Suitcase in New York
November 14, 2012
Shakespeare in a Suitcase has been rolling for a few years at the RSC. When it was announced that the YPS King Lear would tour America it seemed a good time to take out the old suitcase, dust it down, open it up, give it a shake and a clean and refill it with King Lear.
The brief for Suitcase could be allied with the task of packing for a week on tour – you have to bring the essentials, and you have to justify the choices of garments and materials you bring with you. (I, myself, have a very small suitcase, you see. I call my suitcase Tubby because it's always bulging and under pressure as it's been tightly packed, giving it a rotund look).
We are required to pack all costumes, props, equipment into a suitcase – larger than my own personal one for touring – so that we can wheel the show from venue to venue and get in and out quickly. Oh, and the performance should last about 15 minutes.
Tim, Ben Power and I met for a chat about the edit back in July and agreed that Suitcase Lear should focus on Lear and his daughters.
We wanted the gift giving at the start, the banishment, the riotous knights, the storm, the reunion, the hanging, the deaths – in 15 minutes. When the edit came back it was it's own play - and then Tim and I co-directed it during our five week rehearsals back in August. It was not until we got to America, however, that the show founds its audience.
Shakespeare in a Suitcase has been traveling around people's homes, living rooms, and conference centres since we arrived in New York.
Our first performance was at a beautiful apartment in Manhattan, the second a lavish country estate in Westchester and the third in the magnificent Tiffany room at the Park Avenue Armory.
We typically get an hour to set up, direct it for the space, perform it and then hear the response with the guests afterwards.
The audience participation has been what they have enjoyed most - we get a guest to hang Cordelia, the audience become the riotous knights, the love interest of Regan and Goneril, the attendants at a funeral, etc – and the fact that the actors are in such close proximity to the audience has made for a thoroughly unique experience of King Lear. Let's see how they like it in Ohio…
by Caroline Byrne
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