Written by Chloe Masterton
And so we reached the final week in the rehearsal room for King Lear. With a good grip of Part Two and having uncovered all the stories we needed to tell, we returned to the beginning of the play to discover how we could trace the roots of these stories back to their seeds in Part One.
In previous weeks we had begun to develop a very clear role for our chorus of young people. Primarily they act as witnesses to the action, focusing the story being told but they also provide a soundtrack and a movement language that facilitates a more expressive mode of storytelling. Now it was time to identify what the rules of this chorus were. For example: how do we introduce them to the audience for the first time? By which device do chorus members leave to become principle characters? What is the journey of the chorus throughout the play? We began to find the answers to these questions with the help of our movement director Jane Gibson and our composer Dave Price and we started to develop a rather complex chorus plot that has a physical and musical score all of its own.
As we moved away from rehearsing scenes in isolation and began to stitch the action together, the chorus became even more vital. In Shakespeare’s Globe there wouldn’t have been any grand pieces of set to be moved and there would have been little to signify a change in the time of day or location other than the words that were spoken. This means that the action of the play rattles along at a speed that doesn’t allow for great long scene changes even with the minimalist set that we have. Cue the chorus. They act as stage managers in moving and manipulating the scenery, as sound designers in creating the sound effects for the storm, and as a choir to aid with smooth transitions from one scene to the next. As we move forward this week into the technical rehearsals, we will see how easy it is to apply what we have rehearsed to the reality of the stage of the Bristol Old Vic and to the set and costume design of Anna Orton and Aldo Vaquez Yela.
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 & Getty