Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Poster is out

As you can see in the sidebar, the production poster is out. Done by Mr Isma Yusoff. It should soon start cropping up in the usual places. Seedy bars, nice family-oriented bars, Irish bars maybe, public toilets etc. Not very sure where to put Beckett's mug now.

Monday night's rehearsal was a fancy thing. We moved to the technical studio at the rear of the building. It has no windows. Walls all painted black. The move was intended to help establish Brechtian design methods (recommended by Jia-Wei and Mac) in which director, actors, and designers work in close partnership throughout the entire rehearsal process. Gavin has said somewhere in this blog that this effectively takes theatre back to its roots.

We began Monday's rehearsal in total darkness, with very little to suggest a scene except whatever we had in our heads. We had props per stage directions (e.g. Hamm's chair, Clov's ladder, and a few other things) but that was it. The idea is this: We begin with nothing. If, halfway through the rehearsal, we find that we need to pluck a pheasant, then we wouldn't pretend to pluck a pheasant, or mime plucking, or do one of the hundred things we would normally do. We'd go and get a bloody pheasant and pluck it.

Brecht had very political ideas about how this is supposed to work, and I'll leave the design aspects to Jia-Wei, but the effect of this approach -- and the rehearsal made this made clear on Monday night -- was to focus our attention exclusively on Beckett's words and their delivery. The word "prop" can mean "support", which in turn implies "crutch". Take away the crutch and the actor is forced to find some other way to do his or her thing.

The blackout set a very sinister atmosphere entirely absent in our previous readings. Speaking for myself, I found in our early readings that Endgame came over as a very pathetic play -- i.e. in the original sense of pathos, pity -- despite Beckett's intention to communicate the bleak annihilation of meaning and what happens when words survive that annihilation. More of this later, if ever.

The early readings, which took place in full light, always had the sense of "readings". I.e. say what you will about Method and various theoretical codswallop (uh, I mean "ideas") about "being in the scene" etc., we were ultimately just actors reading lines. I believe that, however hard you work towards erasing your own personality and replacing it with your character's, some trace of you remains. This has to do with light. I'm about to start talking our of my arse now.

I read somewhere that Da Vinci always began a portrait with a black canvas because he believed that the human soul was ultimately a dark creature. Removal of light from the rehearsals put in my head the idea of the destruction of that aspect of personality. Eradication of Jedi, say, and rise of the Sith. On Monday night, everything became instantly creepy -- not so much in the sense that a hantu was about to pounce on us from the dark corners of the studio (though I admit there was a bit of this) -- but more in the sense that the people I had been working with weren't really people after all. They weren't actors either. What they were I can't imagine, but whatever they were they didn't mean me well.

"Hah," you say, "this is a pack of lies designed to boost interest in the bugger's play."

Well, suck my thumb. But there is something very odd about this whole business.

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