Monday, January 09, 2006

A Knight to Remember

Back into scene work tonight. One of the scenes I most regretted not having blocked before the break was 1.3--"The Knights," I call it, although they only occupy the stage for the first half of it. But their presence is still felt, since Lear and Goneril argue about the Knights' behaviour, and Goneril unilaterally dismisses half of Lear's entourage (can she do that?). Most of the Lear/Goneril stuff got blocked, as did the Lear/Kent/Oswald scrap near the top of the scene...but substantial gaps were still in evidence during yesterday's stumble though, as I watched one or two disoriented knights stand blinking upstage, wondering if Lear was yelling at them? Or was he just yelling...?

As I choreographed the chaos, two things occurred to me. The first was, "man, this show has a lot of blocking." That's what happens, I suppose, when you have so many actors; but it's more than that. Back in August, I set out to create a system whereby the show could block itself--and, more importantly, where the actors could find their blocking organically and naturally by relating their own status to that of other characters onstage. It didn't work--I think I chickened out, to be honest, but the few times I did try it, it usually just ended up being halting and repetitive. If Lear's world is a world out of balance, then it requires a lot of shifting to reflect that. And it can be hectic shifting, it can be chaotic overall, but the individual movements of each actor needs to be precise in order to create the effect of chaos. And that equals blocking. Damn it. I just wish I could be spending all this crucial time on lines and characterization, instead of "Stand here. Move here."

But as I was bossing my knights around, a second discovery occurred, and this one made me feel a bit better. I told the four actors who were playing the knights (some of whom are among the least experienced in the cast) that Lear's knights were more like his buddies than his servants. They could afford to be unrestrained--and, indeed, Goneril describes them as "disorder'd and debosh'd." With that in mind, I let them invent some upstage business of their own, to fill the space between their (meticulously blocked) entrances and exits. Delightfully, they took this idea and ran with it. The freedom to ham it up a bit, to relax and goof off, and to let that goofiness become an organic part of the play, really seemed to energize the scene--in fact, it was the component that added the chaos and disorder that my careful blocking had very nearly eliminated altogether.

So blocking is good, but so is giving the actors some latitude.

Other good things happened, including some great bits between Goneril/Albany and Lear/Fool. And I also checked in to see that the set is coming along much faster now (phew). Even the stocks are almost complete--the manacles that will bind Kent's arms hang menacingly over centre stage, like a sword of Damocles.


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