Friday, January 13, 2006

Bloody, Bloody Battle

"This scene isn't even in the play," was my fight director's comment as we assembled to finalize the choreography for 4.4, "The Battle." He was partly right; there is a scene in Lear that corresponds to it, and the dialogue is pretty much unchanged. Edgar and Gloster come on, and Edgar tells his blind poppa:

Here Father, take the shadow of this Tree
For your good host: pray that the right may thrive:
If ever I return to you again,
I’ll bring you comfort.

Then the battle takes place, after which Edgar re-enters to inform Dad that:

Away old man, give me thy hand, away!
King Lear hath lost, he and’s Daughter taken.
Give me thy hand: Come on.

The only thing I've effectively changed is the nature of the stage direction which comes between these two segments. In the original, it just says "Alarum and retreat within." In other words, the battle occurs off-stage, and is signified only by noises. At the start of last night's rehearsal, I thought this was a cheat--an easy way out that no self-respecting director ought to take.

Three and a half hours later, I was inclined to agree with Shakespeare. Battles are for backstage, not onstage. Which is not to say it did not go well. I gave all the combatants (Edmund, Albany, France, the English Captain, one French soldier and Gargrave, Lear's last knight) sashes to tie around their waists, as a sort of badge of office. I counted off the beats which, in the production, will be indicated by pulsing spotlights, illuminating tableaux and brief skirmishes between various combatants. Andrew swooped in regularly to adjust the fights, while I distributed advice on how to die effectively. By the end of the night, it looked great, and sounded even better: lots of shouts and howls and death rattles, with Ron's Captain chuckling maliciously as he cleaned his blade on Gargrave's tunic. I think it will do all the things I need it to do: punch up the energy as we near the end of the play, and illustrate the horrors of war that Goneril, Regan, and Edmund have brought down on England.

None the less, I couldn't help wondering if the time would have been better spent on scenes that Shakespeare actually had a hand in. All in all, the battle will last about two and a half minutes when performed--that means (I think) that we rehearsed each minute for 1.4 hours last night.

Ah, well. Counting up opportunity cost at this point in the process is a waste of even more time. We're definitely in high gear now, with tech week eight days away. What gets polished, gets polished; whatever doesn't get finalized will be left to the actors. And it's better, in nearly all respects, to let the actors flounder through a speech or two than fumble their way through anything involving swords and pointed sticks.


Blogger cpc said...

Agreed. It's a bit late to start training new actors if someone's sword slips!

9:31 p.m.  
Anonymous blindly said...

I believe the battle scene will go splendidly. I just wish I could see it, rather than sense it. But in the sensing, I can smell the blood of a British man. I have another comic moment for you on that one, should you desire it.

6:00 p.m.  

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