It’s the fifth day of rehearsals, the entire play has been blocked and now we have five more days to run this baby to perfection. I’m James and I play perhaps the play’s most enigmatic character: Oliver.
This is my second time performing in The Music Box. I first played Oliver in the Corpus Playroom in Spring Term 2012 and since then, things have changed considerably. With some new additions to the cast and crew, this time round it feels like we’re approaching The Music Box in a completely different way. This change isn’t just purely circumstance. We may have a different cast who bring something new to their roles, but I can safely say that the Oliver I am playing now is distinctly different to the one I played a few months ago.
Maybe it is because I play him that I have such a fascination with Oliver as a literary creation, but in a play of so many ambiguities and multiple interpretations, Oliver seems to me to be the biggest mystery in The Music Box. One thing our directors – Emma and Pete – have encouraged us to consider when approaching our roles is each character’s ‘frighteningly brave’ truth. I won’t give away the ending by revealing what I consider to be Oliver’s integral truth but this, coupled with the ability to construct two drastically different interpretations of the same character, highlights the profundity and the complexity of the construction of our protagonists in The Music Box. Unlike his Dickensian counterpart, Oliver Twist, our 21st century Oliver is corrupted. He is not exactly corrupt in himself, but he is most certainly influenced by outside forces.
This, to me, is the most attractive element of The Music Box: nothing is black and white. Young or old, articulate or mute, real or imagined, each character is tinged with shades of grey. The characters may do bad things, but they are not evil and they are always motivated by their inherent ‘frighteningly brave’ truth. There are no heroes, only anti-heroes.