I do have a vision of this production as reinstalling pure theater. This does not mean that I am looking for a historical original but rather for a digging through theater histories, traditions, and rituals to get a glimpse at what theater is and can do: a playful engagement with ourselves and our times that does not deliver answers but questions. In this light, I do appreciate the fact that Shakespeare on the Green offers a very stripped performance apparatus: actors and text.
I am often frustrated with productions of Shakespeare’s plays when actors are rushing through the text, out of time issues or insecurity, thereby losing the text for themselves and the audience. I would love to work intently with the actors, partly referring to Kristin Linklater’s book Freeing Shakespeare’s Voice, to generate a specific articulation of the text as text that is not only understandable but also productive of the performance itself. The text will be the maker of the actors, who I see in neutral costume, playing through text rather than through character.
One of the striking images of Shakespeare’s text is the belly, which speaks of the visceral quality of the text itself. Thus, the bodies of the actors will be of utmost importance to the production. I am very interested in exploring how text is uttered through the body and how a “physical” utterance influences the text. In addition to this, I am continuously fascinated by the concept of the ‘decided body’ and its implications for scenic work. I would love to trouble the understanding of the audience in terms of their expectations of the expressive body. Furthermore, the bodies of the actors in the performance space and also especially in relation to the bodies in the audience will finely disturb the imagery of the body/belly presented in the text, based on one of Shakespeare’s sources for Coriolanus:
Aesop: The Belly and the MembersOne fine day it occurred to the Members of the Body that they were doing all the work and the Belly was having all the food. So they held a meeting, and after a long discussion, decided to strike work till the Belly consented to take its proper share of the work. So for a day or two, the Hands refused to take the food, the Mouth refused to receive it, and the Teeth had no work to do. But after a day or two the Members began to find that they themselves were not in a very active condition: the Hands could hardly move, and the Mouth was all parched and dry, while the Legs were unable to support the rest. So thus they found that even the Belly in its dull quiet way was doing necessary work for the Body, and that all must work together or the Body will go to pieces.
Thus, I hope the production can speak of the dynamics and tensions between the individual and society, the work that is invested into these relations as well as into the theater process itself. Focusing on text/voice and expression/body, I want to open up the performance for a Theater-Theater. Not only will we be working through the play Coriolanus but also through that very same work. This work will be highlighted in instants with the help of three devices: selected props (that will be identified and worked with as props), half masks (that will expose the actual masks of the actors’ faces and our own), and citations (both textual as well as physical, entering into the recycling mechanisms of our routines in the theater). As much as Coriolanus is a piece about how politics work, the production itself will disclose its own politics in terms of producing and destroying of theater and making it thus visible as theater – a theater that is not removed or without consequence but a theater that is immediate and visceral, producing and reproducing, sabotaging and fixing itself, a machine that includes actors, crew, and audience.
Finally, these are after all questions. My vision of the production may already seem quite comprehensive in terms of what our possibilities are. Nevertheless, I am aware that this process will be just that: a process. I do not have answers to my questions but am very curious what obstacles we will meet and how we can use them to expand our thinking on what theater does.