The Return - A new play by Ellie Stewart

The Return - A new play by Ellie Stewart

We are really looking forward to having The Return at the Lemon Tree on Saturday 03 March 2018, and we thought it migjht be nice to give some background on this great new production. Inspired by the true story of Martin Guerre, The Return is a gripping play about the mystery of identity and the survival instinct, and asks whether we can ever truly know even those we love the best. Commissioned and premiered by Eden Court, and written by Ellie Stewart, a rising star of Scottish playwriting, The Return is produced by the same creative team behind Eden Court’s Not About Heroes in 2015.


Ellie Stewart the writer:

"Bertrande, Martin and Arnaud lived in the French Pyrenees in the middle of the sixteenth century. But it was in 1990 in Toulouse that I was introduced to them by a friend who was studying history. Watching the film Le Retour de Martin Guerre, I was intrigued. I also thought ... ‘well Bertrande doesn’t get a lot to say.’

The story resurfaced for me more than twenty years later, when I returned to the Pyrenees. Overwhelmed by sensory memories, I was compelled to explore the story further and I put Bertrande at the heart of the exploration. I learned that this story of imposture was recorded immediately after the trial, and by one of the key players; the Judge wrote his version Arrest Memorable during his summer break. It sold well. Many versions of the story have been told since then, and other adaptations have been made, but it was Nathalie Zemon Davis’s beautiful research that I pillaged for tiny sparkling details.

The writing of The Return was not a linear or a solo journey. Through development, the play and the characters took on lives of their own. Their son Sanxi came to the fore, a bear found its way in, and an encounter with a cello opened my eyes to new possibilities. But a play is not built on research or words. I also draw on real-life friendships, partings, absences, loves, landscapes, parenting and reunions. If the storytelling is speculative, hopefully the emotional truth bleeds through."

The history and true story of Martin Guerre, from which the play is based

Martin Daguerre was born around 1524 in the Basque town of Hendaye. In 1527, his family moved to the village of Artigat in the Pyrenees of southwestern France. They changed their name to Guerre. When he was about fourteen years old, Martin married Bertrande de Rols, the daughter of a well-off family and started a family of his own.

Accused of stealing grain from his father, Martin abruptly disappeared in 1548. Roman Catholic Canon Law did not allow his abandoned wife to remarry.

The Return - Production Shot

In the summer of 1556,a man arrived in Artigat who claimed to be the long-gone Martin Guerre. By his similar looks and detailed knowledge of Guerre's life, he convinced most of the villagers. Martin Guerre's uncle and four sisters, as well as his wife Bertrande, believed the man was Guerre, as he claimed, although doubts remained.

The "new" Martin Guerre lived for three years with Bertrande and her son; they had two children together, with one daughter surviving. However some of his family tried to convince Bertrande that the new Martin was an impostor. A soldier who passed through Artigat claimed the man was a fraud: he said the true Martin had lost a leg in the war.

At this time relations believed he had uncovered the identity of the impostor: Arnaud du Tilh, nicknamed "Pansette", a man with a poor reputation from the nearby village of Tilh, in the region of Sajas and he was charged.

The Return - Production Shots

In 1560, the case was tried in Rieux. Bertrande testified that at first she had honestly believed the man to be her husband, but that she had since realized that he was a fraud. Both Bertrande and the accused independently related an identical story about their intimate life from before 1548 but still he was convicted.

The condemned man immediately appealed to the Parlement of Toulouse. Officials arrested Bertrande and Pierre on charges of possible false accusation and, in the case of Pierre, soliciting perjury. The new Martin eloquently argued his case, and the judges in Toulouse tended to believe his version of the story: that Bertrande was pressured to perjury by the greedy Pierre Guerre. The accused had to undergo detailed questioning about his past; his statements were double-checked, and no contradictions were found.

Then, dramatically, a man appeared in Toulouse during the trial, with a wooden leg, claiming to be the true Martin Guerre. When asked about the married couple's past, the man had forgotten some details and was not able to answer the questions as well as the alleged impostor; however, when the two men were both presented to the Guerre family, the case was closed: Pierre, Bertrande, and Martin's four sisters all agreed that the newly arrived man was the true Martin Guerre.

The impostor Arnaud du Tilh, who maintained his innocence, was convicted and sentenced to death for adultery and fraud; the public sentencing on 12 September 1560 was attended by the young Michel de Montaigne. Afterward, the condemned confessed: he had learned about Guerre's life after two men had confused him with Guerre; he had then decided to take Guerre's place, with two conspirators helping him with the details. He apologized to all involved, including Bertrande, for having deceived them. He was hanged in front of Martin Guerre's house in Artigat four days later.

The Return - Production Shot

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The Creatives

Ellie Stewart - Writer
Ellie Stewart’s play Hope and Joy (about a woman who lays an egg) won the Tron Theatre’s Progressive Playwright Award in 2016. Mischief (described as lyrical, witty and raunchy) was produced by Play Pie Pint with the Traverse Theatre in 2016. She is a founder member of the Thrawn Craws writers’ collective, and also writes for Village Pub Theatre. Her poetry is published by Tapsalteerie and she is currently writer in residence with Firefly Arts in West Lothian.

Philip Howard - Director
Trained at the Royal Court Theatre on the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme from 1988-1990. Associate Director at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh from 1993-1996 and Artistic Director from 1996-2008.

Since 1993 he has produced and|or directed 18 small-scale Highland touring productions including Promises Promises for Eden Court/Dundee Rep and Not About Heroes for Eden Court.

Philip is a director of Pearlfisher, a new theatre company dedicated to the touring of new plays and talent development.

Kenneth MacLeod - Designer
From Inverness, Kenneth is a set, costume & video designer and illustrator. Recent design credits include Chess, Cabaret, West Side Story (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) Never Land, Not About Heroes (Eden CourtTheatre), Money Makes The World Go Round, Echoes In The Night, The Stranger (Carnival/Cunard Line) The Maids (Dundee Rep), Time & Motion (National Youth Ballet) and Chick Whittington (MacRobert Arts Centre). He was also storyboard artist on Flight (Vox Motus/Edinburgh International Festival).

The Return Production Shots

EJ Boyle - Movement Director
EJ is a choreographer and movement director. Theatre work: Oresteia: This Restless House (Citizens Theatre/ NTS/Edinburgh International Festival), Trainspotting, Cuttin’ A Rug (Citizens Theatre); Still Game: Live (Glasgow Hydro); Forest Boy (Noisemaker - New York Musical Festival/Arcola); Into The Woods/ Atlantic: A Scottish Story (Noisemaker/RCS), Richard III (West Yorkshire Playhouse); Hedda Gabler, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Jumpy (Royal Lyceum Edinburgh);  Cabaret, West Side Story, Carousel (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland).

For Eden Court: Not AboutWHeroes (Eden Court);

Film/TV: The Crown (Netflix Original Series); In Plain Sight (ITV); Two Doors Down (BBC); God Help the Girl (Sundance Special Jury Prize

Other work: Creative Associate/Choreographer Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Ceremonies; Assistant Artistic Director Baku 2015 European Games; Mass Movement Director Queens 90th Birthday Parade; Di- rector Under the Ground (Edinburgh Fringe), Associate Director Out of This World (Sadlers Wells/UK Tour)

Greg Sinclair - Composer/ Sanxi
Greg Sinclair is a musician and performance artist. In 2016 he won The Arts Foundation’s children’s theatre fellowship. His performance Sonata for a Man and a Boy won a CATS award for best production for children and young people in 2013. As a composer/performer he has worked with companies including Curious Seed, Starcatchers, Dundee Rep, The Polar Bears and Frozen Charlotte.

The Return - Production Shot

Emilie Patry - Bertrande
Emilie trained at the Central School of Speech And Drama and at the Studio 34 in Paris. Theatre credits include The Gamblers (Greyscale, UK tour), A Beginning, Middle and an End (Traverse/ Tron/ Hull Truck), Stars in the Morning Sky (Riverside Studios), Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down (Arcola), Macbeth (New Wimbledon Theatre), Les Isles Kerguelen (Théatre De La Tempête, Paris), Bastringue (L’Etoile du Nord, Paris). TV credits include Casualty 1907 (BBC), Behind Closed Doors (BBC Scotland), The Advocates (STV) and Gayle Tuesday: The Comeback (Living TV). She is co-founder of Jagged Fence Theatre Company.
Winner of the Best Supporting Actor Award, Off West End Awards 2016 for ‘The Christians’.

Thoren Ferguson - Arnaud
Thoren is a Scottish Actor, Musician and Composer. He first started performing on stage with youth
theatre groups from the age of 9 until 18. During that time he performed on theatre, radio and TV including a lead role in 2 TV series of Yo! Diary filmed at the Comedy Unit. During taking a break from acting Thoren focussed on his music. Thoren has played as a soloist at events across the country; he’s played to HRH Princess Anne, with the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, and he’s also won fiddle competitions across Scotland. He is a composer with 2 published compositions “The Lads of Quintinshill, 1915” and “The Somme”, both recently played on BBC Radio Scotland, BBC radio 4, STV and at numerous events across the country. He leads the ceilidh band “The Jacobites” who founded The Edinburgh Street Ceilidh, and teaches Scottish Traditional Music. He is the player of the renowned Wilfred Owen Violin.

Returning after a career break back into acting Thoren has recent credits in TV and Film including Mr Zamborini in Logan High (BBC), Jonas Jordan in Armchair Detectives (BBC) David Fairbairn in Mother (New Light Films), Johnny in Blue Christmas (Short Film) and Zach Marini in Date Life (Sitcom Pilot).

The return

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Posted on Tuesday 20 February

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