#2 What if this were the 1930s, and there was a table in the garden, with coffee things on?
This. Just this phrase. If I had got nothing else out of this two weeks, this idea would have been everything.
This is one of the reasons we work with other people, and particularly with expert coaches and teachers like Anthony Laciura: they challenge our perceptions. If you have ever watched a production of Elektra, there is a tendency for productions to focus on the psychological aspect of this intense work. The work is dark, and difficult. The music and language are incredible and complex. In my preparation, this is exactly where my character creation work had begun. I also love playing witches and crazy characters, so the Klytaemnestra in my imagination was going to be wild, brooding, and dangerous.
So, if someone says that Klytaemnestra is now in the 1930s, and is meeting her daughter in the garden for a civilized coffee after a night of broken sleep, she is a completely different animal. Less animal, in fact, and more human. Yes, she is a character from Ancient Greek theatre, with a huge 2400 year history, but she is also a person. She’s a woman on her second marriage, with a grown-up daughter who insists on defying her, and she is suffering these terrifying nightmares. She comes downstairs after an awful night ‘Ich habe keine guten Nächte’, takes a sip, and finds out the coffee has gone cold. Now, that I have experienced.
Working on staging an opera in my living room, with Anthony only able to see the small square of it that my camera allows, felt like a daunting task, but there was really nothing to worry about. Straight away, I felt like I had my rehearsal shoes on (despite the fluffy slippers that are de rigueur for pandemic working). Mentally, I was back in the rehearsal space at 244 Studios with Anthony, where we worked last year, and I was able to respond physically to his ideas. The action and movement responded in my voice, grounding me, and reminding me why we work so much on technique. That was the whole point of beginning to stage these scenes and roles, enabling us to depict the character with our body as much as with our voice.