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Unwin returns to Rose but Asher takes centre stage
It’s been a busy few months for Stephen Unwin since he quit as the Rose Theatre’s artistic director last year.
“I was worried I wouldn’t have much to do, but luckily I’ve been flooded,” he says, noting the irony in his choice of words given the weather.
Much of his time has no doubt been taken up with directing his latest production Moon Tiger, a stage adaptation of Penelope Lively’s Booker Prize-winning novel starring Jane Asher.
The story explores the eventful life of Claudia Hamilton (Asher), a terminally ill historian who plans to write a history of the world using her own life as its template from her deathbed.
Jumping backwards and forwards between her childhood, two World Wars, her travels abroad, several romantic relationships and motherhood, the story is a vast and all encompassing study of love, loss, compromise and regret.
“It’s an adaptation of a really marvellous novel by Penelope Lively,” says Unwin. “It appeals pretty broadly, but I think the people that really love it are women over the age of about 45. It’s a woman’s life story told in an extraordinary way.
“My mum is 80 and as soon as I said I was doing it she said: ‘That’s a great book!’ “It’s one of those books that a lot of women picked up as it says a lot about being a woman in the 20th century.”
It must have been difficult trying to fit so many time lapses into a stage play, I say.
“It hops and jumps between different times and different people but the story becomes very clear,” Unwin says.
“As she says in the play, your life is like a kaleidoscope.
“You don’t see your life story as one progression, it’s a kaleidoscope of images and that’s the concept.
“And Jane Asher plays her totally brilliantly. If you did a film you would have to have about three different actresses to play her.
“But Jane can go from being a small child for three seconds into a 70-year-old just like that, which you can do in theatre, but you can’t in film.
“It’s also got a really stylish backdrop with really cool projections, and Jane is just fantastic. I’m very pleased with it.”
The touring play comes to the Rose at the end of this month – and audiences should be minded to bring some tissues.
“I was in Cambridge last night and the play was much loved,” says Unwin. “I could hear the people in front of me sniffling.
“It’s that sense of living a life and the concessions people make. It’s incredibly moving at the end. “ Moon Tiger, Rose Theatre, High Street, Kingston. Monday, February 24 to Saturday, March 1, £5 - £28.50. Visit rosetheatrekingston. org or call 0844 4821556 for more information.