'If in doubt, back to the text...'
March 27, 2012
If in doubt, back to the text. Have had another trip to Stratford to check seating layouts and discuss how we can get the Indian costume designer over to work on the project.
Courtyard seems suddenly very large, especially if we want to fill the foyer as well. Perhaps a mad festoon of cable and random lights within it in the lobby and the outer ring, between the seating structure and the ply walls?
Going to meet Iqbal tonight for our first post-India discussion. Pete (production manager) reminds me that the initial deadline is mid Feb – gulp!
Hopefully the design assistants in Stratford, Emma and Georgia, have dug out an old model box so I can start the messing about process. So now sitting reading the play again doing a rough 'what happens when' kind of plot. You are supposed to do a storyboard (little sketches of each moment) but I can never quite work out how to do those as I start having ideas or to be honest get bored. It's a great way to kill off a text.
The great thing about Shakespeare is you know it can always work on the basic Elizabethan stage format so in the back of my mind there are always two side doors, a central door/alcove, balcony, trap and the heavens.
The main problem of how to cope with the beauty and decay of India without it becoming a film set is still there, while knowing that the play responds well to specificity of detail. Already by Act 2 we have had several reported over-hearings and confusions with Claudio, Don Pedro and Hero. Orchards, willow groves, un-perfumed rooms, a sense of a courtyard or outer receiving area and banquets and rooms within. Seems to fit.
Good meeting with Iqbal. Neither of us has had a big revelation, which is just as well really. I never really like working to realise a concept that has been decided in advance, although I suppose the very idea of the Indian production is concept enough!
We began to look at specific moments e.g. the masked dance. Iqbal described some Rajasthan folk dance where the men dress as women with elaborate painted faces, which we could change to masks. I like the idea of the machismo soldiers letting their hair down by cross-dressing, also if the women then dress as soldiers that could be fairly empowering.
The Lord of Misrule is never far from these Shakespearian mask moments when social norms are turned on their head. Once that idea has been introduced then perhaps Benedict has to resort to improvising a sari and pretending to be an old cleaner in the eavesdropping moments.
I don't really want to provide the comedy hiding places in the set. It feels like they should spring out of desperate improvisation and are actor centred/created ideas, rather than pre-planned 'ok go and hide in that tree'.
We did talk about trees though, there were several great references in Delhi where trees and buildings seemed to be growing in and out of each other. Can we go on a journey from the naturalistic, chaotic haveli architecture to something distilled and abstracted by the time we get to Hero's tomb? Can we stage a ritual cremation? Might be a slightly bigger fire than the barbeque in As You Like It!
by Tom Piper
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