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Bits of Business

We are slowly settling on a character for Buckingham. Not as comic as I would make it, which makes sense, as we are not doing the play as a whole as a comedy (alas). There will be some laughs, but we are going to emphasize Buckingham as a capable political player, albeit overmatched. He is the money and the repute, the public face of Richard’s faction. Do y’all remember, and I hate to bring this up, but ten years ago there was this idea that Our Previous President’s callow and stubborn inexperience would be tempered by the wisdom and statesmanship of Old Hands, of the ilk of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld? There is some sense in which our Buckingham makes our Richard more plausible, easier to support. Only, of course, Richard doesn’t have any loyalty.

Well, and one of the things that has guided YHB into a nearer orbit of this particular Buckingham has been a prop. I asked our Director, possibly at the first blocking rehearsal, if I could have a hand prop of some kind, something to hold during my first scene (which for me consists of long stretches of standing quietly at the back, watching), and she suggested a notebook or portfolio of some kind. Since I have been carrying my script with me at the blocking rehearsals since then, of course, it has been easy to incorporate that into my various bits of business. There was one moment, really, when it came together for me, as we were blocking II, ii a couple of nights ago.

So, King Edward is dead; Richard and I come to the Queen and Rivers along with Hastings and Stanley for an impromptu Privy Council meeting, to conclude that it is time for the Young Prince to be brought to London. My line is “Me seemeth good, that, with some little train, forthwith from Ludlow the young prince be fetch’d hither to London, to be crown’d our king.” At this point, I know the line well enough not to have to read it off the page; I am now carrying around my folder more as a prop than a script (particularly in these scenes where I have so few lines). On the spur of the moment, I flipped open the folder to get information: …forthwith from what the hell is the name of that place, oh, right Ludlow… and flipped it quickly closed again.

And, there, you see? So much in that half-second the notebook is open. Buckingham is the sort of fellow who keeps lists. He’s got the train schedule in there. He can’t remember the name of the Prince’s school, so he writes it down. He is persistent but not inspired. He has written down Earl. Hrfd; moveables, so he thinks he will get them. He’s a list-maker. Who needs to sign off on Richard’s investiture? Hastings, Stanley, Bishop, Mayor. Cross them off, one after another. Who has a claim to the throne? Edward, the Princes, Clarence, Richard, Buckingham, Richmond. Hm.

Of course, it doesn’t always work like that. Last night in III,vii when I dragged the Lord Mayor off (Come, citizens: ’zounds! I’ll entreat no more), I did an absolutely lovely spin. Headed for the U.L. Exit, I have the L.M. on my right arm (Come, citizens!), and then turn back to my left (’zounds!) dragging him across my body upstage and then turn to exit again (I’ll entreat no more!), dragging him downstage of me in a full circle. This also was on the spur of the moment—it came as a surprise to the Lord Mayor, who is a very funny fellow and reacted perfectly (I am guessing, because of course it is essential to the bit that I not look at him or acknowledge him at all during the spin), and to the cast and crew who erupted in screams of laughter. I love screams of laughter. Alas, when the Lord Mayor backstage said it was a terrific bit, I immediately said yeah, but I don’t think we’ll be doing it in three weeks. And in fact, at the end of the night in the Notes, our Director quite rightly said that it would have to go. Because, you know, it could be a good bit and still ruin the scene. And, as I think I said, we’re not doing it as a comedy.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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