Tuesday, May 31, 2005

ATHMOSPHERE

Its all getting very busy at this end at the moment so you must forgive me for the lack of consistent reports and feedback!

However I can report on a £5000 gift coming in which is sorely needed and as we speak I am preparing for a meeting to secure an £8000 loan. So fingers are kept tightly crossed at the moment.

Recently I have been running a series of workshops for 10-15 year olds on Twelfth Night which at the end of an intensive period of just two days they put on a production of it- of sorts. It has been a fascinating experience- kids/teenagers have such a raw response to drama- one minute they can be dead to the world and the next minute and something ticks the play unfolds before their eyes and they just light up. It was a humbling experience to see some (not all) of these young people really getting under the skin of the language and the characters-

Anyway the point being here that they got me thinking- further to a conversation with Paul (Malvolio) last night we highlighted the importance of mood and athmosphere in this production . The Edwardians- at least the British Edwardians believed that the British be the centre of the worlds and like the Pope seemingly at one with the incarnate trinity; Cecil Rhodes that vile Edwardian war monger once wrote,


"If there be a God, It think that what he would like me to do is to paint as much of Africa British- red as possible and to do what I can elsewhere to extend the influence of the English-speaking race"

It is somwhat ironic that in an age where the British empire covered nearly a third of the globe, the era is characterised by the claustrophic smog of etiquette and manners and expectation and class. Which combined led the majority to lifes spent in a proximity not dissimiliar to their medievel ancestors.

Olivia for example is outwardly living the life of decadence- in the sun of Illyria riding the wave of the empire- and yet this wave has so smothered her that even breathing seems fraught. It would seem that her escape is her veil, her mourning clothes and the shut windows of the house in which she isolates herself as a seemingly pointed tribute to the former Queen Victoria who spent the second half of her life mourning.

The freedom from which she explodes- must be visible and the mood and athmosphere must be seen to lift, we are painting a series of moments and the shift from dark to light to dark to light and back again must feature inherently. This protracted point is just concurring with Gemma on her study of manners- if this athmosphere is to be seen by an audience it must first be learned- ideally you would all go away to an Edwardian boot camp-

....

in fact now I mention it-

hmmm

the idea has been planted-

more later!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Etiquette - shaking hands, and "thees & thous"

(Sorry if this post is a bit "Olivia-centric" - hopefully some of the points I've put down will be useful to someone...!)

Anyway, I have been thinking about the etiquette of Edwardian society, and how this impacts on the play. It seems to me that the unusually strong emotions the characters experience makes them break the rigid forms of etiquette that would otherwise bind them. Thus, Cesario's rapid advancement at Orsino's court, Olivia's blatant wooing of Cesario, Malvolio's disastrous wooing of Olivia... The whole play is full of people acting against the codes of behaviour that are laid down by Edwardian society.

These codes are evident in every word spoken and gesture made. For instance, how two characters shake hands speaks volumes about their relative status. In Vita Sackville-West's novel "The Edwardians" (which is a great first-hand insight into the period, incidentally) one of the characters realises that she is now persona non grata because of the way a social better shakes her hand:

"Her social vanity... had received its death-blow. She knew it, when she met the Duchess... and was given two fingers instead of three - she had never been given five."

Therefore, Olivia (for example) would give three fingers to Orsino, two fingers to Sir Andrew, and initially two to Cesario (though five the next time she sees "him").


The text also gives clues as to social status by the use of "you" and "thee/thou". At the time the play was written, "you" was used when speaking to someone of equal or higher rank, or when the speaker was being courteous and respectful. "Thee/thou" was more familiar - used when speaking to family, lovers or social inferiors.

Olivia calls Cesario "you", up until the point where she lays her cards on the table and tells him how much she loves him. After that, she calls him "thou".

Olivia generally calls Malvolio "you" - as Steward, he was a trusted and respected member of the household. This whole business of "you" versus "thou" leads to an interesting moment in the scene where Malvolio has come to Olivia in his yellow stockings - she calls him "thou" because he is, ultimately, a servant and one who is being totally inappropriate. But Malvolio must think she "thous" him as a sign of her love!

(NB. Shakespeare isn't totally consistent in the way he uses "you" and "thou" - heck, the guy never spelled his name the same way twice - but it does give some definite clues as to the characters' relationships).

Ummm, that's about it. Hope it's of some use to someone other than me!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Politics

It is an interesting fact to me that in this Edwardian period or slightly after it the two men most prominent in public life ,both in the Liberal Party,of which I am a proud member(bring on the Elgar)said the following things:Asquith said after a visit there to see conditiond said "things are being done in Ireland"and he meant it in a negative sense.Lloyd George ,conversely,asked how much it would cost to reconolize Ireland.When told £40,000 he replied too much.
As Christopher Fry once said :"A man is two men really .He has a body and he has a soul,amongst his other troubles".So it was with Lloyd George and Asquith.Home Rule For Ireland!"/Troops Out!
PJ/Malvolio