We did a three day workshop on the Bible about six weeks ago, with four actors, to sample the techniques we were going to use for rehearsing and recording. We originally thought we would do it in pages and each actor would do 15 minute slots each. We suddenly realised through the workshop this was too much and worked out it would be easier to do smaller more manageable bite sized chunks, so the chapters would be between a minute and a half and eight minutes long depending on the length of them, and the actors could see the pieces as being a bit more like a monologue.
The delivery itself is like a relay, with each person trying to pick up the right tone to take into their own piece. We are using a technique called ‘recorded delivery’ which was suggested by Dominic. He was inspired by a production company called Recorded Delivery who had done a verbatim project where they had interviewed lots of refugees and created a play of these edited pieces. The actors played the tape of words of that actual person into their ear, learnt the phrasing and physically embodied those words, and found a characterisation for them. We are using the same technique but the actors are, recording their own chapters so they are hearing their best performance in their ear, which they then immediately deliver. I think it’s incredibly engaging to watch because I always find with actors; they think and then they speak, rather than what Shakespeare asks you to do…think on the line. You can’t help but just repeat what’s in your ear and there’s a wonderful engagement in that. It also stops them from having to learn it, because for some actors they would be learning up to sixty -eight chapters, which is a tremendous amount in the short space of time that we have.
Yesterday we had a day familiarising ourselves with the equipment, and now the actors are off learning it. I have been phoning them up to find out how they are getting on. I think with the varying ages of our actors it’s been a quite an interesting journey for some of them to master the technical side of it. There are those who have worked in the space more and know how to work the space, and others who know how to work the machines much better. It was wonderful on the first day watching them talking to each other and sharing skills. They are incredibly talented and are very keen and committed to making it work to the best of its ability.
I think there are margins for error, if anyone’s equipment goes down, but the stage management team are going to be there with the actual words and they can read from them. Although, I think it was Serena Evans (Mistress Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor 2009,2010) yesterday on the phone who said ‘Maybe I should have the extract from the Bible in my pocket and I can pull it out just in case; is that alright?’. But I think what we are realising as we are going through it, is the amount of repetition in there and this can be quite amusing to listen to. I was talking to someone about the first folio of all Shakespeare’s plays and that it looks quite thick, but then when you look at a version of the King James Bible it’s three times as thick; it’s massive! Actually in terms of how many words are repeated there are less repeated words in Shakespeare’s first folio, of all the texts, than there are in the King James Bible. I am sure the actors will get rounds of applause for having finished off the Chronicles– the amount of names they have to talk about!