As part of our ongoing commitment to nurture, support and inspire local theatre-makers, the Royal Exchange Theatre are able to offer directors based in Greater Manchester the opportunity to observe the journey of a production through rehearsals with our OBSERVER MONDAYS SCHEME.
Here is the second blog from THE CRUCIBLE observing director Jennifer Iswara.
The Royal Exchange main stage is the largest theatre in the round in the UK, a uniquely challenging playing space which seems almost designed with The Crucible in mind. With both its shape being reminiscent of a physical crucible as a melting pot for metals, and its audience laid out as though for a trial there is something quite electric about this play being here.
A Royal Exchange audience member must be engaged and active throughout a show. The auditorium demands it. I hadn’t realised that before. As I thought about the space, I considered the stalls seats – 6 rows at its very deepest – and then the galleries with only 2 rows depth and high stool seating. Physically, you have to sit up and engage when you’re upstairs and downstairs, whilst there may be nowhere to hide for the actors, the same is true for the audience. In an auditorium of such capacity it is rare to have the immediacy and dialogue that this one offers.
I had also not considered the intricacies of blocking a play for such a large circular playing space before, being used to the diagonals and positions of power for rectangular stages in end on, thrust and traverse stagings.
This week I watch Caroline work with the actors to block the play. She is keenly aware of ‘hotspots’ – places which automatically lend status or meaning. Some of these are fixed, but many are dynamic and relational – the circle seems to have a magical way of morphing when bodies are put inside of it. It demands movement, and every movement from the tiniest shift to the grandest arc underscores the storytelling of the piece. Sometimes it joins in with the melody and often it finds the offbeat to describe subtext. Proximity and distance lend and deny status. Flocking (actors moving together as a sort of shoal or flock) turns up the volume, adds heat, gives a flickering moment of urgency.
It really is a dance and Miller’s text is the music playing.