I'm currently directing Winter's Tale for the E15 MA final project.
The remit given was: 90mins, in the round, ensemble, Shakespeare-deconstructed.
Being somewhat of a fan of simple, on-the-nose, straight-forward, non-concept Shakespeare, I was with it right up until the last one. But, always a fan of a challenge, and right before taking OP to the Globe's new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, I liked the idea of going to the other end of my comfort zone, and completely ripping Shakespeare apart while still working the rehearsal techniques I've been developing with my ensemble, which relies on solid verse speaking combined with an extensive physical methodology and attention to stagecraft.
Now, I'm used to cutting Shakespeare, but the extant play of Winter's Tale is 3362 lines long.
Full of meaty, image-rich verse written at the height of Shakespeare's metrical prowess the dialogue sparkles so close to speech, and the prose seems to be like prosaic verse, or poetic prose, like some parts of Pericles.
The accepted standard is 1,000 lines of Shakespeare spoken per hour, so after forming and training the ensemble, the challenge was to devise out 80 minutes (always nice to finish under time) out of the flu play, which meant we were allowed a maximum of 1100 lines or so.
- Do we lose Bohemia? (yes, almost entirely)
- How do we solve the bear? (we decided it should be scary...)
- What do we do with the statue, when you're in the round?
The last was a noodle-scratcher, but while prepping for the SWP events at the Globe next month, which will all be candlelit, I thought about how they would have solved the statue issue at the Blackfriars, back when Winter's Tale was first performed.
It's easier in a huge proscenium theatre. Put Hermione deep upstage, as far away from the audience as possible, and if she moves it'll be imperceptible. But in the Blackfriars, or the Globe's Sam Wanamaker, the slightest movement would read from the back row of the upper gallery.
But. It's candlelit. The flickering light makes statues come alive, I thought.
So we've forged a rather beautiful, candle-lit, Tale, with a melting statue of wax. Continuing the exploration of the Chorus in modern Shakespeare over the last year, I've used the Chorus of Time to fracture the play, as we follow this tragedy-with-a-potentially-good-ending.
It opens on Saturday 28th in the Cockpit Theatre (north of Marylebone, central London) and plays on in rep until 4th July:
Do please come if you can.