William Nadylam talks Peter Brook's 'Suit' at BAM
MISANI Special to the AmNews | 1/22/2013, 2:55 p.m.
The story of Philemon and Matilda evolves one morning after he finds out that his wife is cheating on him, something that is known throughout their community. He returns home to find his wife with her lover (Rikki Henry), who escapes by jumping out a window, leaving his suit behind. "Philemon cannot ignore the suit. It's there. It's evidence," Nadylam points out, adding: "Philemon has a strange reaction. Instead of becoming physical or getting angry in a major way, he invents a bizarre and cruel punishment for his wife. He is going to have her live with the suit. They are going to have a three-way relationship with the suit. They are going to eat, sleep, walk and stroll around with the suit. The humiliation of this menage a trois is going to destroy the marriage."
In preparing for the play, Nadylam, whose previous characters included roles that portrayed "nice people," heroes and romantic affairs, admitted: "It was tough. This man comes across as someone tortured who suffers at first. He has done everything for this woman. He loves her and she has stopped loving him and he doesn't understand. That will turn him into some type of monster, one that he eventually destroys. When he forgives, it's a bit too late. There is no redemption."
Nadylam had to consider another layer that colors the plot. "There is also the specter of domestic violence that hovers about the couple, and we are talking about a situation that is taking place in South Africa in the 1950s, where women were not that emancipated yet, although societies in Africa are matriarchal." Consequently, Nadylam wanted to be very careful in portraying the role of Philemon. "When it comes to violence, you don't want to be that man," he remarked, adding: "There is no redemption."
Accordingly, Nadylam had to work very hard with Brook. "I had to accept the ugliness of the character, to not try to make him win hearts. I had to rethink the way to project myself, to do what it is to be an African man in the '50s in South Africa, where everybody in the community knows when someone is having an affair and the shame it brings upon the family. At that time, you just couldn't get out of situations like that," he said.
"The Suit," which opened in Naples, Italy, before returning to Brook's Thetre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris, with subsequent tours to Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai, has a cast of four actors and three musicians. In addition to Nadylam and Kheswa are assistant director, Rikki Henry, who plays the lover, Jared McNeill, Arthur Astier, Raphael Chambouvet and David Dupuis.
In addition to the play's African music, there is also classical, jazz and other types of American songs of the 1950s and '60s, leading Nadylam to conclude, "'The Suit' has more to do with the color of emotions than the color of the skin."
For tickets and information, call BAM at 718-636-4100 or visit www.bam.org.