Believe it or not, that's not just one of my cutesy post titles. It's an accurate description this time of rehearsal last night. (Tuesday.)
Our director had all the people who would appear in battle scenes perform exercises similar to those in army boot camp. The immediate goal was to tire us out, but the artistic goal was to give us a sense of how it would feel to be not only in an army, but also in the midst of battle. Because we ran Act V right after doing said exercise, the hope was to infuse those scenes with adrenaline mixed with exhaustion, to give a more realistic sense of people hurrying around a battlefield.
It probably worked better at the start of the run than at the end, because there were still corrections that had to be made, and lines to be called for, so that by the end of the run-through of Act V, everyone had cooled down and caught their breath. But the essence of the exercise is clear: make sure we move fast, but appear worn and tired as we are storming Dunsinane.
We also worked on proper ways to give a military salute. I myself, playing Malcolm, don't salute anyone, so I didn't really have much to learn in that section of time. As Malcolm is either the second-highest or highest ranking person in every scene he's in, I don't see the director changing any of that. I suppose she may have me return a salute at some point, I'll have to ask. Either way, I learned how to do it, if called upon in the show.
Afterward, the director paid for us all to go to the nearby bar to have a round or two of drinks. This to help us get a sense of being comrades in arms. (Even though "Macbeth" was also there.) I'm not one to turn down free beer, of course, so I did go. But to be honest, I think the cast has been fairly open and comfortable with one another already. The beer certainly didn't hurt matters, but speaking for myself, I've felt for the most part at ease with everyone in the play so far. Half of them I already knew before hand, anyway.
But again, free beer. I have to share here what I shared last night. There is an English-style pub two doors down from the theatre. I spent the night playing a Scottish prince, then went to an English tavern, and ordered an Irish beer. (Guinness.) If I could have worked in something Welsh, I would have.
I am mostly off book, but find myself stumbling a bit more this late in the game than usual. Malcolm has some odd scansion here and there. I've said before that I'm not a strict scansion disciple unless told to be by a director, but even setting that aside, the man has some oddly worded phrases, even for Shakespeare. I'll be ready, no doubt, as I am essentially off book. Just not officially off book. (Theatre people will know what I mean by that, I think.)
The unorthodox rehearsal time continues tomorrow, as most of us meet at the director's house for a barbecue picnic that is to be filmed. The footage will later be edited together in a short film to play at the start of the production, giving the audience a peek into the antecedent life of these characters. I plan to bring a board game to play with the actor playing Ross, if he shows up, because in my interpretation of events, Malcolm trusts and enjoys the company of Ross more than many others outside of the royal family. Just a choice I made at some point that he and Ross often, in the very least, engage in games and leisure together. (Malcolm on more than one occasion mentions how worthy Ross is, so I used that to add depth to the relationship.)
I'll probably end up doing chess, as the other actor says he knows that game better, though I was hoping for backgammon. I myself know next to nothing about backgammon, but that seems a more "Malcolm" game than chess, for whatever reason. An actor such as myself will sometimes get a sense of something about a nuance of a character for which he can provide no "proof." Nor should he always have to; when one owns a character for a few weeks, some choices must simply be because it "feels" right. This is art, it isn't forensic science, I say.
Back to the point, backgammon also seems a bit less cliche' than the idea of princes/kings playing chess. I have one of those combo board game deals, so I might just bring both of them, and see how it goes. Not like we would have to actually play, just present an accurate visual of playing.
If this all seems like a mountain from a molehill, in a sense it is, and in a sense it isn't. So much time is spent on the big speeches, and costumes, and Shakespeare's scansion, and blocking, and hugeness. In this, or any other show, it;s easy to forget the small things. Theatre isn't of course an 100% realistic, note-by-note recreation of life, but nonetheless there is room in it for detail and nuance. The silence between the notes, as I often quote here on the blog. A lot of that can get lost in the rush to master all of the mechanics. Naturally if one must go with only one or the other, one must go with the big picture and the mechanics. But I try to leave room for undercurrents and personal flourishes in my performances. It can't all be memorizing lines and such.
And this is the sort of thing I have to fight for, because the default position is to learn lines, listen to the director, hit my light, cross where I need to cross, know what the scansion and the meaning is, and convey the big stuff. The little stuff takes extra effort to incorporate into a performance, and I may not quite have the time to delve as deeply into some of it as I would have liked at the start. But I will dive into some of it. That to me is what makes my characterizations memorable.
So, barbecue tomorrow, and next week, to paraphrase Churchill, it will be the end of the beginning, as we enter our final month of rehearsing this show.