Database
  3. ^ Andrew Wilson, "Ripley's enduring allure", Telegraph, 24 May 2003. Accessed 30 December 2010
  4. ^ Fiachra Gibbons, "Celebrated double act quits Almeida", The Guardian (London), 5 September 2001 (announcement of Kent and McDiarmid's departure)
  5. ^ Michael Billington, "People Thought We Were Mad", The Guardian (London), 10 July 2007
  6. ^ Simon Williams, Opera News (New York), date?
  7. ^ Hugh Canning, "Opera: A triumph for tragedy", The Sunday Times (London), 13 August 2006 (review of The Tempest in Santa Fe)
  8. ^ Neil Smith, "Curtain rises on new Tosca opera", 13 June 2006 on news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 11 July 2014
  9. ^ Anna Picard, "The Turn of the Screw at Glyndebourne, Lewes", The Times (London), October 23, 2014 regarding the revival of this production
  10. ^ The Santa Fe Opera's website

See also[edit]