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David Ross - Piers Gaveston and Sir John of Hainault

Edward II…a play about a gay king with a poker up his bum, right? Well, technically yes, but there is so much more to the play than what that (admittedly awful) summary has to offer. Being in a production of Marlowe’s play opened my eyes, ears and body to the dark power struggles that pervade the play and gave me a deeper understanding of the possibilities of verse in general. From early on in the rehearsal period the physical and the textual were brought together. With her ever predictable (often feared!) phrase of “Find something new” Julia forced each actor to simultaneously explore their understanding of a word the actor felt summed up the mood of their character at a certain point in the play as well as expand their ability to use the physical body as a communicative tool. The constant demand for new physical positions pushed me to a subtler understanding of the word in question, which in turn provided a more nuanced reading of the lines themselves. The verse became a pool of physical opportunities as the physical work became a lens through which to study the text. I found this method of rehearsal highly productive and extremely enjoyable and feel that I now have a greater understanding of the connection between body and word. Another important exercise came in the use of music throughout the rehearsal period. Across the entire rehearsal time, I felt that the company found its own a distinct rhythm as an ensemble. This helped in our understanding of Marlowe’s use of rhythm in the verse and in terms of the pace of the play as a whole. Each scene had a very marked tone, pitch and speed that came from the work on rhythm that each actor did. I found Gaveston’s rhythm to be quick and playful whilst still being strong – aspects that inflected everything from my movement to my understanding of Gaveston’s motives to my speed of response in conversations with other characters. If I were to do the production again, I think it would be interesting to explore the parallels between certain characters and find a means of drawing attention to these, possibly through similarities in physicality. Also I would have liked, at least as an exercise, to explore whole scenes on a more abstract physical plane of communication and find true bodily forms of expression. Nevertheless, the physical work that we did do contributed greatly to my understanding both of Marlowe’s play and the possibilities of bodies as texts to be read.