I dislike the phrase ‘crunch time’ but we are there.
It’s my own fault – I love shows happening in real time and in a contained space. I love an ensemble. Eight characters on stage on view every second.
A devised show is, in part ‘written’ with stage blocking. Eight characters on stage, how to focus the action so as to make the situation clear, the reactions clear, the sequence of actions clear. How to set up and show cause and effect.
Working with not native English speakers (and me, regretfully, not having more than 24 words of Cantonese), means a lot of time can tick by while explanations and translations are made and confusions are created and cleared up.
On first blocking of the start of here show there were so many questions and unknowns.
What is the play of these individuals / this group like? What characteristics unfold from each clown performer? Devising a show like this, the ‘casting’ can come during, rather than before rehearsal. Character is a function of plot. I had some hunches on day one but detailing of characters and plot have developed in stuttering fits and starts.
It is a pressurized time but - allowing myself to take the time here to reflect – it is a satisfying moment when conventions slowly clarify themselves.
One character, later in the show, becomes the one who carries the heart of the piece. (Um, quite literally in one scene). In the prologue she is simply cute. But in later scenes she is kind, compassionate, caring, and, further on, even speaks to the audience directly in the name of fairness: ‘He deserves the right to a fair trial.’ In true clown fashion she (the character) then regrets she ever said it because the other ‘idiots’ kick off a mad and heartless trial which, like the one in Duck Soup, is full of non-sequiteurs and driven not by justice but by rhythm. A syncopated timing which needs to be both nuanced and…tight.
Actually this scene is doing well, but overall, timing is not tight. Our (intended) 50 minute show was a sprawling one hour ten on our first (and only, so far) rough run-through.
Getting timing tight takes time. And time is tight.
But back to the satisfying moment – day before yesterday I went home and wrote on the computer. Samuel Beckett, presumably sat down to write Act Without Words. Yesterday we reworked the opening with the sweet clown being the conduit which allows the audience to be presented to each of the different characters one by one. The whole scene has gained focus – leading the audience like a red thread into the world on the play/piece. And proved a way to let the audience see the strangers-to-each-other clowns make their first meeting.
And it has made the moment they spot ‘Dead Bozo’ 100 percent more effective.
*The phrase was coined by William Congreve, in The Mourning Bride, 1697:
‘Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform'd,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.’
For all the posts so far on the creation of The Death of Fun click here.