Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Opening Night

Hello All! Tonight is opening night! I thought maybe before you head into the theatre I should give you a little clue as to what the production design is going to be, lest you walk into the theatre and go "huuuuuhh?". Most of what I'm about to write is already in my designer's notes in the programme, but isn't it much easier reading it off a brightly lit screen than squinting in the dark at 12-point American Typewriter font? On another note, please purchase the programme - unlike other programmes, we do have some juicy bits in it. (Available at the Pentas 2 merchandise counter for RM 5.)

So. Designing Beckett has been a trip, to say the least. I wasn't and still isn't, very familiar with Beckett's work. I knew he was a writer of absurdist plays, and I read the college staple - Waiting for Godot. 3 years on from my History of Modern Theatre class, I had forgotten most of what I'd learnt about Beckett. So I read Endgame like how I read every script that comes my way. Except this time around, the usual methods of dissecting a script didn't result in any aesthetic epiphanies. You see, the more I tried to interpret the text in allegorical or symbolic terms, the less it made sense to me. Hints of a Brechtian approach popped up, but feeling as unsure as I was, I just dismissed it as a whim. I sat on it for a few days, trying to put something down on paper, researching at the same time. Everything I read about Beckett just confused me even more - he was known for his distrust of any kind of exegesis and was notoriously evasive when it came to assigning any sort of definitive meaning. If that's the case, then why are there so many bloody opinions or critical definitions by the hundreds of so-called Beckett experts? What, really, is the 'Beckettian ideal'? GAH!

So, feeling extremely confused and a little disheartened, I had a chat with Gavin and asked him if he would be adverse to the idea of workshopping the set (i.e. we develop the set as rehearsals progressed...) After all, the set consists of - a chair on castors, 2 windows and 2 'ashbins. The question was how we were going to place them, how big should the windows be? etc. I didn't know a thing - all I knew was that I wanted desperately to steer away from symbolism and create a purely functional set. Of course, Gavin agreed (at which point I removed my stiletto from his crotch.) Why the aversion to symbolism, well, I guess you'll have to come and watch the play to fully understand it. When you watch Endgame being performed, its meaning is inherently contained within Beckett’s textual and physical choreography. To design something symbolic would immediately contextualize the play, which I felt, would not lend itself to the verbal imagery. My goal was that everything on stage is not there to tell you anything, but they’re to help the actors tell their stories. Everything on stage is there because the actors need it, and because it’s mentioned in the script.



When we moved into our rehearsal space, links between Beckett and Brecht began to appear. First, I started noticing lines in the dialogue that were clearly addressing an audience, and then I started noticing Beckett’s choreography of Clove’s movements and how they were never superfluous or gratuitous. Both of these, from a design perspective, complement Brecht’s philosophies of action design and the alienation effect. Funny that, how things come full circle.

Anyway, after weeks of experimentation, we’ve decided to go the route of keeping with Beckett’s original set directions while employing Brechtian methods of execution. I’ve attempted to separate the audience and the action. For once you are not invited into the world of these characters, but merely remain as the spectator, the voice of rational being who is liable to simply observe. The whole set is exposed, as with the workings of the theatre, to reiterate: This is a play, these, its actors and you, the audience.

6 Comments:

Blogger mamasan said...

ooooh... memories of cold mornings in with a slightly damp and vaguely cute theatre prof... theatre theory, what a delight!

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