Monday, March 20, 2006

Andy reckons we might be able to get hold of a projector without exhausting the demands of the budget. I guess a minimal set will be a good trade-off. I need now to work out whether interspersing live action with film would work from a dramatic point of view. I've seen it done in dance but not, I think, in the theatre. When I have outlined my thoughts to patient friends, they have usually frowned a little. Which doesn't fill me with confidence.

We now have audition dates set for the festival show so I have a free rein to choose my audition dates for this November show. And I'm trying as hard as I can to spread enthusiasm throughout the group for the show, in the hopes of recruiting most of my cast before I've started anything formal. With 21 people a scene, this could prove optimistic however.

Now I guess I need to crack on and work out what I'm going to cut so who I need by way of a cast. And set myself some audition dates. Before all of that, I should really do some background reading. Anyone know of any good sources on Brecht?

I'm on holiday next week so if I was really dedicated, I'd wander along to the library before I go and pick up some reference material. Sadly, I'm rather more tempted by Louise Bagshawe...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The thing I’ve been struggling with most to date is the problem of the child. In the final scene, the crazy judge decrees that the child be placed in a chalk circle. The two mothers must compete to pull the child to their side of the circle. The mother who is successful in this tug of love shall win the child.

I am exceedingly reluctant for my climactic scene to feature a 4 year old child size doll. But equally, a real child – as friends with children have hastened to point out – is fraught with its own problems. Nor do I want my climactic scene to be ruined with a “mummy, I need a wee wee”…

There are other children featured in the play – a whole mini-scene of them in fact. Three or four small children play with the chalk circle boy at one point – primarily to show the passing of time I think. This, I thought I might cut. But the chalk circle scene would be less easily dispensed with.

I had been toying with the idea of using film for bits of the play. Primarily for the narrator. If I knew anything at all about Brecht’s theatrical devices, I may be better informed to make such a decision. But in blissful ignorance, I wondered whether my narrator might become an Andrew Marr style news reporter. Film might reinforce this sense of the artificial. Which I need to read up on. But my wise friend wondered I mightn’t film the scene with the child.

I’m pretty sure that when children give evidence in court these days, it tends to be filmed. So maybe I could. Need to consult my set expert first though. May be that all this talk of cameras, films, projectors and other such expensive stuff might be utterly impractical. Over to Andy.
There’s a quote I like in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia:

“It makes me so happy. To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing.”

A friend asked me a few days ago as we walked along the beach why it was that I was interested in “Chalk Circle”. I was sadly unable to articulate anything sensible. He has read two thirds of it and clearly isn’t gripped. I think it’s very funny – but maybe this is another example of my unconventional humour leading me into trouble.

Another (well-educated) friend spoke at a lunch a while back about the Brechtian construct of using a narrator to reinforce the distance between audience and play and the artifice of theatre as an artform. It kind of hit me then that Brecht is something of a classic. Everything I’ve directed to date (which makes my track record sound far more impressive than it is) has been contemporary. So the historical / social / political context has been more immediately evident. I need to do some background reading.
This blog is intended as a record of the process (my process at any rate) of producing a play. I am planning to direct “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” by Bertolt Brecht in November this year. And I thought I would entertain myself with a record of the way my thoughts about the play (currently minimal) evolve over the ensuing months.

To date, I have established that Samuel French will let me cut bits out of the play, assuming I submit my planned amendments to them for prior approval. Which may be just as well (purists close your ears) as a friend believes that the play runs at three and a half hours in its unadulterated form. I am reluctant to inflict this on people.

I need to choose my translation as my German isn’t great and several English versions apparently exist. More to the point, I need – what I suppose real theatre directors call – my concept. Which at the moment is sketchy to the point of non-existence.

I was involved in a production of “Chalk Circle” years ago, with a theatre company called “Roundabout” that was set up as (if I remember rightly) a youth theatre offshoot of the Nottingham Playhouse. The producers had complicated thoughts about bringing the chorus to life with enthusiastic hordes of young people swarming around a stage. I remember a beautiful pale-faced girl playing a heartfelt Grusha, a cigarette smoking sophisticate as Natella and a 6 foot tall lumberjack-shirt-wearing Azdak. Unfortunately I can’t remember much more than that. No concept to steal there then. Looks like I’m starting pretty much from scratch.