Day two in The Music Box House, and it’s time for an actor’s take on the whole business. I’m Oliver, and I’m taking on the role of Blake – one of the characters dreamt up by Laura, the invalid protagonist. Blake is an excitable, puppy-like, but completely mute child, whose constant vying for play and affection hides his prophetic pre-knowledge of the play’s tragic climax. I also pretend to be a bear at one point, which is just great. Pete’s post yesterday presented some thoughts on the plot from his external god-like director’s viewpoint, so I’m going to discuss something that’s becoming increasingly apparent to me from inside the scenes: the play’s great theatricism.
For me, the oddest thing about rehearsing this play has been how much theatrical power has come from just the blocking (that’s ‘deciding where we’re all going to move and when’ for non-theatrical types). Normally that’s quite a boring walk-through process, and the magic only happens when scripts go down and dialogue gets confident. But this is one of those rare plays where the stage directions don’t just get an actor to another bit of the stage ready for their next line. The movement says a lot, so we’ve been carefully crafting a series of tableaux, subtle physical interactions, significant moments, to get those meanings across. But, meaning aside, they just look great. And when they’re woven together into continuous scenes, magic occurs. Being in the middle of it is really quite spine-tingling.
A lot of this comes from the script. We’re trying to represent the fevered imagination of a young girl in a pretty minimal setting. So basically there’s quite a lot for us actors to do. We go from exuberant play-acting to trance-like clockwork movement in the space of a heartbeat. Also, as I mentioned, my character is a small child, and mute. (And yes, as many people have pointed out, that does make line-learning easy. But I’ve still got to learn my stage directions, and Emma’s sneakily hidden quite a lot of those inside other people’s lines). That takes me a little way outside my comfort zone. Quite a few of the other characters are similarly mute, or of indeterminate age, or change to suit Laura’s fickle imagination. The demands this places on the actors produces an incredible level of focus, and even by day two we’re already really in tune with everything else that’s occurring on stage. I can honestly say that having zero lines in my final scene has been more emotional than a couple of beautiful death monologues I’ve had in the past.
The Music Box is a play you can get a lot out of. There’s a lot of themes, a lot of ideas. And the great thing we’re finding in discussions is that the play in its entirety can mean different things to everyone, and yet throwing all these different ideas together produce yet more exciting insights. But that’s all for after the show. Even in this early stage of rehearsals it’s becoming apparent that we’ve got a lovely piece of theatre coming together, something that will totally grip and enthral in a whirl of ever-shifting beauty. My bear impression is worth the ticket price alone.
For Oliver’s other blog, check out sidewayslookatscience.wordpress.com