Black, Bleak and Beastly. Whilst innocently walking through a private courtyard at Kings, James Swanton and I discussed apposite adjectives for his upcoming appearance in the one-man show The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

James, of course, is no stranger to Cambridge theatre, nor is this his first one-man show but his excitement at capturing the “colourful and grotesque” of The Hunchback is palpable as he expounds the challenges he faced making this project.

Laughing, he describes his attraction to the one-man genre as an antidote to the realisation that ‘no-one wanted to cast me.’ Then, repositioning himself on the bench, re-crossing his legs as if to suggest that his thoughts were becoming more serious, he begins to enthuse about reclaiming the possibilities of student theatre: “you’re liberated from constraints, free to do anything you like and the one man show is the epitome of that.”

’He has the face of someone who might famous one day’ - Senior Arts EditorHelen Cahill

Despite being an English literature student, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of those bricks of books which I am yet to face ploughing through. Unfortunately for those of you, who, like myself, can only draw on Wikepdia and the Disney film as sources of knowledge about the book, James asserts that his Quasimodo is “certainly not the angelic presence he is in the Disney film.” Instead, we can expect to see something “very helpless and very dark.”

James then ruminated on ‘‘weird false dichotomy that if you look incredibly ugly on the outside you will, by default, be beautiful on the inside” that exists these days, suggesting that perhaps his production would counter, and even refute this notion.

The entire play takes place in Quasimodo’s bell-tower room, after the events of the book, in the form of a “circling, repetitious, almost catechistic” monologue.
Curious as to how the plot and peripheral characters would be translated into the one-man genre, James reassured me that we see the characters of Frollo and Esmerelda emerge in Quasimodo’s tortured reminiscences. The other characters are present, but only as external forces in Quasimodo’s mind.

James really had stirred my imagination after describing the play as a ‘meditation of ugliness of the most intense sort’ yet he dried up when I pushed him for aesthetic details about the actual physical makeup and the prospective set design. He defended himself with the notion that “I imagine the reason a lot of people will come to see this is out of a morbid curiosity.”

Feel like see satisfying your ‘morbid curiosity’? Then get to the Corpus Christi Playrooms between Tue 6th February - Sat 10th March, and pay a fiver to see the show.