Thursday, February 02, 2006

First Night

A good opening. Apart from one inexplicably late entrance and an almost imperceptible lighting/sound mixup, everything flowed like clockwork.

The audience reactions were very positive, and wonderfully varied. I heard praise for a number of different cast members, including some who were playing smaller parts. A couple of patrons said they were impressed with the fight direction. Several enthused about the set--but none of this in a way which suggested to me that they were overlooking the play itself.

I think what gratified me most was the laughter. It came early (even before Edmund pulled the knickers out of his coat), and returned often. The scene at Dover between Gloster and Edgar had a wonderfully varied tone; people started laughing at G's early line "Methinks the ground is level," then got serious for Edgar's description of the cliff; they chuckled when Edgar said "Fare you well good sir" as if from a distance; then they sobered up for G's "As flies to wanton boys" speech. The jump itself received a titter--as if people weren't sure whether this was serious or comic--and then, of course, G's line "Away, and let me die" (pulling his blanket back over his head) got a laugh, as did "Alack, I have no eyes."

This gratifies me because it is honest laughter. They're not mocking the characters, or the production; they know that Gloster has been through hell, and so I think they are looking for opportunities to redeem his story through joy. It means that they are one short step ahead of Gloster himself, when he says, "I do remember now. You gentle gods..." and abandons his plans for suicide.

I also remember hearing a wonderfully gratifying gasp when Edgar inadvertantly reveals himself to his father, near the end of the same scene. I wasn't sure if anyone would catch that; but it really strengthens the next moment, which is a veiled reconciliation between father and son. (And then, of course, Oswald enters, humour returns, then seriousness, then really is a roller coaster)

I wish I could see every show of the run, to observe how these reactions change. But the cast needs to know that I'm no longer out there, watching them. They need ownership over what they've created, or what they continue to create, together with their audiences. It really is a magical process: you get a bunch of strangers together in a bare room with a bunch of people speaking words they didn't write, and pretending to be someplace else entirely...and somehow, a thoroughly unique and intimate experience results. As I have often said, the thing I love most about the theatre is that, when it works, the whole is always much, much greater than the sum of its parts.


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