Q&A with Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Author Louis de Bernières

The world premiere production of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin opens at Curve on Sat 13 Apr and plays until Sat 20 Apr.

Based on Louis de Bernières’ best-selling novel, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is set in 1941 Cephalonia and tells the story of an enigmatic young Italian Officer, Captain Corelli, who is sent to the Greek Island as part of the occupying forces. Shunned by the locals at first, he proves himself to be civilised, humorous and a consummate musician. The Captain is soon thrown together with Dr Iannis’ strong-willed and beautiful daughter Pelagia who discovers all of the complexities of love, and how it can blossom in the most unexpected and profound way.

Directed by Oliver and Tony Award nominee Melly Still and, adapted by Rona Munro, this love story is brought to life by Harry Blake’s specially commissioned music.

Here, author Louis de Bernières and Vicky Edwards talking about dramatic inspiration, opening night apprehensions and what makes us human.

Your books require a lot of historical research. Is this a pain or a passion?

It’s not a passion, but I do love it. You are constantly learning things. I have recently been researching the Boer War and it is fascinating.

You are an accomplished musician. What kind of music floats your boat?

That changes all the time, but music is evocative. At the moment I am having a craze for playing flamenco [guitar]. I also love the flute. There is nothing like playing the flute to express what you feel in your spirit. It is a very versatile instrument.  It is hard, for instance to make a banjo or mandolin sound melancholy – they sound relentlessly cheerful – but not so with the flute.

Captain Corelli is an epic love story. Why do we never tire of love stories?

I can’t explain that any more than I can explain why we dance or paint – it’s all hopelessly irrational and pointless. But it is part of what we are.

Elizabeth Mary Williams and Kezrena James (photographer Marc Brenner)
You were a student of philosophy. What pearl of wisdom can you offer?

If you want to be happy, do what you are good at.

The most difficult thing in the world is…?

Keeping romantic love alive.

The most difficult job you have ever done?

You try being a landscape gardener in the middle of winter.

Stories provide glorious escapism. What is escapism for you?

I read in order to have adventures that I wouldn’t have otherwise. To escape from the horrendous boredom of listening to my own internal speech all the time I play music a lot, especially the guitar. It stills the tedious relentless babble of my mind. The Jehovah Witnesses came around recently and talked to me about eternal life.  I said that I didn’t want to live forever; I couldn’t stand the tedium of listening to myself. They said that they saw my point.

Are you nervous about opening night of the new play version of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin?

I expect there will be a moment of apprehension when I am wondering if the vision of the director is anything like mine. What I hope is that Mel [Olivier and Tony Award nominee Melly Still] will draw me into the narrative as if I hadn’t written it. The last script that I saw was very faithful to the book.

What are you working on now?

Part three of a trilogy of a family saga. It is the most difficult thing that I have ever done. There are so many characters to remember and to keep finding exciting things to happen to. It has got the makings of a TV series, I hope.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is at Curve Theatre from Sat 13 Apr to Sat 20 Apr.
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