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…