David Benedict on theatre

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Indy Lifestyle Online
'It's a rough, direct and wild play.' Jonathan Kent, surprisingly, perhaps, is describing Corneille's Le Cid, (with Susan Lynch, below) written in 1637. 'There was a great scandal when it was first performed. It was aesthetically and morally shocking, disreputable. It's difficult to assault morals and indeed aesthetics these days, but it's still highly pertinent. Like all good plays, it's about sex and death.'

As co-director of the Almeida, Kent is currently riding high. The production arrives on the back of his recent triumph with Medea. 'We did a matinee in Liverpool full of schoolkids, which turned out to be one of the theatrical experiences of my life. They didn't think they were going to be interested, but they watched it as if it were a contemporary play. At the end, it was like a football match. It was just wonderful. I loathe the idea of people going to the theatre out of a ghastly sense of cultural duty.

'I'd be delighted to disabuse people of the notion that Corneille is about people reciting formal dialogue. We have worked on making the play physical, dramatising the language. The British tend to trade in irony, the French don't. They meet abstract ideas head on. There's something adamantine and intractable about this play. It's like being run over by a steamroller.

'An actor died of an apoplectic fit during one of his plays. I don't want anyone to go that far, but it's encouraging when you're trying to explain its huge energy.'

'Le Cid' previews at the Cottesloe from Thursday. Box Office: 071-928 2252

(Photograph omitted)