End of Week 2

This is our day off and I shall take a break from the homework given to try and account what some, if not all, of the week consisted of.

The week started, and continued, with the gathering of images and music that we thought could be related to Hamlet. It was interesting to see the other director's images and how each director had very different material, which was consistent to them and the play. It showed how challenging Hamlet is going to be, there are a million and one ways to deal with it. My images are here. Some of the music I chose was Britten's 'Dawn' from Peter Grimes, also Britten's 'Rejoice in the Lamb', a glass-like Brian Eno tune and 'Kid A' by Radiohead which really brings up images of Ophelia in my head.

We used improvisation this week to get some information, images and ideas. The improvisations were to be based on the larger themes of the play (altered states of consciousness, death, revenge etc etc) and were to be taken from an actor's real life experience. They were instructed to act it like a home movie - so not theatrically - they were not to sit down and were to be clear in their time, relationships, actions and tasks.

It was then our job as director to see what elements came out of these improvs that could be related to the play and the characters within. This worked well and I think we all got useful images and ideas that we can take from these scenes and gives us a starting point when coming to direct the piece. Taking a real-life incident means there is no discussion/argument about plot, and the actors can focus on their before-mentioned tasks.

The idea of polarity is something which became very obvious to me as the week progressed, the stronger improvs ended up somewhere different to where they began. The less interesting ones seemed to be moving in a straight line.

The actors were cast (which was another interesting experience, seeing how Tom dealt with placing certain actors in certain roles) and thus the actual start of rehearsing - kind of- began. First of all the actors had to decided where their centre was, ie Claudius' centre would be focused be in the legs as he is the type of character that is mainly driven by will, Ophelia in the body as she tends to gravitate towards feeling and most of the Hamlet's went for the head because he is a thinker. The centre should affect the quality of the next stages.

The actors then got in a circle and greeted one another with a gesture (from week one) of either giving (forward), taking (back), standing-ground(up), yielding (down), expanding or contracting. For example when Claudius greets Gertrude he says "Hello Gertrude" and chooses to move up and Gertrude responds and yields to the king. This sets up a very basic status between the two (which can of course change during the play) and also lets the actors know who is playing who!

This exercise was then expanded with moving the gesture into the life-body and allowing the actors to move through the space and have short interactions with one another. This was fascinating and a great starting point for the actors, and directors, to see which way they feel their character is going. Nothing was set in stone and it was good to see the actors change their gestures if they didn't feel right and exploring their characters.

The final task of the week was the first one that, as directors, we really started to take a leading role and it was a frightening, but ultimately enjoyable task. The worry is to make what is actually something very simple and try and over-complicate matters. The following table proved useful:

We were to take the scenes that we had been allocated and find the main event. For me this was the entrance of Laertes wanting to avenge his father. We then had to look at the scene just before the event and just after, being sure to make a change of atmosphere clear between the two. The actors had already decided on their centre, we then worked on their gesture (the King moved forward to the Queen as she received information from him) and then they had to apply a quality to the action - the King was moulding. A confusing aspect then had to be introduced which is the sensation of all this - the sensations being Floating, Falling or Balancing. As this part of the play was when the King talks about the sudden decline of Ophelia he was falling. The overall atmosphere of the room was contracting.

On Laertes entrance he went up - I will stand my ground - as did Claudius. Where the difference came in was that Laertes, excited, filled with rage, was 'flying' and Claudius was still moulding. Therefore when Claudius raised his arms into the position it was much slower than Laertes and a lot of information could be gathered from this. Due to the sudden nature of the disruption of the scene all character's sensations were balancing and this was shown very by the actors. The atmosphere was expanding and this was shown by the actors moving out slightly, expanding the available space.

All this work took about 5/10 minutes to put together and I was unsure if we had done it right. But after seeing the other directors scenes it was clear what the exercise was for: it is like creating a general wash on the page before the detail is added. It gives a clear impression of the atmosphere, of the aim of the scene and of the tasks of the characters. In the end all the four scenes were very clear. The next stage was to move into the Globe and perform the scene with the large gestures moved to the life body, this was harder to read and the atmosphere was difficult to maintain. I reckon the biggest challenge is not getting the play right, it's getting the play right and not losing it all in the Globe.

We also had a very interesting time in voice class. The directors were given three cards:
Blue - Tone
Yellow - Courage
Red - Too fast

The actors were asked to say short lines, the content of which was immaterial, and we were to sit anywhere in the globe and, on hearing the actor's lines, hold up our cards. What was interesting (and frustrating) at first was that very few actors actually looked at the cards after their line, they said it and returned to their position. The course leader James recognised this and changed the rules so that the actors had to keep on repeating the line until the cards went down. This was really really interesting. Some actors kept repeating the line the exact same way and, of course, the cards stayed up. It was a great way for them to self-evaluate and to try new things. I think this worked better than direct feedback, ie talk slower and take in all the audience, as it actively engaged the actors self-critical faculties and they had to explore their voice and find ways of getting the cards down. Some found this very frustrating, others relished the challenge. It was an odd experience, we were really willing the actors on and really wanted to put the cards down and I hope our persistence in not relenting really pushed the actors to discover a little bit more about their abilities.

This is just a fraction of what we have covered in class - it's a mind melt at times and we are being forced to direct using this method, which is frustrating at times but, in the end, will be totally invaluable as it's a way of looking at directing that I would never have come near had I not joined this course and I am sure I will take a lot away with me.

Location:Southampton Row,Camden Town,United Kingdom


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