Download Peter Mudford - Making Theater PDF

TitlePeter Mudford - Making Theater
File Size11.7 MB
Total Pages265
Document Text Contents
Page 2

MAKING THEATRE

Page 132

Vision 103

A revival of a well-known play paints it in new colours, and
gives it fresh meaning: a vision and revision. Here, this comes
for Peter Brook as much from a perception about the
eighteenth-century paintings of Watteau as from Shakespeare,
an awareness in them of an 'incredible melancholy' associated
with a 'dark figure somewhere, standing with his back to
you', who some people take to be Watteau himself. This still
figure in the painting is set in motion, transposing the play
into a new key, carrying all which comes from the world of
Watteau and superimposing it on Shakespeare's court of
Navarre. We are in two worlds separate in time, and instant-
aneous in space. In visualizing a text, what matters most is the
feeling conveyed to the audience, because a performance is
absorbed through the eye as much as the ear.

Everything which happens on a stage — what is seen and
what the audience is conjured into imagining it sees — deter-
mines the effectiveness of a production. Scenery, costume,
lighting, physical and spatial relationships, and, as here, the
stage as a shaped space — all fuse in the vision of a script, and its
interpretation.

In a film, the camera moves with people in their relation-
ships; the stage frames objects in space, only some of which are
people, though none are empty of dramatic meaning. Objects
on the stage become the projections of feeling, and not sim-
ply, as often in the cinema, the landscape in which an action
occurs. In one of Samuel Beckett's plays, the only object, apart
from a shrouded listener, is a mouth. Not Us a 'sixteen-minute
outburst', and 'a torrent of words' which Billie Whitelaw
described as being like 'falling backwards into hell'. Beckett's
genius signals two things: first, that all drama conjures with
objects in space and works upon the audience to interpret
them. As in physics, the uncertainty of their relationship to
one another, and of our relationship to them is central to the
enactment. Second, that in drama the simplest things work
best. Whether part of the script, or of a directorial vision,
drama involves a reduction and an abstraction from experi-
ence, enabling the 'narrative' to achieve a symbolic force. This

Page 133

104 Making Theatre

is true of acting and production alike. A cluttered stage, like
any space with too many perspectives, diminishes the possibil-
ity of imaginative concentration: that intense focusing on
something taken to be significant, even though simply inter-
pretable. Beckett's 'mouth' shares with Wagner's 'ring' this
simplicity of explosive power. As Samuel Beckett has put it, 'a
theatre should have the maximum of verbal presence, and the
maximum of corporal presence.' Perhaps one difference
between the late nineteenth and late twentieth centuries is
that the maximum which can be said, or represented, has
shrunk, that we no longer have the certainty about objects in
space, including ourselves, enabling us to invest them with the
authority of an absolute presence: a change prefigured in
Wagner's Wotan whose spear is broken. The maximum has
been reduced to the minimal; the god has become a mouth!

A play occurs in four-dimensional space. In time, the two
or three hours traffic of the stage, becomes an instantaneous
event. Once we are out of the theatre, the action as a whole is
what we consider. In space, the realistic acquires a symbolic
power. Ralph Koltai, in his design for Hochhuth's The Repre-
sentative (1963) — a play about the silence of the Catholic
Church in the face of the extermination of the Jews — recre-
ated a gas-chamber. In the centre of it stood a single object:
the papal throne. A play, whether old or new, which does not
make the audience ask what is the significance of this action
for us and create a transaction between stage and audience, has
failed. Director, designer and lighting designer explore the
space of the stage, individually and together; the actors people
it. The play and its production are not finally separable; but
they originate in different arts: writing, and its 'physical'
interpretation.

What we see on the stage is fixed within varying limits by
what the dramatist has written. A play is concerned with
people and objects within an envelope of space. Waiting for
Godot needs a tree which is bare in the first act, and has leaves
in the second, as well as a boot, a carrot, a hat. Mother Courage
needs a cart; Othello a handkerchief. Objects act as catalysts

Page 264

Index 235

33, 51, 119, 155; Julius Caesar,
118- 19; King Henry IV, Part
One, 60- 1, 141; King Henry
W Part Two, 61, 141; King
Henry V, 6, 9, 71, 141; King
John, 142; King Lear, 13, 24,
112- 13, 117, 122- 3, 136, 144,
155, 165— 6; Love's Labour's
Lost, 51, 59, 102- 3, 154,
186; Measure for Measure, 60,
186- 7; The Merchant of Venice,
116- 18, 119, 189; A
Midsummer Night's Dream,
35- 6, 114- 16, 185- 6, 189,
205; Much Ado about Nothing,
35, 59, 60; Othello, 12, 27,
62, 104, 106, 154;Richard II,
62- 3, 71, 141; Romeo and
Juliet, 33, 36, 59; The Taming of
the Shrew, 203; The Tempest,
34, 67- 8, 116, 188- 9, 215;
Twelfth Night, 60, 119- 20,
184- 5, 188; The Winter's Tale,
166

Shared Experience, 33, 129
Shaw, Fiona, 164
Shaw, George Bernard, 29,

75- 8, 164, 172;Arms and the
Man, 173; Back to Methuselah,
76; Caesar and Cleopatra, 76;
Heartbreak House, 76, 145,
173— 5; Major Barbara, 76,
77- 8; Man and Superman, 75,
76, 173; Pygmalion, 75, 205;
Saint Joan, 78, 176

Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 71
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, 78,

164; The Critic, 40, 49; The
Rivals, 32, 135; The School for
Scandal, 73- 4, 123- 4

Silja,Anya, 210
Sinden, Donald, 37, 164, 181
Smith, Maggie, 41, 75, 80, 164

Sondheim, Stephen, 205, 208;
Company, 208; A Little Night
Music, 208

Sophocles, 13;Ajax, 13;
Antigone, 144; Philoctetes, 11

Stanislavsky, Konstantin, 15, 27,
146, 171

Stein, Peter, 125, 224
Stephens, Robert, 164, 192,

195
Stevenson, Juliet, 29
Stoppard, Tom, 35, 81, 86;

Arcadia, 52, 84; The Real
Inspector Hound, 40;
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
Are Dead, 82- 4

Storey, David, Home, 48
Strauss, Richard, Capriccio,

213- 14, 215
Strehler, Giorgio, 108
Strindberg, August, 66, 70, 97,

136; The Dance of Death, 16,
26, 190; The Father, 70- 1;
Intimate Theatre, 223

Suchet, David, 199
Sutcliffe, Tom, 162
Svoboda, Josef, 160- 2, 192
Swan Theatre, 8, 69, 108

Tate,Nahum, 211
Taylor, Laurette, 41- 3
Teatro di Roma, 125
Teatro Stabile di Parma, 125
Tennyson, Alfred Lord, 71
Terfel,Bryn, 210
Theater Guild, 206
Theatre de Complicite, 25, 33,

129- 31
Theatre le Ranelagh, 33
Theatre of the Absurd, 24
Theatre Projects, 150
Thomson, Mark, 148
Thorndike, Sybil, 75, 164

Page 265

236 Making Theatre

Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol, The,
130- 1

Tiepolo, Giambattista, 151
Tolstoy, Leo, War and Peace, 33
Tomlinsonjohn, 210
Turgenev, Ivan, A Month in the

Country, 55
Tutin, Dorothy, 164, 195
Tynan, Kenneth, 38, 40- 1, 89,

91, 207

Vahey, Brian, 180
Vanbrugh, Sir John, The

Provok'd Wife, 143
Verdi, Giuseppe, 219; Falstaff,

219; Otello, 202, 219; La
Traviata, 202

Visconti, Luchino, 154
Vitruvius, 4

Wagner, Cosima, 158
Wagner, Richard, 7, 104, 167,

198; Gdtterddmmerung, 160;
Das Rheingold, 159, 161; The
Ring, 157, 159- 62; Tristan und
Isolde, 221- 3

Wagner, Wieland, 158- 9, 162
Waller, David, 183
Wanamaker, Zoe, 43
Warner, Deborah, 136, 142,

218
Wars of the Roses, The, 37
Watteau, Antoine, 103
Waugh, Evelyn, Vile Bodies, 45

Welsh National Opera, 224
Wertenbaker, Timberlake, Our

Country's Good, 21- 2, 99, 197
Wesker, Arnold, Roots, 95
Westminster Theatre, 128
Whitelaw,Billie, 103
Wilde, Oscar, 35, 48, 49, 66, 77,

78, 81; An Ideal Husband, 114
The Importance of Being
Earnest, 41, 74- 5, 82, 113- 14,
168; Lady Windermere's Fan,
114; Salome, 33; A Woman of
No Importance, 140

Wilder, Thornton, 2; Our Town,
181

Wilkinson, Tom, 68
Williams, Lia, 97
Williams, Tennessee, 42- 3, 48;

The Glass Menagerie, 13, 41- 3,
181- 2; A Streetcar Named
Desire, 9

Wilton, Penelope, 90, 164
Withers, Googie, 90
Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 17, 100
Wodehouse,P.G., 207
Wolfit, Donald, 164
Wood, John, 164
Wordsworth, William, 8, 153
Worth, Katharine, 178

Yeats, W.B., 136
Young Vic, 68

Zemrelli, Franco, 18

Similer Documents