Monday, April 27, 2009

Tech Weekend Over.

So armed with that testament of my burliness, I spent the weekend mopping up fake blood off of floors, walls, guns, and cats as part of my work on Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Northlight Theatre.  I've always found tech rehearsals really aggravating -  they're just so long, so dull, so precise, I'm instantly exhausted.  In Viewpoints, and really acting in general as I've received it, the ideal state is one of something like "active relaxation." Tech weekend for me is spent in a state of "passive anxiety."   A lot of the time I'm not doing anything, but I have to be ready to do almost anything. Anyway, the real trouble with spending two hours a day mopping up blood is you begin to wonder if its worth it. For this show, I actually think it is.  
Famously, McDonagh one had four shows being produced in London at the same time, it is said he's the only man besides Shakespeare for whom that is true.  McDonagh is not Shakespeare, but he is a remarkably interesting theatrical writer. Dominic Dromgoole, in the perfect, perfect, brilliant, perfect book The Full Room (read it!!) says this of McDonagh:

We are delirious at being suddenly allowed theatrical delights we have been denied access to for a long time. These plays are naughty, they’re wild, they’re elaborate and beautiful pranks. The sheer wicked bliss of having writing like this in the mainstream [theater] is so great, such a surprise, that people frantically try and ensure that it doesn’t go away. The ring-fence of art is drawn around it, and all is well.

Dromgoole holds this up as a kind of explanation for the profound interest in and excitement around McDonagh in the face of his perceived lack of substance.  This was written before McDonagh had written The Pillowman (and I think even Lieutenant) but, the point is profoundly valid.  The Fight Choreographer for this show Nick Sandys (who will also be directing a production of Macbeth I'll be a part of this summer at First Folio), pointed out on the first day of rehearsals how cinematically McDonagh writes.  Stunts like having two guns held up to a person's head and then being fired at point-blank range: there's no way to do this safely in the theater.  On one level you're tempted to think: "Well if you wanted to write a movie, why didn't you just write one?" But the interesting thing is Lieutenant would not work as a movie.  It would be completely unremarkable - the set is essentially static, the character types are utterly vaudevillian, the surprise and delight at violence would be absent entirely.  It is essentially theatrical.

What McDonagh has succeeding in creating in The Lieutenant of Inishmore is a well-made play with a cinematic imagination, the permission he gives himself in this creation is as much the spectacle as the blood cannons I mop up after. And for this testament of freedom, I think tech weekend is worthwhile.  

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