Assistant Director Nicole Charles shares an insight into the casting process behind Imogen.
Imogen is described by the director Matthew Dunster as ‘a dance piece with text coming out of it.’ This idea is exciting in itself, but is made even more so when considering it the context of a Shakespeare play. The original text is being edited, and the forthcoming process of merging dance and language in rehearsal will make the drives of the characters even more visible and visceral.
With this in mind, it’s been especially important to find actors who can move, and dancers who can speak text and act in the unique context of the Globe stage. The cast will be a combination of classically trained and community actors, and it’s been a joy to observe the audition process with different types of performers occupying the same artistic space and working collaboratively. Actors and dancers were invited to workshop with Matthew Dunster, joining from management agencies and theatre companies across London, such as the Synergy Theatre Project, Generation Arts, The Big House and Roundhouse.
The three-hour workshops were split into four fun sections: warm-up, movement, text and choreography. After playing a couple of (awesome) games, we got straight down to that scary business of reading the text. Watching the performers read one after the other in a circle was an excellent way of listening to the flow of language from character to character and the variations in their tones, fluency and pitch. Following this daunting exercise, the solo movement work began. Taking away words to express the complexities of the text using the body alone is not only demanding but also freeing. The space created by the director allowed the actors to personally connect to the material and to feel safe enough to express themselves through the practice. Actors were combined into small groups, where they further developed their individual work by sharing it and joining with others, bringing physicalized narratives together to see these the characters in relation to each other.
This production, which is set in London in 2016, requires that the cast make up the kaleidoscope of voices that make up the capital city. Listening to the performers engage with the text was brilliant. Listening to the different accents and voices, trained and natural, produced an authentic musicality, and invited the audience into a special intercultural experience. The readings really connected with listeners when the actor speaking the text grasped the thoughts and the rhythms within the speech of the character, and when they communicated what they wanted through the ideas presented in the text and made it their own. The more the actor owned it and enjoyed sharing their characters’ stories with us, the more we, as listeners, were able to connect with the world of the play.
The choreographer taught the group a stunning dance sequence, and with the music, movement and the focus of the performers, the lines between the talents became very blurred. It was easy to be drawn into the messy landscape that is Cymbeline, with all its double-crossing and intense jealousies. It is tantalising to imagine the progression of this blurring of lines; of earthy, war-like movement sequences and of the battle lines that will be drawn on the Globe stage. To be continued…