Dances with wolves
October 28, 2013
In 1986, the Swan Theatre in Stratford upon Avon opened its doors to the public for the first time. In 2010 it opened again following a loving refurbishment. It is a warm, wood-panelled space with a deep, thrust stage and vomitoriums edging into the galleried surroundings.
It provides an intimacy so engrained in the architecture you can glimpse the sweat of the actor in front of you.
Which is ideal. As I will be mostly dancing in a fat suit.
This isn't the history channel
Shuffling into our fourth week of rehearsals, the cast and creatives of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies have begun to find their feet, almost literally. Blocking a play in which scenes blend and merge, time periods howl past your ears, and the twenty-one strong cast clutter the wings for the larger crowd scenes, has proved to be one of the most fundamental challenges of the production.
Lines of vision, lines of intention, creating masques and ghosts, barges and battles: blocking the play is a cavalcade in its own right. We are trying to translate the fluidity of Hilary's present-tense narrative to the stage, sweeping through the years of Henry's reign with as much chronological detail as the books themselves.
At times, we've wished for date-marked interval billboards to parade across the gallery. But this isn't the history channel.
I've got the moves
Dancing is turning out to be my favourite part of the week. If only for the fact that I can't for the life of me work out how my flailing limbs have survived this long without the dedicated work of our movement co-ordinator, Siân Williams.
Do not get me wrong, I'm a fantastic dancer. Yes, many a pleasant eve in Soho, I have been likened to a donkey trapped in a tiny hammock. But we all get a sticker for effort when it comes to the masques. Because, as with most actors when told to dance, I'll jump at the chance if it tells another chapter of the story.
From the military, haka-like processions of the King to the pantomime portrayals of the recently deceased, from jaunty walking walnuts and snarling, pitchforked demons, we've found that, as with the clandestine meetings and courtly greetings, what matters most is where you look. Who you look at.
Toying with the boys: sex, politics and dancing
Anne Boleyn toys with the boys as routinely and as commendably as any of the stalwarts of the Soho clubbing scene. And it is beneath the veneer of elegance and practice that one can glimpse the inklings of liaisons to come.
Dancing is just another way of twisting the world to one's own ends. You can flirt all you like at the bar, but you hook a King with your moves, it seems.
As one cast member remarked, twisting Wilde's words so aptly: 'In these plays, everything's about politics. Except the politics. Politics is about sex.'
'So where does dancing come into it?' I ask.
(A human caterpillar comprised of four flailing males trundles past giggling.)
'Bit of both?' he replies.
(The caterpillar collapses under its own weight with a crash.)
'I'll get the fat suit...' I whimper.
by Joey Batey
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