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Reading through

Well, and the rehearsal process has begun. Last night was the first read-through, and I’m working on my lines.

The first read-through is a strange thing. For one thing, sitting around reading a play is a strange thing in the first place, somewhere in limbo in between acting and reading. For another, we are at the very beginning of the process, in a room with strangers and near-strangers (and friends and lovers as well, depending), and as much thought as we may have put into our characters in advance, this is the first moment when our castmates hear it aloud. There’s something tentative about it, and the lack of gesture and movement makes it even more so.

And, of course, actors react to that tentativeness in different ways. I tend to go over-the-top, trying to make up for the lack of visuals and for the unfamiliarity with volume and expressiveness. Also, you know, there’s nothing like getting a laugh out of the rest of the cast. Other people go the other way, bringing the energy down, keeping their eyes on the page and concentrating on getting through it. That’s a perfectly good reaction (although, as it isn’t mine, it is a little strange, isn’t it?); any particular line reading or any idea of character arc that you have at this point is certain to be demolished over the next few weeks. So I don’t have any sense of how our Richard is going to play the thing—but then he doesn’t have any sense of how I’m going to play Buckingham. Until Thursday, when the first rehearsal is just we two. And maybe later.

Our Richard is not, as it happens, the Richard I had been willing to wager we would have. I don’t mean that I’m questioning the decision—our Richard gave a good audition, as did three or four other potential Richards, but I had pegged one fellow as Richard, and they went the other way. The casting table had seen both of them in previous shows, so it’s not surprising that they know more than I do. Anyway, I’m happy with him. Envious? Yes. But happy.

And the rest of the cast is very good, too, at least as far as I can tell. Our women are conspicuously good. Our women playing the women’s parts, I mean. The woman playing Hastings and the woman playing Catesby, as well as the very young woman playing Ratcliff, are good, but our Anne, our Elizabeth and our Duchess are all marvelous. The Duchess will be interesting, as they’ve given her some of Queen Margaret’s lines (having cut Queen Margaret altogether), which makes her much less sympathetic. She storms into the squabble scene and publicly insults and curses both her youngest son and her daughter-in-law; she appears to regret the entire war, despite being on the victorious side. As well she might, as her husband was killed in it, and she is mocked, disparaged and discarded by both political factions in the aftermath.

The great moment in the read-through, though, came late in the play courtesy of our Young Prince Edward. This punk R3 has, quite correctly, got rid of most of the kids. Clarence’s brats are gone altogether (hurrah!) and the long taunting Richard receives from the Younger Prince Wossname is gone, too, as is the Younger Prince. Edward is the only representative of that generation we see. Our Prince is a very cute kid, excited about the idea of doing a real play, and perfectly able to get his mouth around the few lines of verse he has left. I don’t know how old he is, and I’m not good with guessing those ages, but he could be twelve or thirteen, say. Something in that range. He did his bit very nicely in Three, one and was carted off to the Tower.

Later, on the eve of the Battle of Bosworth Field, Richard (and Richmond, in the full script, but we’ve cut that) is visited by the Ghosts of the Dead, specifically the people who Richard has had killed or killed himself. Or some of them, anyway; in the full script it’s eleven ghosts. In our version it’s not so crowded. But we still have some ghosts, at least for now, and we get to Five, three and Dead Hastings has told sleeping Richard to despair and die, and there’s a pause. A longish pause. And we’re all looking around, and there’s Young Edward, sound asleep in his chair, his head resting on his mother’s shoulder.

Cutest. Read-through. Ever.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

Comments

I read your discursis on Richard/Buckingham the other day (I've never read the play) and then I had a dream in which I went to see one of your rehearsals. You had really long, blond hair back in a ponytail, though your eyebrows were still the same, and I was really surprised. It looked good on you but it made for an interesting spin to Buckingham's character, somehow... ;)


Actually, if we were really working through this punk thing in detail, I'm not sure that it wouldn't make sense to have Buckingham as an hippie at the beginning of the play, with long hair and all. You could make him about ten years older than Richard and his punk friends (the Cat, the Rat and the Dog), but where Hastings and Stanley would be more establishment, Buckingham is an outsider in every world. Visually, that would back up the thing I was wondering about, where he is present in the mix but nobody seems to want to talk to him.

Then, once he starts to fall under Richard's spell, we start to see him adopt the punk look, exchanging a beaded necklace for a choker, his denim jacket for a leather one, his sandals for kicker boots, all over his four scenes in Act Three, until he comes in after the coronation with a shaved head. The result, I would think, would be that he looks ridiculous, rather than punk—Richard kicks him to the curb and the audience is totally unsympathetic, as well they should be. And then when they find him in V,i and drag him to his execution, he might look terribly vulnerable, shaven-headed but back in his hippy outfit.

Hm. The wig comes back for the ghost? I'm kind of liking this, the more I think about it. Maybe I will chat with our Director about it tonight…

Thanks,
-V.


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