Monthly Archives March 2014

The marriage night is the entrance into some prison: getting out of textual jail in rehearsal

Long before we started rehearsals for Cover Her Face, our adaptation of John Webster’s The Duchess Of Malfi as a 1950s trans honour killing, we spent a lot of time working on the text. By the first readthrough, we thought we had cracked most, if not all, of the problems we had set ourselves by re-casting the protagonist as a wealthy socialite from 1950s London who wished to live as a woman (around the time that French gynaecologist Georges Burou was conducting the first wave of post-war gender reassignment operations at his clinic in Casablanca.) Many ‘sisters’ had become ‘brothers’,

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We that are great fellows of pleasure: having fun with a ’50s rent boy

I was delighted when I found out that I had gotten the role of Julian in Cover Her Face (Julia in Webster’s original) because I knew that he was a character that I could have a lot of fun with. And fun was the feeling I wanted to keep with me when working on this character and in the rehearsals, because that’s what I felt Webster was offering in the text. After my first reading of the play, I jokingly referred to Julian as the “whorish fool” of the play but even though I said that in jest, that really was

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You call this painting? Getting acquainted with the closet of a 1950s drag queen

How to play a 1950s drag queen! I had attempted to play a real woman in a short film and had a few seconds as a drag queen in another short film, but with no dialogue. So really this was a new challenge. Castruccio in the original version of The Duchess Of Malfi was an old man, so not much help there. I looked up drag queens in the 1950s. I discovered that after the second world war, drag on the London stage was quite popular. Audiences often assumed, or chose to believe, they were seeing the sort of shows

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’Tis nothing but my melancholy: playing the Jacobean malcontent in a 1950s setting

A major challenge in the role of Bosola is addressing his archetypal role of the Jacobean malcontent – a man filled with rage at the superficial world around him, cynical about the motivations of others while at the same time a convicted criminal and ready gun-for hire. Applying a purely Stanislavskian interpretation to the character’s contradictory nature was something that I was very wary about: part of what makes Webster’s original text so interesting is his juxtaposition of contradictory values within the same character, and I didn’t want to simply ignore this element in the writing and be needlessly reductive.

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