Madness

August 29, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Posted in creative process, creativity, Ensemble, improvisation, Physical Theatre, pleasure, Psychophysical Training, Theatre | Leave a comment
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We ran the first two-thirds of the script on Friday morning – about 40 minutes worth of material. I thought it was great – and enormously exciting. The style is awkward and confrontational, nothing settles for very long before something very different comes along and blows it away. High energy and wild movement mutates into tight choreography. Silence is slaughtered by an onslaught of noise. The grotesque and the introspective challenge each other for primacy. Everything is continually shattering – as is only appropriate in a piece about a shattering man who shatters his universe.

Some of the material is a little over-sombre and reflective at the moment – I need to rough it up and inject more grotesque humour into the structure and the performance. But there’s plenty of time yet.

There are sections throughout the piece that are – and will remain – improvised. this is not a simple ‘style’ choice, it is designed to alter the entire feel of the piece each time the cast run any or all of it. If we are TRULY to be live, then if one thing in the piece is different to how it has been before, then everything, in subtle ways, will be altered. So to push this ‘idea’ to its logical conclusion, I want to integrate the essence of unpredictability – improvisation – into the core of the dramatic journey. Not only are some small sections improvised, but I am asking the cast that all sections, however tightly directed, are performed AS IF improvised. So if an improvised section is particularly energetic in one show, what follows, however tightly structured, will contain echoes and will be influenced by the energy of what preceded it.

There is a kind of madness here – we spend months generating material and then aspire to make it appear as if we are making it up as we go along. It is not the only perversity at work in the process. I ask performers always to aspire to appear absolutely effortless. However complex, challenging or frightening a move or a moment, I ask that it appears to the audience as if it is effortlessly achieved. So we work incredibly hard so that the audience thinks that what we are doing is easy…..

This coming week I will try to create, with the ensemble, the final third of the material. It is a descent into madness. Macbeth is King and is worshipped. Banquo is dangerous and must die. There will be a feast at which corpses will dance. Macbeth will choose to fight the fabric of the world, and will be destroyed in that fight. Lad Macbeth will try to hold it all together and will find that, at her core, is an emptiness into which she will collapse. Her end is silence. Conquerers, no better than those they conquer, will take control and slaughter all those who stand between them and safety. Our protagonist, the invisible Porter who opens gates for those more famous than him, will slip away from a burning castle and become an outcast in an unforgiving world.

Everything will shatter.

In the midst of all this madness we, the artists, must be sane. In the midst of the danger, we must be safe. In the midst of the horror, the slaughter, the shattering despair, we, the artists, must find joy, community and coherence.

Think of us – for this week we go to the heart of madness.

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