Friday, August 3, 2012

Fight Call and Farcical Design

Last night was the Designer Run for the British farce See How They Run at Circle Theatre.

It's going to be funny!

But before the Run there was Fight Call, to rehearse various chases and physical bits.

Director Robin Armstrong is known for farce and physical comedy - creating one of the best comic moments I've ever seen in Incorruptible - a brilliant silent fight between a man and a woman (who was supposed to be dead at the time) literally over the head of a monk who knelt, praying, with his eyes closed.  As he finished his prayer and opened his eyes, the woman lay there again "dead" in front of him - fight over.  Perfectly timed.  So it was fascinating to watch this new show's fight rehearsal.  I didn't know (being no actor or athlete) that such scenes are practiced at varying speeds: slo-mo, 3/4 speed, and full speed (AKA did-you-catch-that?!)  I could see the actors becoming both controlled and fluid.

For See How They Run, it's lots o' chases and mock fights that turn into real mayhem... Very funny stuff.

How does this effect the set?  (Because a Designer Run is not called just so I can giggle.)

Well, first of all there's safe footing for these running actors.  We'd intended to seal the painted stage floor with a slightly glossy/slick polyurethane, to ease a scene when an actor is dragged away.  But, what with all this running around, it became obvious that it's more important to make the floor non-skid. We'll leave the stage as an UNsealed painted finish.  Luckily its faux "stone" look will hide some skid marks and, if damaged, will be relatively easy to touch up.

Then there's the rug in front of the sofa.  There's a mock fight there, so padding under the carpet is important (not to bruise actors), but there's still all that running... so we'll triple pad the rug, then firmly staple it to the stage to keep it from sliding.

Furniture selection is inportant.  There is so much physical business on (and over) the sofa that it had to be not just a good period "look" (meaning appropriate fabric and style) but well padded.  There are gym mats that get less of a workout than this couch!  The sofa will get screwed down to the floor too.

In a farce doors must always be sturdy specimens with heavy-duty hinges, catches, knobs, and latches.  Having doors "bounce" back open when slammed is a problem to solve.  At this stage of the build, doors are in place, but hardware is still being found and installed.

At the floor plan stage of set design, door placement and distance between entrances are critical decisions, because this effects comic timing.

I've designed this vicarage as a Tudor half-timbered house.  Building timbers from foam might have been a good/cheap idea for a straight play, a drama, but as this is farce they need to be of sturdier plywood.  There's a stair rail that gets some rowdiness, so the carpenter has built it like a wooden M1 tank.

A wooden tank - found HERE

After watching the Designer Run, building this set like a wooden tank seems about right... it's a comic battlefield!

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