We’ve finished ‘blocking’ the entire opera and this week is all about running entire acts and eventually the whole opera in order to get a feel for how the narrative flows through the piece and the staging we’ve sketched out.
Jonathan is very keen on handing the piece over to us, recognising that it’ll be us on stage performing, and he wants us to inhabit the world and characters we’ve agreed on, but at the same time feel free to improvise within and around the blocking. He keeps stressing the importance of the interactions on stage, not just between the main protagonists, but also anyone who happens to be on stage. It’s not just about giving focus to the main story, but reacting to it and commenting on it with the other people on stage, without feeling that everyone should be presenting a unified attitude. After all, that never happens in real life – everyone sees the world differently, and reacts to it in their own way.
It’s not a free for all though. The broad brushstrokes are there to guide us, as is every comment Jonathan and Elaine make as they watch us run each scene or act. But as it all feeds in, we know what we’re trying to create and as Jonathan puts it, our improvised interactions will be behaviourally ‘in tune’ with the world of the show. Just like whatever thought inspires our singing, we always sing in tune (or at least one would hope), so our bodies and focus will now remain in tune, while still being free to make the show different every night.
“The theatre should take people into themselves, they should recognise themselves on stage”
As singers we’re not always comfortable improvising on stage. We spend so much time on our vocal craft that being musically ‘in tune’ comes fairly naturally, but the theatrical ‘in tune-ness’ takes a bit of a leap of faith. Jonathan has a knack for boosting our confidence though, with measured praise for our efforts and a healthy attitude towards our limitations. For example, after spending 45 minutes painstakingly choreographing a dance sequence in the pub scene, we showed him the fruit of our labour, and he exclaimed: ‘It’s wonderful. Especially the fact that there is a natural level of incompetence to the way you dance, just like real people dancing.’ Well yes, quite 🙂
It’s all in line with his goal in theatre: ‘People who say they go to the theatre to be taken out of themselves usually have nothing to take out. The theatre should take people into themselves, they should recognise themselves on the stage and think ‘yes, I do that, I wonder why”.
Jan Capinksi aka Morales