and so into twenty fourteen. Our ears cannot be closed, whilst we live, speak, and breathe. Just back from experimenting with the passion in practice crew at the Jerwood Space in Bankside, Southwark.
Original practice workshop. Cue script of Pericles from the third folio and reassembled by Patrick Tucker, the original modern to dabble in Original Practice Performances at the Globe.
All 12 actors had been assigned roles with lots of doubling and tripling the lesser characters. I was given the 3 kings:
Antiochus the incestuous, no wife, one daughter;
Cleon the cuckold, one wife, one daughter;
Simonides (sigh mon i des) the honourable, no wife, one daughter.
The brief was that we would read for anomalies in verse meter etc and stamp in our cue lines and read when our cue lines were spoken by whomever they were spoken. We could not interact with other characters we knew to be in our scene, but save the full exposition for a sunday afternoon run through with a light, but judicious audience.
Passion in practice is a varying ensemble but with core members whose interest is exploring delivering shakespeare with a full understanding of what the verse is doing and a swift delivery playing the words. No long pauses and breathes in between meaningful moments, rather speaking the moment and see what emotions it will bring. The honesty towards yourself without being wanky about it, and above all honesty to the verse. The meaning actually takes care of itself, especially when given its context.
Physical work as an ensemble used sticks. We found out how two or three or four actors could explore the dynamics of a scene, while connected at the fingertips by sticks. Taking your stick for a walk works wonders, pairs or threesomes at one time.
The practice of cue script work using scenes from Makkers occasioned the inevitable whose line is it anyway; the re-reading of cue lines to check everybody heard; the muttered curses and doublings who ended up cueing themselves; the immediacy of staging on the fly; the expected accident of kneeling when you shouldn’t; and the happy accidents when the pronunciation of Simonides by the three fishermen gets turned into a running gag throughout the Simonides’ scenes.
We had an older Gower in Original Pronunciation and a young Pericles, who switched to young Gower in OP, and older Pericles in a breathtakingly focused scene of Pericles and Marina’s reunion. ‘A pats the stage and gestures her to him, the verse came to life as audience and cast enrapt in the original tale we all pieced together. Theatre magic.
Minimal music, minimal props, minimal decor, hanging cloths from lighting beams, audience Globe-like on three sides. Mistakes are inevitable. But oh, the successes.
An eclectic bunch of actors, Hilton the most experienced and the least ensemble, until the inevitable pull of the gravitas of the situation and the possibility to create wonder and lumps in several throats. Chicken skin, the Dutch say. Goosebumps, we.
Then to the Lord Nelson across the road for celebratory drinks, big plates of chips and a 7pm closing time. Oh England! Another pub down the road resolved the disappointment and the lure of pints of London Ale. Then we separated back to our workaday actor lives, in our case refreshed.
The diversity and skills of the actors was admirable. All fluent in metrical tricks and prose characterisations, all able to think on their feet. The narrator static, the scenes unfolding actus by scenae. Cue words became the aural signal for an entrance, or chance to take your part in the ongoing action. Perform that action, keep out of the way, be aware of sight lines, and above all pick up on the pace. Frequent contact with your acting partner’s eyes, tell you he or she too is working on the fly to survive the chaos of this story unfolding itself.
Reading of a cue script, changes the dynamic of acting from the sight and mind, back to where it belongs in the ears and imagination. You remain alert waiting for words that could come out of anyone’s mouth. Though by time we hit the stage we all knew who played who, but not what they said, whether one line or twenty.
All 3 Kings had so much character in the way they were written. Their psychology is in the words. We find it is possible to merely make the sounds and let the audience deal with what they mean. The medium we actors be. The characters interact and the actors try to keep up with how fast things are moving.
The theme of Pericles is incest and his voyage to Antioch uncovers this sinne. He scapes back to Tyre before shipping off to relieve famine ravaged Tharsus with ships stuffed with grain not armes. He is made a demi-god by King Cleon, who promises he and his wife are endebted forever. Pericles sets sail, shipwrecks off Simonides coast and joins a chivalric courting of his daughter, Thaisa.
These two marry, Thaisa has a child at sea, dies during childbirth, is sealed in a coffin and thrown overboard to appease the gods of the storm. Pericles calls their daughter Marina and sails back to Tharsus to leave her in the care of Cleon and his wife, Dionyzia.
During her upbringing in the next 16 years or, so their own daughter Philoten pales in virtuous comparison to Marina, so Dionyzia plans to have her murdered. Leonine her servant takes her on a walk, where they are surprised by pirates, who take her and sell her to a brothel keeper.
But you may know the story. if not try George Wilkins version here. Plain prose from the man who collaborated with Shakespeare to make the stage-play. He was also a pimp before making a career out of miseries. Oh yes, and they lived together at the Montjoys, both depositioned in 1612 in the Bellott Montjoy suit. But that’s another post.
The most valuable take away point for our-self this weekend is that hearing a play, isn’t only the reserve of the audience. The actors themselves are engaged in listening and responding in a different way than if they know the whole script. It all occurs primarily on an aural level. (We are aware of the nonsense of this statement, but time gives it the proof).
Secondly, inherent staging happens as the scene increases in focus. How else does a man silent for 3 months, realizing the daughter he thought dead is trying to break his silence, react? Focus is the key.
Lastly, We want more. Passion in Practice has a few workshops coming up and these pay for us to do this. Next one is on 19th January. Details here. And its affordable too.
Then back home, a mate sent me this link on the acoustic world of Elizabethan England. Rather apt.
Sight is the primary sense of the 21stC. Our ambient surroundings are shipwrecked on the shores of technology and advancement. Here’s to the sound of pigs in our inner city soundscapes. Anyway go wrap it in your ears. It’s a bit of a sit at 55 minutes, but well worth stopping, and listening to a bygone world, go by.