Saturday, February 04, 2006


I wasn't at Thursday's show, and I came late to Friday's, so I only saw the second half (I heard the first half on the sound monitor in the lobby--man, those thunderclaps are loud!). What I saw was great; the energy was high and the audience seemed thoroughly involved. Once again, I marvelled at how easily and honestly they laughed; but I also enjoyed watching them squirm during the blinding, and watching their still silence when Lear carries on Cordelia's body at the end ("O, you are men of stones!")

After the show, Keiran said something that made my heart soar. He observed that the cast had reached the point where they were willing to try new things onstage, making little discoveries about their characters and scenes within the moment, rather than trying to work it all out in advance. This is great, because it means the actors really trusts each other. When you try something different, you are running the risk that it might fail--but they trust that the other people on stage will help them to recover if an experiment goes wrong. Similarly, they trust the rest of the cast to react appropriately and believably to their new tricks.

For example: a couple of nights ago, Gino added something to the top of 4.5, when Edmund has captured Lear and Cordelia. Before he says "Take them away," to the guards, he steps forward and touches Cordelia's chin. We can see, in this moment, Edmund the power-hungry general debating silently with Edmund the lecherous bastard; he is thinking, "I had both of her sisters; what a shame it will be to kill off the third without having her too."

Last night, Gino went to make the same gesture--but this time, Dale stopped him, putting his hand out (quite gently, I thought), and wordlessly informing him that there was no way in hell Edmund was getting anywhere near his beloved daughter. This, of course, made Edmund's decision much easier, and gave his "Take them away" line an extra layer of nastiness, as he now relishes his revenge against Lear the chaperone.

Simple moments, but watching them evolve is precious. Because--and I have no way to prove this, but I know it's true--the audience can sense the difference between a pre-blocked and rehearsed gesture, and something which passes organically between characters for the first time in front of their very eyes. What a privilege! That's the energy that can make theatre infinitely superior to recorded media like film: witnessing something happen for the first time, and sensing that has changed everything forever.

Or, at least, until the next performance.


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