Lovers and Liars : A David Garrick Double Bill
INFLUENCES AND INSPIRATIONS:
We are looking at Commedia dell’arte this week to further actor physicality. Movement on stage in Farce has to be free flowing, exciting and playful. For the heavily corseted females movement is restricted and spontaneous movement is harder, so we are finding ways to help Biddy, Aunt and Tag be expressive.
For example, I have assigned each character in Miss in her Teens a Commedia dell’arte figure*:
*With the exception of Fribble who is a reflection of an 18th Century Fop and the Aunt who shares the straight backed physicality of The Lovers.
We will be exploring using these stock characters and noting what particular qualities can be translated into Garrick’s characters.
PERFORMING AND CREATING AN EARLY MODERN FARCE:
Highlighting, emphasising and perfecting comedy is a major challenge in farce. Over the last two weeks our group have begun the process of bringing out the true depth of the comical potential in Miss in Her Teens.
The week started with a presentation from the Dramaturgs, detailing the origins of farce and how it has been adapted over the years. Understanding the origin of farce is an important part of the development process. In particular, the presentation highlighted how the stock characters in Miss in Her Teens lend themselves to Commedia dell’arte, which was helpful for the actors when they were exploring their characters.
Over the last week, the rehearsals have consisted of exploring individual scenes. By calling small groups in one at a time, both the Director and I were able to work closely with each actor. In the rehearsals we focused on:
Whilst focusing on these aspects was extremely helpful for the play in general, it also helped to develop the specific comedic elements. Working on each line individually by exploring different tones and emphasis, highlighted comic potential in lines that didn’t initially contain an obvious joke. However, in some cases the funniest way of delivering a line often did not fit with the character or with the scene.
In conjunction, we also worked on developing the asides. Asides are very useful and full of comic potential as they allow the audience to understand what the character’s internal feelings are, without it interfering with the play. In rehearsals we practised the technique of delivering a snappy aside, which as a result developed our characters and the comedy of the piece.
Over the next few weeks the group will be developing the more physical side of the comedy as the set is now ready to be marked out in rehearsals.
Wright, John. (2006.) Why is that so funny? : a practical exploration of physical comedy. London: Nick Hern,
Rudlin, John. (1994) Commedia dell’arte : an actor’s handbook, London ; New york : Routledge,
I wanted the early stages of rehearsal to involve research and development; to understand the script, as well as the social/political/cultural context surrounding the play. So with the help of our Dramaturgs, we have looked into various elements of the 18th Century from David Garrick and correct etiquette, to the original performance conditions and cast.
I believe a deeper knowledge of Miss in Her Teens will help the actors season their character development. In order to aide the actors further, I have been placing great emphasis on core actor training principles in our rehearsals. We have been studying- The Alexander Technique – How this method helps to ground, align antone our bodies, encouraging greater breathing patterns
– Lecoq – How states of tension affect our bodies and how we can use varying states to characterise roles, as well as shape each scene.
– Breathing and Resonance – How focusing on breathing techniques and voice exercises will expand our lung capacity and improve our delivery. For example: A deep breathe in for four counts, releasing a ‘SS’ sound at a constant intensity for as long as you can. The aim of the exercise is to improve upon your time of exhalation on every execution.
– Articulation – How practicing tongue twisters and delivery exercises, will loosen the jaw, tongue and lips and allow for a flexible, yet structured vocal ability and range.
I hope continuing these methods will put the actors in good stead for the performance and keep them in a professional shape. We moved onto analytic methods in Week 3, by looking at the text with a critical eye. We examined the meaning of each line and what each scene was trying to show an audience. We used our research of farce, the 18th Century and Garrick to help inform our decisions.
I also managed an eventful trip to London to look through the National Theatre Costume Store and explore the Victoria and Albert Museum. The V&A had a great 18th Century collection exploring Rococo, Palladianism, fashion and etiquette.
Initial meetings with the design team to discuss concepts have been fruitful. I’m very keen on sticking to an 18th Century time period. For me theatre is an escapism and switching to an alternate world is both engaging and intriguing. I have read the script many times now and I do not feel the script lends itself to a modern interpretation. The script would need to be significantly reworked if so, I do not see our 18th Century stock characters translating very well into the 21st century.
National Theatre Costume: http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/costume-hire-stor
Finding Your Voice, By Barbara Houseman. 2002. London: Nick Hern Books.
We tackled the text physically for the first time this week, yet I was keen to not ‘block’ the actors on stage so early in the rehearsal process. To achieve this, I asked the actors to play a sequence of games, tailored to the scene and their characters:
1. The Power Game: When one actor feels their character has the power in the scene they stand up or sit down if they are lacking in power. Actors are able to play around with the speed at which they stand up or sit down.
2. The I need to be near you game.
3. The I must stay as far away from you as possible game
4. Playing with asides
5. Lecoq’s states of tension: Asking actors to conduct the scene in different states of tension to assess the effect and plotting various tension changes within a scene.
These games helped us to establish: how characters and scenes develop how character relationships vary in quality and strength, power struggles, how asides can be used to embrace an audience and how actors could conduct themselves onstage physically. Farce tends to play on tensions, letting them accumulate and leaving an audience on tenterhooks waiting for the breaking point. I wanted the actors to start thinking about what we are trying to achieve and what tools Garrick presents us with in the script.
Throughout this week I have continued my work on voice and movement…
-Yoga: How strengthening and toning the body will enable an awareness and increased malleability of movement on stage.
– Further work on breathing
– Voice specific exercises to release tension in the throat, mouth, lips and jaw e.g ‘Ng-Ah’ and ‘Hmm-Ah’
– Tongue twisters: To aide articulation.
Meetings with Ronan, our set designer have been very exciting this week! It was great to see sketches, colours, patterns and double doors (See the Design Blog). Lighting has produced some great research andinitial ideas, sound brief has gone down very well and Costume will be feeding back soon on exploring ‘Dress Circle’ in Haxby.
Finding Your Voice, By Barbara Houseman. 2002. London: Nick Hern Books.