LRT Work on Chekhov and Pinter

1. LRT and Chekhov.

Chekhov clearly prefaced his early comedies to be played in Burlesque. He called for a theatrical style of performance where costume, scenery and character were all very much larger than life behind the footlights. He knew that these comedies would go down a storm in the barn theatres of the Russian steppe where the aristocracy is shown to be as foolish and vulnerable as the rest of us. Played in this way, these inflated characters, like those in Gogol’s “The Government Inspector” can cut through the laughter in sudden scenes of simple truth in heartfelt desire or regret that touches us all. In the early comedies, the actor suddenly breaks the narrative and addresses the audience, in effect making them co-conspirators. Later in his life, Chekhov took serious issue with Stanivlasky because the director asked his actors not to address the audience but instead take the same text and internalise it, so that the actor is speaking to himself. Our aim is rejuvenate that early style of playing – one idea is that in ‘The Bear’ – the protagonist Smirnov should little by little unintentionally destroy the hangings, pictures and furniture of Mrs Popov’s sitting room. He comes into a world of ordered and repressed grief and demolishes it on his way to find true love. Or, as a man on the edge of bankruptcy is he just wooing her for her money?

2. Harold Pinter – In 2007 Pinter wrote an article that appeared on the front page of the “Sunday Times’. It was a plea for actors and directors to release themselves from the holiness of Pinter’s textual directions which he said slowed the pace and lost the contemporary rhythm of the dialect. LRT looks at the suppressed rage in a lot of Pinter characters – rage born out of loneliness and confusion and most of all, fear. It is an essentially english rage, polite but inarticulate: a well-mannered despair. But to play Pinter is to play comedy – there is a laughing black humour that sometimes gets lost. This comedy injects vibrancy and passion into the text, even in the most mundane and repetitious lines, and enables the pauses within the flow of the dialogue to become more pronounced, more theatrical.