Good afternoon, Blackfriars-ers; Tyler James Haggard again, bringing you the scoop from Saturday’s staging session on Staging the Politics of Wales: 1 Henry IV 3.1 186-239 featuring Beth Brown (University of Rio Grande) and Megan Lloyd (King’s College), Kevin Rich (University of Colorado- Boulder) moderating. I've abbreviated all the speakers in this transcript by their first and last initial. Let's get started!
Tyler Bruce Dale
11:26: I’m handed a sheet of paper for the coming session; the top of a large paragraph asks, “how do you stage a scene with no lines?” How, indeed…
11:30: KR: Hello, all
11:31: BB: How do you stage a scene with no lines? How do you stage a subversive voice challenging the state? How do you stage a scene with two opposing princes? We’re interested in seeing this scene three different ways.
11:32: ML: We’ll stage the scene with no Welsh lines, with Welsh lines treated comically, and the text treated more seriously.
11:35 : Obligatory attention drawn to Matt Davies.
11:36: Actor conversation: How do we perform Welsh if we don’t know it? It could be overblown and comedic, but how do we treat pronunciation? Answer: Exaggerate, but make sure it’s not unintelligible gibberish.
11:37: BB: There are scripted foreign language in Shakespeare’s plays, but this one doesn’t. Was there a boy that Shakespeare had that could speak Welsh? We don’t know. It could take the form of a whispered conversation.
11:38: First take on the scene: no Welsh spoken; dialogue carried out via on-stage whispering (inaudible). Lady Mortimer must tell her part of the story through gesture and blocking.
11:40: Thoughts? Reactions?
KL: If I’m inaudible, how is he translating when I’m talking to Mortimer? And if you hear the song in Welsh, surely you hear the lyrics?
TD: I felt a little bit more impatience; I can’t even attempt to understand if I can’t hear it at all… I just have to wait.
AB: How do you know that Glen.’s translation is accurate?
DM: The script establishes that this is a loving, passionate couple… we have to find a staging option that doesn’t create fear.
TD: I don’t know how long to let her go on.
KL: She’s distressed. Is she being talked over?
GB: Perhaps there was an actor in the company did speak Welsh, and the script assumes that.
BB: A lot of the Welsh nobility flocked to London during that time, so the language is definitely circulating.
DM: By introducing Welsh, Shakes is introducing a dangerous, subversive moment.
11:45- Take two; comic, audible Welsh- Matt Davies in stitches at attempted Welsh; big laugh from audience after switching from a long section of Welsh back to English.
“I understand thy LOOKS…” from Mort. gets a big laugh, as does “I understand thy kisses…”
Story can still be told through blocking and gesture; Lady Mort. takes Mort.’s hand and leads him to the ground; tender moment; song in Welsh; uses a guttural vocalization in the midst of the beautiful song to grab a laugh.
11:50: High spirits in the actors; scene went over well.
KR: Is that what you’re looking for in a comic interpretation
BB: The comedy comes out in that both Lady M and Glendower are sort of crazy, wild Welsh folks
KR: Were you imagining that the comedy comes out of miscommunication, or just making fun of Welsh people?
KL: If we can’t hear LM, her proximity to Glen has to be close all the time. I noticed how much it was on Mort. to pull the comedy out of the scene; your reactions sold it.
GB: Also, Mort. asks the dad to stay around too, this intrusive presence, which is funny as well.
11:54: BB: We’d like a serious version too. Is this just making fun of the Welsh, or is there more going on here?
BS: In the serious version, I assume the stakes are more, “my husband is going to war, etc.,” so how do we avoid the comedy?
TD: I think he has to show that he’s trying but failing to understand.
11:55: Third take; serious; it seems as though the serious interpretation with the Welsh lines spoken provides fewer opportunities for the actor; all comic moments from previous reading were absent.
11:59: BB: Thank you. That was good Welsh.
AB: I think it would be interesting to juxtapose Lady Percy/Hotspur and the Mort. scene and see how they react to one another
TD: No matter how it’s played by the 3 Welsh speakers, the Hotspur’s presence will change it and make it more serious.
DM: We know Glen. is also a magician; we know he has legitimate power over or through nature, and this is the most natural thing ever, two people in love being pulled apart; he seems to enchant them as they lay down on the ground together. Neither Hotspur nor Hal get such a natural rhythm in the play.
KL: Having learned the Welsh and not paying much attention to the stage directions, I felt she was robbed of her agency in this scene.
TD: I can’t understand her, but I can hear the distress in her voice, I attempt to comfort her even though I can’t speak her language.
GB: As Hotspur, when I heard “Percy” or “Mortimer,” my ears pricked up.
12:05: Audience: When Mortimer says, I’ll sit, when he’s already sitting; I wonder if there’s an interesting moment that can happen there between Mort. and Glen.?
Audience: This is one of my favorite scenes, because it is about comic miscommunication, but the mood changes so beautiful at the end with the song. I’ve seen that every time you’ve run it.
Audience: I think it could also lend itself to comedy without including the Welsh dialogue; running from place to place to whisper, the audience asking “who’s gonna answer that question?”
Audience: It’s interesting wether Lady Mort. looks to Mort. or Glen. to get her answers? To her father or the man she loves?
Matt Davies: The audience was utterly beguiled by the Welsh, so when it’s translated onstage, the power dynamics toward Glen. shift enormously.
12:12: Fourth take: Synthesized many of the notes and comments given; heartfelt, sorrowful; though the Percys were onstage, too, it felt quite intimate. Lady Mort. commanded the action of the scene. The Percys also sat on the ground when the Morts did.
Well done, all! Thanks for a great staging session!