Written by Chloe Masterton
We started week four with a slightly different energy in the rehearsal room. After three weeks of relative freedom to explore the text and experiment with different staging options, we began to feel the need to pin things down and make some clear decisions. This has been a particularly interesting challenge with a double cast, as ten out of our sixteen members of the student company will be rotating parts each night.
Whilst it would have been impossible to insist that the pairs of actors playing the same role interpret the character in exactly the same way, we have tried to make sure that the blocking for any particular scene is identical. If not, then the jobs of the other actors who play the same part each night and the stage management team becomes incredibly difficult. What is interesting about this however, is that the blocking for a scene often evolves from the instincts that the actors have about how their character wants to move or respond to the action and no two actor’s instincts will ever be the same. So each time we rehearse a scene, we have to double rehearse it, evolving the staging as we flip between both teams and come to a consensus about how the characters should be moving. In some ways this is no different from a normal rehearsal process as the actors make offers of ideas to the director and the director helps the actor to edit these ideas. Only, in this case, there is another actor making additional offers and contributing to the pool of ideas from which we can set the staging.
Making sure that the blocking is the same for every performance is particularly essential when we are working with our Fight Director Jonathan Howell as he has to carefully choreograph each fight sequence to ensure that it is safe for the actors. Fight calls are always exhilarating to watch as Jonathan creates a series of moves which to the audience’s eye look as if they are inflicting a great deal of pain but leave the actors completely unharmed. Whilst swords do make an appearance in our production we have also been using more primitive weapons such as iron bars, chains and spears to explore the brutality of King Lear’s crumbling universe.
And so, as week four came to a close we began to stitch all blocking together, finding ways to transition between one scene to the next with the use of sound, music, singing and movement. We completed an entire run of the first half of the show which felt incredibly satisfying and is a good place from which to begin the final week of rehearsals.
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.
Rehearsal photography by Simon Annand