FROM PAGE TO STAGE
Felice Arena and Andrew Close working on the script.
Felice and I have known each other for a number of years and have often discussed the idea of creating or adapting a text - as either a musical, or a play.
When I read The Boy and the Spy, I was so excited about the possibility of translating it to the stage. The adaptation is very much been a collaboration, starting from adapting the text, but also defining what is important to the story.
It has also given us a chance to blend different ways of telling a story that contribute something new to the storytelling process. These included the projection of time-lapse drawings, the composition of incidental music, exploring how we could use a minimalist set, and the creation of a story with the marionettes (a play within the play) that can also explain Antonio's social status.
Central to this adaptation was the realisation that Antonio draws everything. These illustrations provide the backdrops for each scene, animated to help create the illusion that they are being drawn. We also chose to use original newsreel video clips in Act 2 to create a sense of the era and the language that was used to describe the war.
Composing all the music has been a joy. It prompted wonderful questions, such as choice of instruments to be used and the style that would authentically capture that period in history. The best way to reflect Antonio restlessness and energy was to bring in elements of the tarantella. Also included in the score is a song that was famous in Italy at the time, "Quando la radio canta', including nationalist music such as the 'Giovienezza' and 'Deutschland, Deutschland über Alles'
The use of marionettes toward the end of Act 1 gave us a chance to create Antonio's backstory and helps explains how others view him. He is a 'rota', a discarded orphan, and this informs how he struggles to find a sense of belonging and acceptance in a harsh world.
The final criteria for any production is whether the audience feel empathy for the main characters, and whether they feel a connection to the story. The Boy and the Spy is a timeless tale of what it means to have family, and how families sometimes are not always made up of those born under the same roof. We hope that this stage adaptation of the book will entertain, inform, and move young audiences for years to come.
Dr. Andrew Close
Head of Arts,
International School of Geneva, Switzerland