Rehearsal development continues on a the overall ‘shape’ of the play onstage, creating a theatrical-dramatic language to support and extend the play text, and which can help establish the many locations and landscapes of Stevenson’s novel. It’s a establishing particular challenge of working with Stevenson’s writing – his detailed and evocative descriptions and use of many locations do not immediately enable simple dramatisation. The Company’s rehearsal work, including world of play and character, also includes developing an approach to ‘creating place by atmosphere’ providing just enough supporting theatrical detail to give the audience a clear sense of place and/or period for the scenes.
There’s clearly two approaches to this kind of non-naturalistic staging. The first leads a pastiche of the novel, using theatrical craft to essentially send-up the swashbuckling elements, creating a stage parody, a piece of knowing silliness in which the actors has fun with the adventure story in a creaky amateur-dramatics-company style. The trouble with this approach is that it runs counter to the spirit of the novel – there’s little in Kidnapped which is overtly comic in intent. The truth of the story lies in Davie’s coming-of-age, a young man learning something about his own country. To send it up is to undermine it.
The second approach takes the drama more seriously, and actively avoids the pastiche element, aiming instead to establish the theatrical life of the production by respecting and enhancing the inherent journey of Davie Balfour – but to do so with clear images and a clearly defined theatrical style. This is the approach we have been taking. Throughout Thursday, as staging rehearsals progress, the Company have been working on creating and establishing the sense of place and action through atmosphere, seeking a theatrical style beyond naturalism for presenting the scenes and discovering the imaginative possibilities of this story-driven approach.