I keep wondering what it is that draws me back to The Royal Family; this production marks the third time I will have directed this wonderful play. Certainly the brilliant, larger-than-life characters have something to do with it. The Cavendishes have a zest for living that is remarkable: they are infused with what George Bernard Shaw called the “life force,” a spirit that seems to gobble up their world in huge chunks. Certainly we in the audience are affected by these vital people, and we leave the theatre feeling better about our own lives having encountered the Cavendish clan.
Yet the spirit of the characters is really not enough to keep me coming back. Rather, I think it has something to do with the deep and abiding love I have for this incredible profession called the theatre. Nothing I have said or read is better able to describe to you, the audience (whom we in the theatre like to call the “civilian world”), how most of us feel about a life in the theatre. How can we possibly explain the dedication that forces many of us to sacrifice family, lifestyle, and social life on the altar of this all-consuming temple? The Cavendish family demonstrates this love better than any essayist could possibly write it. The audience leaves the play with a deep understanding of the magical spell cast over those of us caught in the theatrical world.
Having said all that, there is something still more universal about The Royal Family: tradition. This tradition is somehow lost in the modern, fast-moving world in which we live; but the Cavendish family reminds all of us of the necessity of carrying on, the necessity of honoring what preceded us, and of treating with care what will come after us. Fanny’s remaining strength is dedicated to the proposition that the children must carry on the theatrical tradition. In other words there is value to our lives. For all Americans this is a lesson worth remembering.