Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Violent Delights ~ Part Three

The Rhythms of the World festival seemed the ideal venue for the debut of Violent Delights. Although the emphasis was on music, & largely music from outside Europe, we felt that crowds bathed in culture (& Mediterranean sunshine) would be amenable to a bit of high energy Shakespeare laced with mega-violence. As it turned out, it was not the perfect environment. Hitchin was heaving with potential audience, but not only had they filled up every available bit of space, most of them were in transit between events. Eventually we seized a piece of pathway alongside the river right in front of the beautiful St Mary the Virgin Church & - suddenly feeling very exposed – the cast swung into action.

Poppy & Maudie were responsible for reeling in an audience. The whole piece begins with Mercutio’s goading of Benvolio, attributing to his steady, balanced, even-tempered friend all of the febrile excitability & hot temper that so identify himself. From the start both girls went at it with a will, bringing voices up to a level of projection & clarity appropriate to the surroundings (in this case, splash-over from the acoustic stage in the churchyard). Apart from a chav-ette on a mobile phone bawling so loudly as to render the instrument largely redundant, we had an attentive audience. Two more performances increased confidence sufficiently for Ania to break two sticks in succession & pick up an heroic nosebleed from a collision with Matt’s knee during the wrestling sequence. We returned home, delighted that the piece worked & that the passages of dialogue that top & tail it weren’t out of equilibrium with the two sustained fights.

This morning we took the train into Cambridge & made our way to the marketplace. It’s set on a square island surrounded by a road & overlooked by shops, a couple of banks & the town hall. Because the road serves only the Market & has no direct access to any of the surrounding streets, there was no traffic. We set up the ghetto blaster (a brand new CD/cassette player that would have difficulty blasting all four corners of a broom cupboard), checked with the stallholders & then began to perform.

The three performances here were much more successful. We picked up a fair-sized audience for two of them & the rapt attention & subsequent applause raised the ante of the performances significantly. At the conclusion of the final one we were approached by a guy in his 20s who was anxious to know which of the drama colleges the performers attended. He turned out to be a photographer who was contracted to several of them & was keen on photographing our piece in action. Partially on the strength of that offer, we decided to return to Cambridge tomorrow instead of going down to London, which we’ll do on Wednesday, the last day of our week’s run.

I’m very pleased with the progress we’ve made. Violent Delights has been mounted virtually from scratch in two days. Now we must maintain momentum & not allow familiarity with words & action take the edge off the performances. And, as the fighting becomes more audacious with practice (& there are some genuinely hair-raising moments), we must preserve the safety of both limbs & sticks for just two more days.


Blogger Karen M said...

One of the reasons I enjoyed this series so much, Dick, is that in an earlier decade of my life, I spent a few years as part of a Morris Dancing team.

(I know, Morris Dancers are supposed to be male, but at least we weren't a mixed team.)

I was a little bit intimidated by some of the personalities involved (we were connected to a men's team, too), but it was fun, especially the stick dances, and I did learn to appreciate a shandy on a really hot day.

Not much connection, really, except for the sticks, but for women there is something empowering about wielding one, even in a choreographed situation.

4:51 PM  

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