We spent the morning looking at the effects of walking and how we walk. To walk with a negative or passive energy effects everything, as was displayed by moi quite beautifully.
We gathered all of the pictures we have collected over the last couple of days and began to think about Venice itself and how that might effect who we are. The funniest things can have such a huge bearing on a character. What books do they read? Do they read? Do they prefer a bath or a shower? Or neither?
After that we started trying to work out the timeline of the play, for those of you who haven’t read the Merchant, old Billy Boy can be somewhat ambiguous with his timelines and distances travelled. One thing that does seem to be thrown up a bit is this idea of Balthy being the original Good Time Guy. Like a really camp Gatsby. I absolutely love it and think it could potentially lead to a series of spin offs following his lavish exploits.
‘Tricksy Thursday’ kicked off with the usual warm-up , a variety of exercises focused on a sung number pattern. For someone who has a bad relationship with numbers this can get quite tense… The rest of the morning was devoted to movement: thinking about which body part we lead with, experimenting with different styles of walking and making strong connections with other people as we pass them. We also considered slow-motion movement, and discovered the intense concentration and effort this demands. This all feeds into the ensemble work that will feature in the production. Taking a break from movement, we examined the various images we have accumulated, and how these might, or might not, tie into our play. This sparked off numerous discussions and ideas, leaving us with a bit of time at the close of play to reconsider our French scenes with a focus on time and location. If Shakespeare had been specific about the amount of time elapsed between scenes, like Ibsen, it would have been far less complicated! But also far less interesting and challenging, and, yes it’s true, fun.
Today we were under the leadership of Associate Director Gavin. After the daily warm-up (the Zeus-squats hurt a lot more than I had anticipated!), Gavin introduced a movement exercise that involved guiding a partner through pressure on the palms of their hands. This fed into an ensemble exercise in which each actor is connected to two others by bamboo canes. The aim is to keep hold of the canes with the right tension so they don’t fall, which is easier said than done when ten people are all connected. The actors soon started to keep an eye out for one another and accommodate for any sticky situations people found themselves in. Watching them then work in pairs was interesting as different dynamics were revealed in the various partnerships, some more mischievous than others! The research session in the afternoon was a chance to consolidate all our individual research on a variety of topics that relate to the play. This session brought up many excellent arguments as to how Shakespeare is definitely still relevant today, despite what some people think.
Well it didn’t take long to reach the part of rehearsals where my body hates me. Actors warm ups should be narrated by David Attenborough. To watch from the outside they are ritualistic and tribal and more than anything just plain weird. But we actors know this as well as anyone; so that’s why it is so important to let go of all those hang ups and just go for it. If, like me, it has been a while since you “warmed up” it feels so good to just completely release the inner silly. I won’t try to talk you through what we did for that couple of hours because you still wouldn’t get it; I will say that there was a hog roast and at least three resurrections. After exorcising the hang ups and mental barriers that hold us back we got down to the text. Ah Shakespearean text. There is nothing I can really write about it that hasn’t already been said, and then disputed. We had our first play with it today, just feeding off what was in the room and working off our impulses while helping who ever was speaking by reinforcing their point of view. It was all good fun and very productive. Only by trying and failing do you find something new. I found some stuff out about Balthazar that surprised me and yet tomorrow I might find something completely different that totally contradicts today. Maybe none of it will get used in the final product.
However there was one part of today that really stuck with me. In the courtroom scene when Antonio’s champions try to wrestle his life from the grasp of Shylock, I felt increasingly aware that we are all screaming at this one man. No one reasoned, no one asked. We surrounded him and tried to intimidate. I felt really protective over Steve/Shylock after that and found myself looking over at him from time to time to make sure he was happy. It just goes to show the power of the subject and the fact that even now, hundreds of years on, it is still so relevant. That’s upsetting to think about really.
A very active day for our cast today. We started off with a warm-up, which fed into physical improvisation. To an outsider it would look very “thespy”, but such exercises encourage the cast to work closely as an ensemble, which our idea for the production will demand. The afternoon was taken up with ‘French scene-ing’, which is not, as I had to explain to someone, performing the scenes in French. A French scene is another way of dividing the play into sections. While the actors played out the scenes, those in ‘Dictionary Corner’ noted lines that fell into specific categories; upon completion of the run we could see how often certain themes occur during the play. This threw up some interesting findings, which we’ll keep under our hats for now…
As we embark on our final production of the year we want to share the process with you of this, the iconic Merchant of Venice. Assistant Director, Nicola Pollard and actor Joe Mott shall be keeping you up to date with all the goings on… read on as we prepare for the final Lazarus production of 2013!
Today we started rehearsals for the Merchant of Venice yet much like Antonio’s ships we were delayed by the storms. If we didn’t have enough to do in 11 days of rehearsal, losing a morning to the weather certainly lights a fire beneath you. I always get nervous before a first rehearsals, either I think I haven’t done enough prep or I don’t know my lines etc. but 10 mins in you are reminded that everyone is in the same boat as you but they are all eager to create which is the best you can ask for so early on.
I’m still nervous but for different reasons now. I’m a control freak and I have to know who I am, where I am, what I’m playing, what his past is and everything about him. My school used to scream at me for doing it. They said I never allowed myself “permission to play” which I can totally agree with. So throughout our morning session I had a thousand questions to ask Ricky but I knew that there were no answers for me at this stage. But I’m alright with that I think. I trust the company and I trust Ricky. Which is handy because his ideas and the path he wants to explore is either going to lead us to an incredible production or into theatrical exile! But we can only wait and see. It’s a beautiful and scary thing to be standing on the edge of a production but you have to take the leap of faith with two feet if you want to thrive. I have to trust that the answers will come. And I have to accept that they may not be the answers that I expect or want.
Today’s storm may have felled a crane on the roof of the Cabinet Office, but come hell or high water our company were going to make it to the Brockley Jack! When a dishevelled cast had eventually gathered, our designer, Richard, showed us the model of the set. The idea is brilliant, and really exciting – if not a little daunting for the cast. You’ll see what we mean come show time! Kelli, our costume designer, demonstrated how to make a young actor a very happy chap – give him a three piece suit, with flared trousers of course! Finally, we discovered that if you start exploring and discussing images of nature versus artificial you will end up at a Shakespeare quote, whether you wanted to or not. In the words of Mr Dukes, ‘marv’.
With rehearsals starting next week, we wanted to announce the cast of the Merchant of Venice at the Brockley Jack Theatre, 19th November to 7th December, 2013.
Antonio – Paul Christian Rogers
Bassanio – Alexander Shenton
Gratiano – Adam Cunis
Lorenzo – Liam Steward-George
Duchess – Tracey Pickup
Portia – Rosemary Lippard
Nerissa – Alexa Reed
Balthazar – Joe Mott
Shylock – Stephen MacNeice
Jessica – Colette O’Rourke
All other roles played by the company.
Adapted and Directed by Ricky Dukes
Stage Design by Richard Evans
Sound Design by Neil McKeown
Assistant Director – Nicola Pollard
Stage Manager – Ina Berggren
Company Photographer – Adam Trigg
Production Graphic Designer – Will Beeston
We at Lazarus are always proud of the work we do. We always spend a lot of time before deciding a play is right for us to do, and Spanish Tragedy was no exception.
Discussions about the play and if/when we should do it have been taking place over the last few years. We decided that now, Autumn, 2013 was the right time. And, boy, were we right. All the cast, creative team, and team at the Blue Elephant Theatre have come together to create a production that they should all be proud of. We know we are!
We want to thank everyone that was involved in bringing this massive play to the stage at the Blue Elephant Theatre, and to all of the audiences who came out to support the work, us and to be part of the 7 week phenomenon that was The Spanish Tragedy.
Spanish Tragedy Production photo taken by Adam Trigg
Blue Elephant Theatre 24th September – 19th October.