As a movement director I am always looking for as much information about the body as possible.
In The Provoked Wife the backdrop is London with all of its energy, enterprise, violence and dangers. I was really inspired by Dan Cruickshank, who starts his book The Secret History of Georgian London with a mapping of the sex industry, which by the mid-18th Century had two axes – the first the ‘sexual highway’ that ran from the Royal Exchange through Old Covent Garden to St James in the west; the other the ‘promenade of death’ from Newgate prison via Holborn to Tyburn. The urgency of survival by keeping your job, profiting from a situation, surviving an attack, has helped inform the aliveness of the bodies in our world – the tailors, the servants, the Watch, the clients of ‘Frolicks’, the sex workers. The characters’ energy is forward, fast, changeable. And it also offered a lovely spatial dynamic of these swathes of activity.
Peter Ackroyd’s London The Biography digs into the details of London – from the beer drinking to the coffee houses, as well as a list of some of the hundreds of names for sex workers – showing the living, breathing transactional aspects of the city… He led me back to Pepys’s diary (a bit early for us) and to the work of Hogarth (a bit late for us but whose most famous images informed our world). I linger in the National Portrait Gallery and go back to the Sir John Soane museum to dwell on the bodies in these images.
Part of my training was to really look deeply at paintings and to use them as inspiration for movement so it is very rare that I don’t do that for an RSC production. We used this Hogarth image to help us build the movement quality of the Blue Post Inn where Lord Rake and his friends indulge their appetites for alcohol, sex, and pain.
From this Hogarth print we have definitely used the qualities of touch of the neck, throat, wrists as part of the tactile language of transactional sex and pleasure for sale, the topsy turvy use/abuse of a chair or table; bodies crushed together invading each other’s personal space. I added in lots of gender fluid aspects to our world – men and men, women and men, women and women, women dressed as men, men dressed as women for the night, and Rake who takes his pleasures from anyone at his ‘Frolick’.
As we enter tech week, all of our rehearsal room preparation starts to take on a whole new dimension – costumes bring a new moving architecture to the room and we work to keep movement fleet, felt, alive and integrated. The short warm up becomes a place to feel the core movement principles in the body, and the tech sessions are full of problem solving and movement opportunism as we work on the world of our production, integrating the musicians, sound design, lights, fights and the scenography too. I am dazzled by the creativity of all the team and the dialogue is robust, focused – negotiation and collaboration are the order of the day.
I love this part of a process, after months of watching these actors move – I now get to see/feel them move through the eyes of the preview audiences. I always feel like I am tiptoeing away at this point, hopefully having left the movement work in a manner that will continue to grow through the 78 shows ahead…
See more images that Ayse used in her research on The Provoked Wife Pinterest Board.