Bonjour. It was French Sceneing day today, Lazarus style. This was a new experience in a rehearsal process for me, and one that required me to dig deep. The boxing ring was back, and those not in a scene were either round its edges, a sort of rowdy rabble of onlookers, or stationed in ‘dictionary corner’ quick-fire cataloguing specific phrases that cropped up. Those in a scene had to deliver each part of thought with enough clarity for the rabble to successfully translate it into modern English, upon which they would parrot their translations back to the actor in a constant feedback loop of utter madness. Satisfied the rabble had understood, the actor in the scene could move on to their next thought. After each scene, like a true mad hatter’s tea party, everyone would change places, dancing round the room to pop bangers, ready to begin again.
The tone of the play quickly exploded into full-blown farce. As actors reached for airhorns, microphones, candlesticks, wigs and bongos to spell out moments for the rabble, thus naturalism shat its pants and died. In this absurdist realm, Alsemero emerged at points as a kind of Don Quixote esq. hero. The exercise continued the philosophy behind the 101 exercise mentioned on DAY 1. Once you have touched the boundaries of potential, you’re ready for anything when shit goes LIVE. I truly believe this. It reminds me of when I hear fighters interviewed saying that they weren’t nervous for the fight because training camp was crazier than the actual bout could possibly have been. It was by far the biggest test of stamina in the room yet. I found myself flagging when we came back after lunch, but I caught my second wind around the point where Tomazo starts getting all lairy about his dead brother.
A couple observations that struck me. Alsemero goes on a journey from stoic to emotionally volatile and back to stoic. In the middle of that transition to emotional volatility is a brief period of undoing. It is in this period where his farcical Don Quixote shadow-self lies. I do think he is a little ridiculous, and that the door to that shadow-self might remain open a tad. Can it be possible to retain the wink behind the eyes of our French-Sceneing version but within the appropriate boundaries of tone and genre? I think so.
The epilogue explains a lot about Alsemero, his philosophy on life. I had worried these touching final words might fall into the unfortunate category of ‘right message, wrong messenger’ and therefore be lost on audiences. But I should have more confidence. Who the hell is perfect, who doesn’t have skeletons rattling around in their creepy closet full of secret potions. Do I want to hear life lessons from someone who’s never fucked up? Probably not actually.
Final observations. Tomazo is the only sane one of them all. Jasperino doesn’t mourn the death of the woman he supposedly loves. When I mimed being Deflores riding Beatrice to the Mare Mortuum like a bucking bronco, it caught folk by surprise and we all laughed.
Mylo McDonald (Alsemero)