Saturday, 14 March 2009

All the world's a stage

We moved into the theatre this week, two weeks ahead of the opening of Necessary Targets.

There is something so special about a theatre space. It can be an area in the round, a stage thrusting beyond a proscenium arch or simply a black box. And with each performance it can be transformed. That's the magic of theatre to me.

Just move the seats, construct a set, add some lights and you are in another world. I say 'just' but it is far from a simple achievement. The crew who build, paint and dress the set, and who design, plot and focus the lights are the craftsmen and artisans of old. Their work is incomparable.

In the short space of time that I have performed in the Gryphon it has been a 17th century New England courtroom and jail, a middle-class Suffolk drawing room, a French convent in the early 1600s, and a Bosnian refugee camp in the mid 1990s.

Each time it has been wholly believable and the actors and audience alike suspend their belief and are transported to whole new worlds. I am of course reminded of the chorus' words in Shakepeare's Henry V when he begs the audience's indulgent imaginations.

"Can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?

Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth;
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass:"

By this time, people are tired and a little grumpy - there are conflicting needs and priorities as the crew beaver away to get the production looking and sounding right while the cast are desperately trying to give them something good to work with.

But the shift into the theatre dissolves some of this tension as the lights come up and you know you're not far away now. It's exciting waiting in the darkness of the wings for your cue which will allow you to take flight to another place. And that's why we do it.

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