Arnaud Ghillebaert Interview

Questions to Arnaud Ghillebaert, musician, actor

How did you and Colin meet? 

We met through a mutual violin teacher, with whom we studied at different times in France. She once organized a weekend in the country with her students and friends of hers, when I was studying with her. Colin was working on a project (a concert for violin, cello and voice) in the area and he came with his colleague cellist to demonstrate a few excerpts of their work. I loved it and after I saw them perform the work, we started working together.

photo by Rodney Damon II

photo by Rodney Damon II

Is it the first time you are involved in a play? 

Yes and no. I was first involved in a production of Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by Tom Stoppard at the National Theatre, London, as an orchestra member in 2010. The orchestra was onstage and was part of the production as a character, and I had some silent interaction with the main actors. After this first experience, I really wanted to do more of this kind of project. I also played a few concerts with Colin and MacIntyre where music and text were put together. There was no acting involved for me and it wasn’t technically theatre plays but it was already something more than a mere concert. Colin wrote music for the children’s tale The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, and we learnt some music by heart so that we could move around, use the scenic space and even create a “choreography” for one of the pieces. One of the most significant experiences for me as an “actor” was when Colin and MacIntyre asked me to play the silent role of a waiter during a reading of Alexandra Devon’s play “The Laugh”. Again the role itself was very simple, but it was the first time I was taking the risk of not being a musician while interacting with them. This happened only for one performance, however.

These were all initial steps preparing the His Majesty experience: to play as a solo musician in a fully staged production, but as a theatre character interacting with actors.

What do you like most about this play? 

I love the text. I think it is beautifully written and has so much respect for Dostoyevsky’s ideas. The content is both light and funny, and yet deep and intense…it’s a lot of material to reflect on, and yet it is never boring or heavy. I’m really touched each time I hear these lines. I think Colin wrote a beautiful music that really serves the text, too. It’s wonderful to be able to both enjoy the music and the text! 

My position is quite unique in this play because I listen a lot to the ongoing drama, I am witnessing the situation between the young man and the devil… it’s like being part of the audience and yet still being part of the play! I like this very much, too.

What kind of audience would enjoy this piece? 

As a professional musician I have played in quite a few different settings, for quite different audiences. However I have been often very surprised how positively audiences respond when you accompany them through the performance. This can be either by introducing the pieces, or really working to create a welcoming atmosphere for the performances. After working with Colin and the Elsewhere Ensemble for a few years, he’s really become a specialist of feeling the need of today’s audience and we’ve had incredible responses from very varied types of people during our concerts. So I think this play could be enjoyed by anyone who wants to spend a good evening at the theater!


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