The Cenci Profile: Nawton Chiles

The Cenci is a play written by Percy Bysshe Shelley that tells the story of Beatrice and her struggle to free herself from her abusive father, Count Francesco Cenci. This year, Professor Jo Devereux’s English 2041F class will be putting on The Cenci as part of their coursework and are staging the production from scratch, from blocking and set design to marketing and performance. The production will be double-cast, meaning there will be two casts performing on alternating nights.

I sat down with Nawton Chiles, who will be playing Count Cenci on December 5th and 7th, to discuss his role in the production and his experience thus far.

          Photo credit: The Cenci at Western University on Facebook

Name: Nawton Chiles

Year: 2

Program: Philosophy

Role: Count Cenci

Tell me a bit about yourself:

“Well, I’m a philosopher, a huge music nerd and you can always find me with my head buried in some book or another. I don’t care what it’s about, I love learning anything new!”

What made you want to get involved with The Cenci?

“I’ve always been a huge fan of romantic literature, I really enjoy acting, and I wanted to take an English class this year. This production lets me hit three birds with one stone.”

Have you been involved in theatre before?

“I’ve only gotten into theatre very recently when I played the role of Polonius in my high school’s production of Hamlet. Nevertheless, I’m excited to be in this production, and I’m working hard to bring my best.”

What does your role entail?

“Cenci’s not a nice guy, so playing him involves a lot of distasteful stuff. He’s got a couple sons who don’t last long, and he isn’t exactly father of the year with his daughter either. There’s some fight choreography that I’ve still got to nail down too.”

What’s been your favourite part of the process so far?

“My favourite part has definitely been portraying the joy in which Cenci takes at being evil. He’s really a pure evil villain in this play, so there’s no need to work in redeeming characteristics, as those would just seem forced and unnatural when contrasted with his actions and dialogue. As a result, I can really have fun with the role, and be as overtly evil as I please.”

What’s been the most challenging aspect of playing Cenci?

“Honestly, that’d probably have to be embodying Cenci’s physicality. I’m a pretty meek guy in real life, so taking up space and having a really menacing physical presence doesn’t exactly come naturally to me. Although, Percy Shelley, and our great director and stage manager certainly give me a lot of help, so I think it’s going pretty well!”

Why should people come see The Cenci? 

“Like most great plays, the themes portrayed in The Cenci are timeless and universal, so anyone can learn a lot about themselves and the human condition by coming to see this play. Additionally, although they’re timeless, some of the themes in The Cenci are especially relevant today. These include things like the morality of religion, whether it’s okay to kill an evil person, and even some #MeToo commentary.”

Speed Round:

Plays or Musicals? Definitely plays.

Favourite play/musical? As a philosophy student, Waiting For Godot is a treat every time I see it.

Pre-show ritual? Before each show, I generally like to put on my costume, and then wait quietly backstage until my cue. It’s outrageous, I know, but it hasn’t let me down yet.

Check out The Cenci from December 4-7 at 7:30 pm at the TAP Centre for Creativity. Tickets are $10 for students and seniors and $15 for adults and can be purchased on the TAP Centre website. For more information about The Cenci, check them out on Facebook and Instagram.

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  • The Cenci Profile: Cobourn Sands
  • The Cenci Profile: Eva Alie​

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