National Theatre Live: Hansard | Creating Set and Movement in Hansard


I start off with the human being on-stage rather than the set, and then the set evolves around it. If you have a two-hander
in an uncluttered space, every move and every gesture says so much. So, I’m extremely thrilled that it was Alex Jennings
and Lindsay Duncan who were the two people who inhabited that set. The job of movement director is always very interesting. It is what’s not said
that holds a lot of weight. My role was helping the actors to figure
out the embodiment of their characters, how they would move in the space and what the space actually meant
with regards to the memories that it held. They have been married for quite a while and yes, it has changed, and it has
changed as his career has progressed, and perhaps hers not so much. There’s something not quite right. There’s a loneliness
and there is an emotional barrenness. A lot of unfulfilled hopes has to be expressed somehow
in this environment. Simon Woods, the writer,
was quite important to the process. Because he’d written the play and he knew,
probably, that country house quite well. I think he was also encouraging
this simplicity. The tension in their marriage, we see that
through the way that they use the space and how they move through the space. One person might find
that they feel a little bit stronger standing by the dining table, while another feels that there’s
more weight sitting down in the kitchen. And it’s that sense of distance
that we play in the space that gives us the sense of distance
between the two characters. We learn things about the different props and the different pieces of furniture that
are placed within the realms of the house. The dining table was almost
one of the first things I made. At the beginning of their marriage, it was one of the first items
of furniture they bought, but it’s clearly not been used often,
and now not at all. It was to do with their dreams and their
aspirations and their happiness, in a way. There are no photographs. There’s
an absence, a deliberate absence of that. There’s a kind of leftover mark above the
fireplace where a painting had once been, which was quite an important gesture,
in a way. The conversation
gets very heated at times, and we find that there’s a release
of tension by using an exit strategy. One could exit into the pantry… ..and still be heard from the viewers, but it’s a moment of release for one of
the characters and for one of the actors. These separations were helped by the fact that there was a real place
to go to backstage, like a scullery, for example. The shelves were stocked
as though it was a real house. If you’re far away from the stage,
you get a total picture. It’s quite nice for the designer because it is quite important, in a way, to see more than
just close-up parts of space. With the live broadcast you get both. And the closeness and the close-ups, is a great luxury to experience plays
in that manner, I think.

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