All’s Well That Ends Well Review and its Impact on My Directorial Decisions for Medea
The Shakespeare Company’s production of William Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well was performed in the intimate space of the Vertigo Theatre. The stage was transformed into a square by arranging seats for the audience along each of the four sides of the theatre. A gap was left between the bleachers in each corner, creating four different directions for the actors to enter and exit with ease. The aisles between the seats of the bleachers were also utilized as stage space. The actors frequented the steps, using them as hiding places, seating, or elevating one character above another. Although this technique was engaging and interactive with its audience, the actors often blocked parts of the stage where other action was happening. Because the audience surrounded the stage, the actors had to twist and turn their bodies more to project their voices; this made the performance more playful, but, unfortunately, this meant that one-fourth of the audience was always excluded because an actor’s back always faced one wall or another. This layout made it difficult to experience the emotions of every character and, instead, bred a distracted focus on audience members on the other side of the stage. This distraction, however, was limited because the spotlights on stage usually dimmed out everyone else in the room.
The stage was a dark, blank canvas. Everything was blacked out except for spotlights on the actors. The spotlights worked to bring focus to the actors while simultaneously distancing them from one another. One scene turned the artificial lights off and merely used candles; this was effective for creating suspense and confusion during a dramatic scene. The stage housed no fixed stage props. Props that were brought on stage were minimal or multipurpose; for example, the bed frame the King of France used to rest on was later placed upright and recycled as a frame for Parolles to be tied to. In addition, little to no music was used, and when it was, it was only a momentary drum.
The actors dressed plainly, sporting solid black attire. It illuminated the faces of a predominantly white cast in a dark theatre. The exception was Parolles, who wore solid black with some red, differentiating him and symbolizing what kind of person he was: a deceitful liar. Any makeup used was natural in appearance. The lack of extravagant make-up made it more powerful when the King of France came on stage with his make-up, sickly and pale with red spots, to emphasize his illness. The simplicity created with darkness, minimal props, little noise, and simplistic costume and make-up, combined with spotlights fixated on the actors, created an ability to appreciate the dialogue without the interference of flamboyance.
For my production of Medea, I will use the small theatre of the Vertigo to provide an intimate performance similar to that of All’s Well That Ends Well. Rather than allow the audience to distance themselves from her character in a larger theatre, the closeness of the audience to the stage will make Medea’s emotions inescapable. Because Medea is a more dramatic play, I do not want my audience to miss any emotion accomplished by the actors; therefore, I will present a centered stage along one side of the theatre instead of people spectating from every direction. The actors will also not invade the audience’s seating space, but they may break the fourth wall by acknowledging them.
I will mimic the Shakespeare Company’s performance with minimal, if any, stage props, and no music in the darkened theatre. The dialogue will speak for itself without music dictating how the audience should feel, and the lack of props in a dark space will limit distractions exterior of the play. The lack of lighting will better represent Medea because the simplicity juxtaposes the complexity of Medea’s mindset while simultaneously symbolizing it. I will use the spotlight technique to distance the characters from each other. When Medea is being manipulative, she will be invasive of others’ spotlights; for example, when she begs Creon to let her stay, she will fall to Creon’s knees and her spotlight will merge and consume his, symbolizing her ability to manipulate and overtake others.
The Supremes will sing the lines of the Chorus. They will always be on the side of the stage. Samuel L. Jackson—physically resembling his character, Stephan, in Django Unchained, but with with a weaker self—will play Creon. Ato Essandoh will play a nurturing tutor for the children and Viola Davis will play the concerned nurse. Helena Bonham Carter will be cast as Medea, closely mimicking the body language and discourse of her sadistic character in the Harry Potter movies, Bellatrix Lestrange. Steve Buscemi will portray Jason as an emasculated, unnerving scoundrel. Jason will wear an all black suit with a yellow—the color of betrayal—tie, almost blending in with the other characters. Medea will wear a white dress, tie-dyed red, to represent the blood of those she has shed for Jason. Such as the King of France, Medea’s misery will be emphasized as the only performer wearing makeup: pale skin with thick mascara running down her cheeks. All other characters will wear solid black, blending into the dark background.
The only text edit I will apply will be at the end of the play. Medea will not leave in a chariot because the small set will not allow it. An extravagant exit would diminish the simplicity. Instead, I will black out the theatre following Medea’s last line. Jason will shout his last passage in the dark. The sound of hooves trotting, followed by flapping wings will indicate Medea’s chariot exit, even though she has already left the stage. Jason will exit and the Chorus will move to center stage for the first time. A red spotlight will shine down on them from directly above. Each of the three women will play violins—the first music of the play—as they sing the final lines. After the lines have been completed, the lights will blackout to indicate the end, but the violin will continue to play until the lights return and the actors have completed their bows.