We ate cake with Marie Antoinette
‘Let them eat cake’ takes on a new meaning in this y2k nepo-baby-inspired production
As one of the most anticipated plays of Lent term, we were excited to sit down with the cast of Marie Antoinette. Starring Victoria Ubenyi as Marie, this play promises to be an exciting must-watch for theatre-goers this term.
How did this play begin? Director Arianna Muñoz explained about how she ‘stumbled upon the play by accident’ and decided to put the play into motion. She explained how she ‘loved a good period drama’ and how this one was exciting and interesting enough for the stage.
One of her inspirations for this play was Sofia Coppola’s film of the same name. She spoke about the modern elements of the movie such as ‘the converses she wears’, and how she’s ‘taken that inspiration to the next level’ with the play.
The cast then laughed at the happy coincidence of the notorious nepotism article published in the New York magazine, which went viral on Twitter during the early stages of production. At the time, the cast recalled laughing at the celebrity responses to said article, saying how they reminded them of the characters within the play.
Bouncing off of this, the cast then discussed the relevance of the play in the modern day. Despite being a period drama, the social commentary within the play surrounding class is highly relevant within British society. Perhaps this is even more true for Cambridge students. Victoria pointed out that nepotism and privilege aren’t just confined to the pre-revolution French monarchy. She spoke about her experience coming from a state school, and how she did not experience ‘the ease of getting into Cambridge that so many people do have here’.
Arianna agreed, saying ‘nepotism is even a thing in Cambridge theatre. If you know someone who’s casting, then you’re of course going to get a part. Once you’re in, you’re in.’
Marie who, sorry?
You may know her as the iconic and tragic Queen of France, but this Marie – spoilt, pretty, chatty – is a completely fresh take. Victoria spoke about her experience playing Marie Antoinette, laughing about how ‘she’s just talking all the time.’ When Lizzy asked if she ever actually leaves the stage, Victoria laughed wryly: ‘No, I do not.’
Three essential items for Marie? ‘Mirror’, Victoria starts with, ‘Because I like to look at myself. Lipgloss definitely. And… Chocolates.’
As exhausting as the acting must be, it is a joy to play such a fun, yet complicated character. Victoria certainly thinks so, describing Marie as a ‘dual person’. She goes on to say ‘no one is necessarily good in the play. She’s got good intentions, but she’s stuck in her ways.’
Arianna points out the opening scene as a great metaphor for this: ‘She’s all chatty and happy with her girls, but really it’s a coping mechanism. I wanted a new perspective on her, you know, so that she’s not bad or good. I think perception is more complicated than that.’
At the heart of the production lies the aesthetic. Arianna exclaimed, ‘Like Bridgerton but better!’ She also points out that ‘despite the dark scenes, the nepo-baby aesthetic actually makes it quite enjoyable.’
The costume design is surely one of the highlights of this aesthetic, as Lizzy comments on the ‘elements of regality’ within the modern costumes, which ties the play back to its historical roots. Her own costume combines the period piece backdrop with the modern: a ‘y2k low waisted maxi skirt and a corset top’. Victoria described it as ‘coquette’, with ‘bows, pastels, ribbons, long socks’.
We then asked the cast of Marie Antoinette if there was anything shocking that the audience should prepare themselves for. It was at this point in the interview that they revealed the ‘talking sheep’.
Likely not a historically accurate addition, according to Arianna, the sheep is a ‘figment of Marie’s imagination’ that ‘represents the spirit of the French revolution’. Obviously. Victoria added that it is ‘a transcendent being… With a cute costume.’ Lizzy agreed: ‘I think the sheep will be quite shocking, yes.’
And it was clear already watching their rehearsal of the first scene that the cast share an incredible dynamism and passion for the play, as the fast-paced chat takes unexpectedly emotional turns. Marie Antoinette promises to be an exciting and very relevant production this week, and is definitely not to be missed!
Marie Antoinette is showing on the 31st of January – 4th of February at 7:00 pm in the Corpus Playroom. Book your tickets here.
Feature image credit: Izzy Duffy-Cross