I’ve given myself blistered hands, my brain on Friday night felt like it was going to explode out of my skull, it cost me money I don’t have...and I haven’t been that happy in a long time.
Doing what? Two days frolicking in the archives. That of the Victoria and Albert Theatre Museum and the National Theatre to be precise. And the best part? There’s so much to do I get to go back (and possibly take a slave, I mean assistant with me- another utterly mad person who like me thinks this sounds like an excellent day out-really it really is!)
This as a researcher and a hopeful theatre practitioner is what I live for, the records of what has gone before brought to life. Much more than any secondary reading the doors of possibilities began to fly open along a seemingly never ending corridor. And this is just one chapter, one play-admittedly a two part 7 1/2 hour play, but still. I could study this forever and not get bored.
This is what I was made for the picking apart and pulling together the strands to re-assemble the whole, the beauty of theatre is that it’s ephemeral the challenge is putting it back together to try and discover what it meant. I sit here and with these materials-costume books rehearsal photos, production stills, programme notes and prompt scripts and bring a production to life.
Oh the prompt script my holy grail, to my department colleagues a lot of this seems completely insane this piecing together of materials. If they saw the prompt script or ‘bible’ most would run in horror, the notes and instructions totally alien, blurring the words of the play, what they see as the ‘literature’ whereas to me those instructions those D/S/R and FX-13 D/C/L and X-ing/U/R bring the play into focus. I wasn’t there but with these materials I can piece together what happened on that stage, what was happening around it, who was in the building, what else they chose between to come to that space and what they saw when they did. Short of seeing a recording or getting in my Tardis back there I see the production as clearly as is possible from this distance. And then I work out what to do with it.
And then there’s all the periphery things that just help bring a sense of this play and it’s people to life. The actor’s biography at the time, their photos (I do linger a little longer than necessary at one of Daniel Craig and Jason Isaacs in bed together) interviews with the writer, excerpts performed on tape, press coverage. A whole world of this play.
I knew this play inside out and back to front before, but after a few short hours in the archives it is awoken and refreshed, bringing the world it inhabited crashing into mine.
So in a small act of defiance here I say: tell me that’s not research.