Time is flying and we are now well past half way in our rehearsals for Public Enemy. Richard is perhaps one of my most inspiring directors and before going into this process one of my key questions was to how Richard generated the distinctive and original worlds of his productions – and also to understand a little more about how his imagination works.
The first two weeks were an opportunity for the actors to be very explorative with their characters and scenes. Richard was very clear that this was the actors’ time to feel free to experiment and follow any instincts. Much of Richard’s work is done with the actors on their feet, and very little is sat around a table. Richard runs scenes from start to finish, rather than stopping and starting, and he will whisper in my ear any notes for the actors which he then gives after they have had a go at running the scene. Working with Richard in this way, it really is incredible witnessing the speed of his ‘director brain’ and his ability to spot and diagnose moments. Richard’s notes will come in quick succession and it’s a job in itself for me to keep up! To be so close up to Richard’s imagination is quite something. His notes span the psychological to the visual, noting blocking, thoughts, nuances, and always placing each moment in a context for the actor. Rather than being concept or style led, Richard mines and mines the characters and text. We learn how these characters relate to eachother and Richard consistently pushes their portrayal to be as real as possible, closer to how humans interact and behave in real life. Richard’s notes shift characterisations away from being ‘stagey’ to something that is alive and unexpected. He has an eye that can uncover the opportunity in even the smallest moment that would otherwise be overlooked.
So what I am learning I think is that to create the original worlds that I see in Richard’s work, far from being concept or style led, as perhaps I first anticipated, Richard focuses on making the characters and their journeys accurate and plausible. He drills into each moment to find a truth. From this foundation a rich, complex world with its own rules begins to grow. But Richard is a director of many parts and this is what makes his work exciting. He has a tremendous facility to work visually – he has a keen design and spatial instinct and its very clear what he wants in the staging. Moving into the latter stage of rehearsals Richard is now clearing ‘making’ and crafting his production. I also feel that we are now moving into a more expressionistic phase of the process, where Richard’s imagination is starting to be transferred to the stage. We now move on from the experimentation of the first few weeks and the characters that have now been created are gradually sculpted by Richard into something that specific and at times choreographed. I am really excited to see how Richard brings all the components of his process together in the last few weeks, and hopefully then I may be able to reflect further on how Richard creates his extraordinary worlds.
Laura Farnworth is Assistant Director on Public Enemy.