Just like that, it was Friday afternoon – Day 10 of calls, and the end of Week 2 of rehearsal. The intensive nature of our work on the floor – blocking, which is all about playing with space, interaction, and finding actions to suit the words and words to suit the actions (thank you, Mr Shakespeare) is occupying our working hours each day.
Thursday saw a ‘stagger’ through Act 1 – a handy term we use to reference the kind of playing at the stage where everyone is almost, but not quite, ‘off-book’ and so, rather than calling it a run, it’s a stagger; some call it a ‘stumble.’ Get the picture? As we progress with the learning, we move into ‘run’ territory.
The script is still my constant companion, and reading it daily to check for minor ‘infelicities’ – and revelations – is a must. It’s so easy to substitute if you are not careful. I think I’ve written elsewhere that I find unlearning much, much harder than the effort required to get it right in the first place. Re-reading also shows up things I’ve missed – threads that get reworked or tied off, continuing ideas, an initial statement of something that will return – later in the play’s action. Despite close study of the text, I’m often not aware of their underlying significance until I’ve worked at those later moments.
Apart from working on individual scenes and threading them together into the larger arcs of action – the acts – we’re also working with our singing and dialect coaches in individual sessions. Zara Barrett is a fine opera singer herself, and she’s coaching me to look like an opera singer in action. This is a revelation to me; there are many similarities in the way actors work but, when it comes to vocal production and articulation, there are a lot of differences and new muscle memories to be inculcated; these I have to work at and in front of a mirror. When it comes to speech, Melissa Agnew keeps a sharp ear to the fine adjustments of articulators and tonal patterns needed to create a credible dialectical switch for character.
We began blocking Act 2 on Friday afternoon. It’s been quite a week. Thank god for weekends!