Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sweeney Todd & stage movement

So the show closed at the POW on Sunday. I've never been a fan of this musical, mostly because of the subject matter and the dissonance of the score. I sat through it once so I could see John Doyle's staging and how he used the actors as his orchestra as well. In the end, while it was definitely a bold move, I didn't feel it illuminated the text in any way, and in having the all actors on stage all the time being busy caused major problems in focusing the action. I know that was the major complaint from the audience. If you didn't know the story you were lost from the get-go. To me, that's not effective.

My biggest thrill on this show was getting to watch the work of Ben Eakeley as the Beadle. He moved across the stage with a cat-like grace, proudly owning his height, oozing confidence. My co-workers also all noticed him, talked about his strut, and used words like cocky and sexy to describe him. I personally because fascinated by the way he handled the business of pouring a bottle of wine and recapping the bottle. He also has a lovely voice with a great range but conversation always kept coming back to how he moved.

Watching an actor move with such precision has become something I've treasured ever since I saw Frank Theatre's Macbeth: Crown of Blood in Brisbane. Crown of Blood had many stunning elements in it. It used a Malaysian actor as the sub-conscious of Macbeth, thus having the soliloquies split, with half in English and half in Malaysian; as well as two Croatian actors playing the first two witches, who also spoke in their native language. There was a live drummer on stage accentuating the action. But the best thing of all was watching the power of the Suzuki-trained actors playing the leads: no wasted motions, completely grounded at all times. Here was a production that knew the power of stillness.

Since then, I've attended one of their training sessions thank to Frank's John Nobbs (who I still hope can be brought to Toronto to do a workshop). I've read Jacques Lecoq's The Moving Body, as well as seeing productions from students of his school. I did a workshop called The Dance of Thought with Orisel Gaspar Rojas, the artistic director of Teatro Vivo de Cuba. And I just celebrated my 10th anniversary of swing dancing.

So I know that this idea of controlled movement and contrasting stillness is something I will continue to explore as a director. It was wonderful to watch Ben illustrate the power of these ideas. And through a series of amazing events, I got the opportunity to tell him so.

I've seen some more great theatre lately and I hope I'll be able to post about them soon.

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