The great joy of directing a final year production at a Drama School means the Design Students can support the production. I decided on a bold premise. The whole play takes place on a television sound stage. Before the play proper begins, people with headsets and clipboards roam the set - at this moment just a large empty grey platform with a gentle rake.
A giant clock face (whose hands turned throughout the play) is suspended at the back. At certain moments, the names of the various shows* is projected onto it e.g. (towards the end): 'The Abbess knows Best'.
A sofa is brought on and we hear a voice over: 'Ladies and Gentlemen it's time for 'Beat the Clock', with your host, Duuuuuke Solinus!' Canned applause and the production staff gee up the live audience applause too, using cue cards.
I don't have any images for the start of the play, but it's the bit I mainly intend to focus on for this blog post, as it involved a little bit of Dark Clown.
Duke Solinus greets the crowd like a beloved chat host, then his 'guest' is brought on. Egeon - in an orange prison uniform, handcuffed and hooded is frogmarched on. Egeon's mask is whipped off and the poor man is dazzled by the light.
He must tell his story: 'say in brief the cause
Why thou departed'st from thy native home
And for what cause thou camest to Ephesus.'
It is life and death (High Stakes) for Egeon and he begins to tell his tale earnestly. Egeon's tale is the opposite of brief. No sooner has he begun and employees of the reality challenge show 'Beat the Clock' come on with props to enact his story. (Imagine the humiliation of your heart-rending tale being delivered as prime time entertainment by smiling facilitators).
When Egeon falters with stress, disorientation and emotion, the Duke says:
'Nay, forward, old man; do not break off so;
For we may pity, though not pardon thee.'
It's like those unscrupulous reporters who treat people's emotions like events in the Roman Coliseum and ask 'And how did it feel when (the disastrous thing) happened?'. Plus, the poor man is being forced to tell his tale, thereby prostituting his own tale of woe (you're still going to die, but let us have an emotional experience from your predicament nonetheless).
Solinus then shows his cheesy magnanimity (in this production) by posing the challenge:
'I'll limit thee this day
To seek thy life by beneficial help:
Try all the friends thou hast in Ephesus;
Beg thou, or borrow, to make up the sum,
And live; if no, then thou art doom'd to die.'
As in the plot of the film Run Lola Run, Egeon must raise a huge sum (in this case, a thousand marks) and he only has 24 hours to do so and if not, he must face his death.
Cue canned laughter, the upbeat 'Beat the Clock' musical sting and the audience applauds.
* Antipholus of Ephesus's house was played like Friends, with Adriana and Luciana discussing Adriana's problems over a tub of Hagen Daas. At the moments there were costumes and props for other shows passing through e.g. a war programme. Plus Teleevangelism (Pinch) and adverts for Angelo's jewellery business.