Chloe Masterton is one of the Assistant Directors of King Lear from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, working alongside Bristol Old Vic’s Tom Morris. Here she updates us on the show’s progress during the second week of rehearsals.
After spending week one of rehearsals in the realm of imagination, exploring the text and tentatively dipping our toes into the staging of Shakespeare’s play, week two has been all about throwing ourselves in and embodying the world.
We started the week off by moving down the hill from the cocoon of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School to the grandeur of the Clore rehearsal room at the Bristol Old Vic where suddenly everything felt a bit more real. We also began working with our Movement Director, Jane Gibson and our Composer, Dave Price who have set to work on making the physical world of King Lear all the more alive.
On a theatre production, a Movement Director works specifically with the physical language of the play. Unlike the verbal language of the text that is (usually) set from the very beginning of rehearsals, the physical language is something that evolves through collaboration between everyone in the rehearsal room, making it unique to the production. The Movement Director responds to the Director’s vision for the world of the play and then works with the actors to to realise that vision. Unlike a Choreographer who would come in to rehearsals with set steps that they would teach, the Movement Director works with the physical movements that emerge from rehearsals.
Jane has been working with the student company on two things: establishing the physical rules of King Lear’s Court that we see in the first scene of the play and exploring how these rules are broken down as Lear’s plan to divide his kingdom fails. Interestingly, it has been the creation of Lear’s Court that has been the most challenging to define so far. It is not in the students’ immediate physical vocabulary to embody the attitudes of Royalty and nobility. They had to experiment with evoking feelings of entitlement and wealth and translating them into ways of holding and moving the body. The company also had to connect to the rather alien concept of an absolute monarch who has the power to banish or kill any one of them so Jane introduced Lear into this world of the court to explore how his presence had a physical impact upon the chorus of nobles.
It is this chorus of our large student company that has been the focus of much excitement this week. As we continue to plot through the rest of the play, we are discovering ways that they might be able to create different atmospheres using both movement and song that support the action set out in the text. But it’s only week two, and there is still much more to uncover.