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Thursday, 7 February 2013

Everyman - Playing God

Rehearsals for Everyman are now getting serious.  It's less, let's throw exciting ideas around, more - LEARN YOUR LINES!  I hate learning lines, but you just can't make this stuff up as you go along.  It's in verse and there are rhymes, you'd notice.  So, I'm just going over the words at the moment, as well as doing all that staging stuff.  I had a nice trip to the venue - the delightful Lavenham Guildhall - to see how well my traverse staging will work.  Rather well, I think.  And, despite what I said last week, actually the number of tickets available will not be quite so small.  We can comfortably fit 45 people a night.  That said, tickets have started to sell, so don't hang around.
So, learning lines.  First learnt was the prologue.  That was easy.  It's direct, told to the audience.  In this performance it will follow an opening section that will involve dancing.  Yup.  Me... dancing.  And six t-shirts.  And dodgy disco lighting.  But more on that for a later blog - one all about transitions.
But this week I've just finished learning God and in the next few days will move onto Death.  It's got all the best people in it, Everyman.  Honestly, Death is pretty easy to do, but God is a challenge, how do you present God on stage?
Firstly, the text for God is quite interesting - because though the character is labelled as God, he refers to experiences had by Jesus.  This is the kind of mash up that the late medieval drama did - there is a similar confusion / cross over in Last Judgement Corpus Christi plays - God appears and then hands over to Jesus, but both are referred to as God.  Or Deus.  He is both God and the son of God.  I'm not going to go into the nature of the Trinity, such matters are beyond me, but having a figure on stage who refers to himself as both God ("...they know me not for their God.") and by implication Jesus ("... with thorns hurt my head.") is problematic for a performer.  God looks over all, his viewpoint is more general; Jesus has the added mix of humanity.  So whilst God may look on mankind as a disappointment, be angry at their turning on his laws, Jesus feels the betrayal, felt the pain of death.  One is distant, one is close.
God's speech in the play is rather brilliant, because it can go both ways.  It has a slightly petulant quality of the creator who has been turned against, the law maker who sees his laws ignored, but also a visceral sense of the pain of betrayal.  "I could do no more than I did, truly."  He tried so hard to make mankind good, truly.  Really.  When I first ran this speech I found tears came, that sense of betrayal and disappointment very powerful.
But then at other times I felt more distant - the omnipotent angry God came out instead.  Mankind is only interested in sin, God must interfere because they are becoming nothing more than "beasts".  It's harsh stuff.
So, how to perform it?  Which way will I jump?  I don't know, yet.  I know it won't be a flamboyant performance.  He won't be performed, as probably was in the original, in flowing robes and golden mask or crown or similar.  There maybe no essential costume change at all.  He will be essentially static, probably performed standing high on a box, at one end of the space.  After the busyness of the opening of the show I think he needs to be staged simply, just letting the words speak.  And those words call forth Death, and Death, well he's a very different kind of character.
But more on him next time.

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