Well that is it, we are now officially over half way into our rehearsal period!
We started off nice and lightly with the complete history of genealogy from Phillip III to James I. To do this, we created a family tree on the floor, with a single piece of paper given to each person. The complexities of relationships and knowledge of who was related to who and who fought with who, is so important in order for us to understand particular references in the play. We have to remember that these references are actual historical events involving real people and this affects Henry V’s decisions in the play considerably. Additionally, there is no way on earth that the audience are going to understand the relationships between the characters or references to previous monarchs and important figures if we don’t! In fact, the reason why there was so much instability and suspicion within the royal blood line is because it was so confusing and anyone could twist their own genealogy to suit themselves. At any moment your faithful cousin, brother, or even uncle could turn on you and issue you a 100 page document on why they are the rightful heir to the throne and declare war on you there and then. (Or pay someone else to assassinate you!)
After digesting this weighty information, we got stuck in to working with the text again. We began with the ‘Once more unto the breach speech’. Firstly, before definite staging and concept decisions can be made, the most important thing is to work out what the play is actually about. So without giving too much away, as the scene was naturally progressing, it was taking a very different shape to how most other productions and film adaptations of the play have delivered it. For this production however, it seemed to fit perfectly for our Henry V, the journey that she has been on so far and her approach to leadership. Maybe tomorrow we will completely scrap it and go back to the safety of tradition but for now the possibilities are endless and I will be intrigued if it does go ahead, how our audiences and staunch Henry V fans will take it.
Today we also met with our costume designer Rachel Dingle! Using photographs, she showed us just how wearing clothes in different ways can completely affect how an actor stands, where their weight sits and in turn, how their character comes across on stage. Ultimately, the main purpose of our costumes are practicality and survival. These women are at war and to quote, ‘when the blast of war blows in our ears’ you don’t have time to pick a uniform or protective gear that fits well or looks nice, most of these women would have had to strip the clothes off of the mens backs and get stuck in. There is no time to do your hair, who is thinking about their hair when the person looking back at you wants you dead?
On that happy note we then ploughed straight into a scene that really hits home the realities of war. Soldiers are fighting amongst themselves and are beginning to question what they are doing this for, mistakes in their strategy arise and knowledge comes in thick and fast of all the wounded and deceased soldiers. This particular scene feels to us, the most contemporary scene in the play and is a stark contrast from the talk of honour, glory, victory and God’s will that we have witnessed in earlier parts of the play.
There were also some brilliant ideas for scene transitions today – who knew so much could be achieved with a table! I am getting rather attached to these inanimate objects – maybe I need to get out more.
I can’t believe we are almost at the end of the second week! If you haven’t got tickets already then please see the link below to book tickets, it would be wonderful to have you!