Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Jonathan Bank: Yours Unfaithfully

By | Published on Friday 2 June 2023

Last week we tipped a show called ‘Yours Unfaithfully’ – which is on at Jermyn Street Theatre until July – because it’s an old play, rediscovered and only recently given its first ever staging, and I love it when that happens. 

Having recommended the show based on its obvious promise, I thought it might also be good to find out a bit more about it. 

The show is staged in London by New York-based company Mint Theater, following their initial US production in 2017. I spoke to director Jonathan Bank. 

CM: Can you start by telling us what ‘Yours Unfaithfully’ is all about? Who are the central characters and what story does it tell?
JB: As you can tell from the title, the story of the play is concerned with marital fidelity, but not in the way you might expect.

Stephen and Anne are committed to the ideals of freedom, generosity and openness, and the story shows the couple testing their ability to practise what they preach. I like to call it an ‘un-romantic comedy’.

CM: What themes does the play explore?
JB: Obviously, the theme of living up to one’s ideals is a major theme of the play. Others are the challenge of navigating the ‘difficult country’ of sex without the signposts of religion and whether it’s possible to make rational decisions about feelings. There’s more too…

CM: Can you tell us about the late playwright and the elements of his career?
JB: Miles Malleson had a successful career as an actor spanning six decades. He was one of the finest Shakespearean clowns of his era; for example, he played Polonius to John Gielgud’s Hamlet in 1934, which

Sir John directed. He was also a political activist, passionately opposed to war. His first two short plays, written in 1916-17, were banned. They were considered a calumny on the British soldier because they portrayed young men afraid to die, and regretting killing.

CM: What made you want to stage this play now? What makes it relevant for today’s audiences?
JB: The play was written in 1933, but plays that are about feelings and relationships are always relevant. Many people have commented on how modern the play seems, but I think that flatters modernity a bit more than is appropriate. It’s quite possible that the question of living up to one’s ideals is more relevant today than it was when the play was written.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the cast?
JB: It’s been a long time since I’ve had more fun in a rehearsal room. A wonderfully talented group of people who work very hard and laugh even harder. I cast them all on Zoom! I can’t help you with their credits or anything like that, I just know that I love them all.

CM: Can you tell us about Mint Theater Company, its aims and ethos?
JB: Mint is dedicated to finding and producing plays that we describe as “lost or neglected”. ‘Yours Unfaithfully’ is a good example, published in 1933 but never produced until we did it in New York in 2017.

CM: And now can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you come to be working in the arts? Was it what you always wanted to do?
JB: I’ve been at this for 45 years so who remembers? I do recall when I was a teen thinking that I didn’t want a nine-to-five life.

CM: What have been the highlights of your career thus far?
JB: You’ll accuse me of recency bias, but being in London working on this play, with these actors and the Jermyn Street team, is definitely a high point – except that I miss my family.

Another highlight has been discovering the work of Teresa Deevy, an Irish woman who made a name for herself in the 1930’s and was later forgotten. I made a pilgrimage to Waterford, met her family and went through her original typescripts. I’ve directed three of her plays in NY.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
JB: I’m excited to share more of Mint’s work with new audiences through streaming. I began recording all of our productions ten years ago and we did a lot of streaming during the COVID years with great success.

I have ambitions to expand on that. And, of course, I want to find more great plays and bring them to life.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this? What projects do you have in the pipeline?
JB: Mint’s next production will begin in October, a wonderful English play from 1913 called ‘Partnership, by Elizabeth Baker. This will be our third Baker production, she’s a marvel.

‘Yours Unfaithfully’ is on at Jermyn Street Theatre until 1 Jul. For more information and to book tickets head to the venue website here.

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