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Malvolio Production Diary: Tech Week

Tech week has begun. There will be no survivors.

Actually, we had a fairly mild Tech Sunday. It was nine hours of rehearsal, sure, but there was a full hour break in there, and besides, it wasn’t nine hours of cue-to-cue. We didn’t actually do a cue-to-cue at all, in the event. We ran the show in the afternoon, only stopping a few times, and the lights went blue and red and bright and dim as we ran through scenes. I suppose the lighting designer got what she was aiming for eventually. Certainly from my point of view it was more useful an afternoon than standing and waiting, although of course it’s better to have the lights fully and completely correct in one go and not have to fiddle about with them later. Still.

We had a complete run-through in the afternoon, a dinner break, and then another full run through in the evening. We made it through both—at last we have our lines in our heads and if there were a couple of places where a line was garbled or someone exited the wrong direction, it wouldn’t have been noticeable from the house. In truth, if there had been an audience for Monday night’s run-through, they would have seen a pretty good show. Not good enough, and with a few important pieces missing (most importantly to me, The Letter, which I am hoping will have an actual seal to break) but entertaining. I am beginning to feel that confidence in the show’s quality that I like to and almost always feel. That I feel even when the quality of the show isn’t actually all that great, I’m afraid, but it’s good to have that confidence even when it is misplaced.

One thing I was thinking, as I was sitting in the wings during Act Five, was that it was kinda nice that Malvolio’s last scene requires the depiction of shattered exhaustion. It’s not actually a very big part, not the biggest part in the show, and nothing to compare to Othello or Richard III. But it’s noticeable that Malvolio is, in the first half, full of energy and vitality, whilst at the end he is defeated and lost. It’s not like Shylock, who has to build up to the trial scene. I generally have substantial reserves of shattered exhaustion at the end of a long day and a long rehearsal. Not that you don’t need a lot of energy and focus to portray shattered exhaustion, if it comes to that. But Malvolio really drives the action only up through the Letter Scene, and while the Yellow Stocking Scene must have manic energy, even by the end of that scene there is (and I think ought to be) a significant… I don’t want to say letdown, because I certainly don’t want the audience to feel let down. A shift, though, from driving to being driven. This is also true of his double Sir Toby, although the shift for him is at the beginning of IV,i two hundred lines or so after Malvolio’s. Hm. I suppose you could place the shift earlier, to when his plan for the duel goes awry. That’s an actor/director choice, and depends somewhat on how much you want Sebastian to take over the end of the show. We’re playing Sebastian as a happy-go-lucky guy, a sort of plot-flotsam, in part because we’re very much playing Olivia as the driver of the plot (and in large part the hero of the play), so we need Sir Toby to maintain his drive until he is shut down by Olivia directly. Anyway, both brief (and sequential) appearances in Act Five are notably those of beaten men, whether they admit it or not—again, directorial choice. I have seen angry and unrepentant Tobys and doleful resigned Tobys, and as for Malvolio’s final vow of revenge, well, that can be played different ways as well… in order to have Malvolio triumphant at the end, though, you have to go quite far outside the text, as did the production I read about that had Malvolio return with health-and-safety inspectors and shut down the entire theater building, compelling the audience to leave immediately without a curtain call.

We’re not doing that.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

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