Written by Francesca Murray-Fuentes, Assistant Director
Week Four is concentrated on the final act, Richard’s finale, and the blood that is shed in the lead up to his much-deserved end.
This week a lot of energy goes into nailing Act 5, the lead up to the Battle of Bosworth and Richard’s ultimate downfall. This final act goes through a variety of different guises as we explore how to play both a physical battle and a psychological one. The visual language already established in this production allows for a less literal interpretation of events, a fluidity in time and what the physical space represents. A post-rehearsals session is dedicated to investigating how sounds and music can be used to enhance particular beats of the final scenes and to create atmosphere. We discover that adding a layer of ambient music can liberate a scene which is being staged too literally, allowing it to sit more happily within the psychological dimension.
Jon Nicholls (Composer & Sound Designer) is in the room, a huge benefit. He composes as we go, watching the scenes as they are blocked and overlaying them with sound when we return to them again. The soundscapes he creates reflect both the internal tensions of the scene and the literal sounds of the environment the characters inhabit. Even the sounds of strip lighting now have an ominous tone.
We return to the opening soliloquy of the play. There is a question of whether to play the soliloquy as we originally planned: domestic, inward, without malevolence. One that introduces a Richard who is merely toying with his desire to cause a little chaos, and which invites audience complicity. The alternative is something psychologically darker, a provocation that reveals the clarity of Richard’s mind in contrast to the limitations of his body. Reece and Mark discuss how much of Richard’s true self we want to reveal at the top of the play, and how much we want the audience to follow his steady journey towards the darkest parts of his mind.
There was also a consideration of a mini ‘pre-show’, some action on stage that takes place whilst the audience take their seats. So much of what happens in the lives of the characters before they arrive at this play dictates their behaviour, the killings of certain people gnaw at them, a symbol of their conscience scratching through. One thought is whether the audience could see the three brothers stabbing Prince Edward at Tewkesbury (which is written in Henry VI Part 3) before the play starts, the act that establishes King Edward onto the throne, but haunts Clarence and Richard before their own deaths in this play. Alternatively we could just have the stage being squeegee cleaned of the blood left over from the years of battle that have occurred in the run up to Richard III – the bloodshed which installed this group of people back to power, but fuels Richard’s blood-thirst and Margaret’s furious curses which condemn them all to their own bloody deaths.
There is a good deal of death in Richard III. In our edited script only Richard’s own killing is written as being on stage, but Mark has chosen to depict a few of the others, and this week he choreographs them with RC-Annie, the fight directors. The locations of the characters’ playing spaces are places where people meet their death: bed, prison, hospital, battlefield. The rational for showing these deaths lies in the need to demonstrate the brutality of the act, the humiliation of the victim, and the odd intimacy that sometimes occurs in the act of killing. Authenticity is vital, but it’s got to be a fine balance between this and not unduly upsetting the audience. He wants us to look at how the moment of death makes us all human, a shared vulnerability that even the most stoic or heroic cannot deny.