For two weeks of the Merchant of Venice Rehearsal process I have been working with Frantic Assembly artistic director Scott Graham. Check out their website here.
Scott is one of the most talented practitioners I have ever worked with and I have been a huge fan of work Frantic Assembly’s work. My fiancee played Dina Massey in the most recent tour of Frantic’s production of Bryony Lavery’s boxing drama Beautiful Burnout and so I regularly heard stories of actors being put through their paces rigorously by Scott and his co-artistic director at the time, Stephen Hoggett.
That show, like so many of the other pieces Scott has worked on, was packed with incredible moments of heightened physicality as well as wonderful realistic detail. No matter how heightened the theatricality got, I went with it and was spellbound from moment to moment.
Scott’s work is something that theatre craves and there is a place for it in classics as well as new writing. Whether he is directing the piece himself (such as Frantic’s current production of The Believers – currently on tour and receiving rave reviews, or Othello – which tours in the Autumn) or working as movement director (Port and The Curious Incident of the Dog and the Night time for the National Theatre) I am convinced Scott’s work infuses the actors and improves their performance immeasurably.
Scott treats movement as a writer treats a line of dialogue. Every flicker, nuance and gesture are rigorously examined and explored. The actor is challenged only to move when they ache to do so. Only to touch when they can’t bear not to. Everything must be weighed and considered as we can communicate with physicality in the blink of an eye rather than having to process the spoken word.
When I first approached Scott about us working together on The Merchant of Venice, we spoke about making sure the actors carried the physicality of our heightened prologue to the show, through into the scenes. I believe in combining the disciplines of voice, choreography, music and acting to create one theatrical language. The text must be informed by the physical work and vice-versa. Both are there to tell the story to an audience in the most interesting way possible.
Our actors have become an ensemble thanks to the work we have done over the past weeks. They were a great group to begin with but now they are physically and mentally stronger.
The best collaborations are the ones that inspire and enhance ones own abilities. My experience on this production of The Merchant of Venice has certainly done that. I am delighted to have worked with Scott on this production and look forward to many collaborations in the future.