Sunday, June 23, 2013

A & C 2013 section three

Amongst the anomalies in our production that are a reflection of my particular eccentric or eclectic view about the nature of theatre... Artistically I lean towards meta-theatre as a preferred style. Meta-theatre lets practitioners and audiences admit that above all the reality is only that we are presenting or observing a play. That is the only truth. Mark Antony died eons ago and does not stand before us. Who stands before is an actor who is person who is portraying or specifically pretending in an artistic way to be Mark Antony. I have long sought a way for actors to take back their indigenous nature, their ability to mimic, embody, embrace, pretend, enact, dance any character they choose or are chosen to portray. So here I hint at very big theme - I believe that the Indigenous actors and theatre in Australia has a treasure chest of performance modalities and sensibilities that we, the non-Indigenous artists can learn from. Not to copy their culture but to understand their greater potency as actors even when in some cases they are clearly not trained. As NAISDA happened to have been the fertile ground from where the Page brothers emerged to create Bangarra - I think that there is a more general and broader growth, in part inspired by the Page brothers and Bangarra's many great artists who effect an development in the Indigenous Australian theatre.

I will return to 'anomolies' and then I will briefly discuss the voices of the actors in A & C 2013.

One of the most blatant oddities was the overall reference to obviously female actors as 'sir', 'he', 'man' etc as was written in the text but certainly was not intended for woman to portray male characters. So clearly I took liberties with the author's intentions. Or did I? As is well known in Shakespeare's time and company and plays in their original period all of the female characters were known by the public to be portrayed by Boy Actors. Now some of them may have continued to play female roles past adolescence and past their change of voices, and these actors may have even used falsetto to continue to play female characters. So I simply allowed this to happen in reverse. I have done so when I deemed it appropriate due to the practical choice of what actors were available whether they were male or female. Once when directing Pericles I asked a male actor to play a female character, in a dress, but not to shave. I did that for a very capable actor who I thought simply would benefit by doing a project where he could think out of the box of what is deemed "good theatre". Sometimes you have to be bad to be good. Think Boy George etc.

In one case the actors in a scene decided to change the 'him' and 'he' etc in reference to Enobarbus (played by a woman in our production) - to 'her' and 'he'. It started with one or two actors having made that choice. I said nothing as they were experimenting with their own decision. In this case I chose to not interfere, but, other times in other productions I certainly to interfere with an actors choice if I think there is clearly a better alternative. In this scene then the last and third actor in the scene also changed the him/he-s to her/she-s. This may have likely been for harmony in that particular scene and by verbal agreement between the three actors. That was Act 4, scene 6. However, only a few scenes later a different grouping of three actors kept the him/he even though in this case Enobarbus was actually in the scene and clearly a woman (portraying a scripted male character). I never discussed this matter with the cast. I certainly would not be surprised if the cast discussed this extreme anomaly amongst themselves. In its own way this is one of the more extreme things I have ever allowed/done with a text's expandability. The later was Act 4, scene 9. In this scene the meta-theatre was held purely by the honest, naïve, and well acted if not sincere acting by 3 of Ms Lopes' Troupe. In our small theatre and in my staging when the young actors sidle little more than 1 metre from the ailing/dying Enobarbus. At the same time Brinley who portrayed "Enobarbus" gave a gut wrenching rendition of the inner turmoil with moans that some of you may know happen only in your worst, most private loss of love. This happened in each rehearsal and each performance. In this case I said very little, hesitating to give open and full complements lest I tamper with her deeper work of art and craft in this scene. This was ancient acting, of an indigenous nature, as one may easily image Elenora Duse or Sarah Bernhardt. Yes it was 'melodramtic' but it was unique, personal, and spell binding. Something that the youth actors will likely remember possibly for the rest of their lives. This is 'Hamlet' in the sense of the Player King's enactment of the story of Hecuba. The theatre protocol allows us the indulgence of the Player King because Hamlet then is so moved as to comment on it. Yet, we are so weak and scared of critics (our colleagues as well as those folks employed to write theatre criticism) that we shy away when a young actor still has the courage to make their own deep discoveries. My job in this area is to allow the actor maximum freedom so long as they feel the inner truth of indigenous portrayal and pretending.

As with all of my on-the-floor direction I may come right down on the floor, and did so, at times when the actor is clearly deep in emotion and give a practical direction or two right inches from their face as I whisper the direction the beauty with Brinley and Berynn who also had such charged emotional scenes was that they not only tolerated my "Ingmar Bergman moments" but were kind and mature enough to use both sides of their brains to incorporate an occasional 'in yer face' direction. Ingmar Bergman would at times have his face intimately close to two lovers while directing as can be seen on some documentary footage of him in action. I have no interest to imitate his mastery it is more about the allowance for the actor and the director to do what ever seems best and to explore to find what might, possibly, work.

Brinley (Enobarbus) and Paul (Agrippa) had a rich scene - the end of Act 2 scene 2. One day early in rehearsals when it came time to run that scene - they did it more or less non-stop as a fully choreographed tango. What the?!? This was one of the first moments for actors to test and see that with me there is no limit how far they, we, or I am willing to take things or to support an actor going for an extreme fulfilling interpretation. Mind you I am not for any jackass clown actor just doing what ever they feel like whenever. I only ask that the actor is anchored in their own integrity, their own artistic exploration with a purpose defined by them, and the text, the situation, the drama, the character(s), and the relationship. As I have mentioned elsewhere (Director's Notes) - Shakespeare above any writer I have so far encountered can withstand almost any extremity of interpretation - provided the experiment is still anchored in the text or the textures of the images.

When I asked  Brinley and Paul how on Earth they accomplished this fantastic exploration and realization - Brinley replied that they thought about something that I had said. I explained that one of my stream of theories about Shakespeare (i.e. working with the scripts of Shakespeare) is that one should examine each scene as if it were a different style. To explain further here, it is as if each scene were in individual play within itself, or, as if each scene were a short film, or dance. So somehow they hit upon a lark - to try it (T-R-Y) as a tango. I later asked if either of them had ever done tango. Essentially they had not. They looked at videos and took the moves.

That scene 2.2 was a type of crucible for the production. Certainly for most of the audience they could easily comment that it was one of the highlights of the production. I didn't do it. I allowed it and encouraged it. Brinley and Paul accomplished the great task. My next task was how to make their choices work. And by work I don't mean work for some of my professional theatre colleagues who just don't get it - I mean work for our experiment. Certainly numerous theatre professionals LOVED that scene and dance!! So my task and it was a large one - how to make their beautiful efforts work. How to frame. So I asked Yiss to play a rhythm that I had the nerve to give him. I then had him play it more fervently. Quite like the horrible acting parable when the director doesn't know what to say and blurts out "Just act better". I told the musician to play stronger. It worked and he got the feel. Of course he did, he's a gifted musician. Then I started to push Brinley about the rhythm, I started to do the other no-no for directors and began to give her the exact way I foresaw that the rhythm of the text in this particular scene would work. So the aesthetics became a beat-box (literally), tango (literally), rap (literally). On top of this the acting of Brinley and Paul was romantic, erotic, passionate, and was most importantly anchored in the text. Not to boring as batshit belief system of 'how the text works'. It was anchored in the actors and the musicians bodies. It was palpable and had the most wonderful cool-down first from Paul "... Whilst you abide here" after he had tossed Enobarbus' sexually soiled and sweat wiped suit jacket and Eno replied in orgasmic exhaustion "Humbly, sir, I thank you".

Note that also in this scene 2.2 Paul as Agrippa also spoke the ten lines of Maecenas.


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