Thus falls Caesar

Last week’s rehearsals were ones of great contrast.

On Sunday we focussed on Brutus at home.  Her relationships with her secretary, Lucius, and her wife, Portia.  We also looked at the scene with Ligarius and briefly at the street scene on the morning of the Ides of March.  Having looked at Caesar at home in the previous rehearsal it was interesting to have in mind the interactions of the two wives.  In both cases questioning the actions of their spouses, in both cases with good reason.  Although the relationships of the two couples are very different I decided to stage the scenes in a way that allowed visual references between the two – references which I hope the audience will pick up on – certainly my assistant director did which is a hopeful indication.

One of the contrasts that is most apparent is the different way people ‘get into’ the parts.  In some the approach is intellectual, they will understand every word they say, they will know all the historical/social context of the character but find it harder to grasp their conscious and subconscious purposes and objectives, in others they firmly grasp the thought processes of the character but stumble over the text and busk over the exact meanings of the words.  Of course I want both!  I also need to be wary of myself – I would say I probably fall into the latter when acting and therefore have more sympathy with this mode of working – am I too lenient here whilst pouncing on those who aren’t quite so attuned to the ‘creating a character’ approach?  Something for me to watch out for perhaps.

Sunday’s scenes had only two or three people in them and with a staggered rehearsal schedule it felt very intimate – in contrast to Wednesday…

This was the first rehearsal since our all cast workshops when I have had a large number of actors turning up all at once.  We were planning to rehearse the conspirators coming in the night to Brutus’ house, and then the death of Caesar.  I had scheduled for those only involved in the latter to come at a later time, but in fact everyone arrived for the start of the rehearsal at 7.30 and some came early enough that we actually squeezed in another scene!

I am sorry to report that there was a gleaming and excited keenness at the prospect of killing Caesar.  I’m not sure he deserved quite that much joyful enthusiasm and I may have ended up with rather more assassins than historically accurate – so many begged to be allowed to join the party!  It did however give the rehearsal a very upbeat atmosphere and the actors were alert and full of energy.

In directing large numbers of people to dispose themselves across an acting area, where that area in rehearsal is about a third the size of the acting space itself, is a challenge.  In fact it seemed to come very easily.  Having read through the scene we ‘walked’ through it with me moving about amongst the actors moving them into place or whispering possible actions to them as the scene progressed.  These are intelligent actors with an understanding of the playing space – with only a few prompts from me they filled the scene in a really interesting way.

The same was true when it came to assassinating Caesar – as if we were really conspirators we stood in the space and discussed where the weapons would be stashed, who would go where, who would distract Caesar, who Antony, what the signals would be.  Then we let Caesar join in.  I am really excited about the results.  This is going to be a really powerful scene.  Especially as following my meeting with my Sound and Lighting team on Monday night I now know exactly how the lighting will be for this and just how well it is all going to work together.

I plan to write separately on the technical side of the play and am hoping to get either or both the Sound and Lighting designers to contribute to the Southside Players blog (www.southsideplayers.wordpress.com) but suffice to say that Monday’s meeting was very exciting and if you see someone recording protests, street sounds or general ambient sounds in and around Westminster they may well be from my team!

Oh and just as a postscript this week’s tongue twister:

“If a canny cannibal can cram caramel into a camel, how much caramel can a canny cannibal cram into a camel.”

Plus some interesting variation on the skunk and the stump:

“The shrunk stump sat on the trunk stump, the shrunk skunk thunk that the trunk stump stunk and the trunk stump thunk that the shrunk skunk stunk.”

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