Misanthropos - Rehearsals 2018
Chronicles & Tales - by Ellis J. Wells
Adapted by Maximianno Cobra, from Shakespeare's "Timon of Athens", the film exposes the timeless challenge of social hypocrisy, disillusion and annihilation against the poetics of friendship, love, and beauty. Official Site: Misanthropos.net September 13th - 15th
Our second segment of rehearsals for "Misanthropos". When we met initially, back in March a large chunk of that rehearsal was about finding the voice. Finding the beat and rhyme of the text, and unifying how we deliver Shakespeare as a whole. For example I don't do Shakespeare the tradition way; I don't necessarily follow the pauses or punctuation of the text (sometimes I ignore the rhyme all together, if I'm being honest). And while that can work on stage, in a film, the way we speak is amplified tenfold... it would put my delivery in uncomfortably harsh relief. And I wasn't the only one who's (shall we say) 'unique' way of doing Shakespeare jarred with the whole.
So Maximianno had to bring us all together, one voice, one rhyme, and that involved taking the script and reading, re-reading and reading again. And just when we thought we had read it enough, we re-read it some more. It sounds laborious, but by the end we were unified (both in style and understanding) with Shakespeare.It was key. You can't swim till you know how to float. Yes, we did do some blocking, walked through moments, but the focus in March was unification of voice.
This time, in September, it's a whole other ballgame, gurl. Game face on, we got down to work. Maximianno showed us the blueprints and renderings of the set, so we had an idea of how the scenes will be decorated. We also began to play with the idea of ritual; the opening meal at Timon's is all about ritual. Ritual of music, ritual of position, ritual of eating, ritual of talking... so our movement in the scene had to be very specifically choreographed by Maximianno. He knows where the camera will become filming, we don't; so every precise detail was worked on. And its a long scene and a key scene too in establishing numerous characters motives and personality. It can't be rushed.
A large chunk of Timon's feast is Alcibiades' monologue. It's beautifully delivered, and even from the first read-trough in March Declan captured that intimacy, the storytelling aspect harking back to feel of Homer and Virgil. Even in that crowded rehearsal room, with the sun beating down on us through the wall of windows, it felt like candlelight. Very soothing. Initially I envied the "false friends" who got to lie on yoga mats during the colossal monologue, but by the end, as the thin layer of foam betwixt floor and actor got flatter and flatter; I was quite happy to be standing there holding fruit.
Another very ritual heavy segment was the Council of Elders. When someone gets to talk, it must be acknowledge. When someone wishes to interrupt, they must have a visual cue. When someone cannot get a verbal or visual cue for permission to talk, they must pause and sense the acknowledgement. And who gets to interrupt or must wait, or must get a visual cue is all different. It's. A. Minefield. And it's an intense scene, so it's was a joyous acting challenge for the cast: Shakespeare, intense fury, but controlled, measured responses and then we add on the ritualistic issue of who can speak and when. Loved watching it unfold; but did not envy the task. The best part of playing a servant is your role in ritual is 90% standing there, 10% serving wine. HA!
This issue with ritual... These are characters who were raised with ritual in their bones from the moment they were born. It would be second nature to them, who they acknowledge, where they sit, when they sit, who eats first, who toasts first, when you leave, how you leave. Every part of a noble's life (both in Ancient Rome and in many different countries through-out history) the aristocracy was embedded in ritual. With the Romans there was the added issue of religion upon that societal construct of ritual. They had countless deities outside of the twelve Great Gods. For example, you had: Faustitas, the goddess who protected herd and livestock; Devera, the goddess who ruled over the brooms used to purify temples (HA! That is a genuine fact, people!); Summanus, the god of nocturnal thunder and Verminus, the god of cattle worms. Everything had a deity. I don't know if there was a deity of spilling wine and the colour of your toga... but there probably was; and those in Ancient Rome would know these gods. It's just an issue few in the modern world can truly comprehend, so bringing that level of understanding about ritual to our characters is a tall order. Hence why so much of this segment of rehearsal was focused on that aspect.
For me the moment that sticks out most in September... okay, YES IT'S A BRAG, forewarned, but let me explain. Back in March, during the first lot of rehearsals, as I said earlier the way I deliver Shakespeare needed a lot of work. Not because it's bad (well, hopefully that's not the reason), but it's just not unified with the others mentality. It didn't flow the way they flow or have the precise rhyme like the rest. And so Maximianno had to stop me, a lot, significantly more than most even, to work and work and work on my delivery. And as with any actor, no matter how justified or correct the note you get is, no matter how kind and generously the note is bestowed upon you... in your head you go "they HATE how I do it, I'm useless, I'm terrible, I'm going to be fired; and I'm probably fat on top of this!" I would genuinely be going back to my friends houses where I was staying in London and saying "I used to think I could do Shakespeare, but apparently I was wrong." And on top of that my role itself was still very up-in-the-air. I had only just be confirmed as Lucilius, etc etc. Sufficed to say I spent a lot of March feeling rather sorry for myself. THE POINT BEING: after rehearsing the final scene for Lucilius during these September rehearsals, where he has to cry and be distraught, Maximianno watched the scene, smiled his big, proud smile and putting his hand on my shoulder turned to the cast and said "everyone, that... was acting." And it's a horribly shameless brag yes, sue me, but I worked really hard to better my car crash of a performance from March, and it is genuinely the moment that sticks out to me from September. #sorryboutit
In terms of rehearsal I think September went very well, we covered a huge amount of ground and Maximianno teased out the personalities in the various roles. Now it's all about nailing those lines and coming back for our final lot of rehearsals, then... FILMING! Ah! No pressure.