Richard III – Loyaulté me lie # 19

Repetition and variation (1/3)


Rehearsals are a ritual. Actors rehearse, like swimmers who, every day, repeat the same gestures to make them more precise, to ensure they can be performed without thinking, writing in their body a memory of movement. Actors rehearse texts, because actors usually speak. The work involved in memorising a text is not the least difficult: unlike what we usually assume about them, actors don’t find it easier than anyone else to learn. Everyone who has to go on stage shares the same nightmare: to be totally blank, no sound coming out of their mouth, the mind empty. This was even the starting point for Ingmar Bergman’s film Persona, with Liv Ullman stopping mid-way through Electra and never speaking again. To rehearse and repeat the text so we don’t have to think about it, to experience the strange pleasure there is in discovering it as the words form on our lips. Paradoxically, rehearsals allow more freedom than improvisation does, that illusion of inventing things on the spot. Try one day to improvise Shakespeare, Beckett or Koltès! You will find yourself being a mediocre writer, and the audience will see in you a bad actor. It happens, sometimes.


Rehearsals aren’t cliché: it is necessary to tirelessly rehearse and repeat something. To go on the same path a thousand times means getting to know each one of its turns, even in the darkness of the limelight. Have you ever noticed how skiers trace with their hand the outline of the piste? Hidden away in their dressing rooms, some actors do the same. It is not unusual to witness this sort of secret prayer, a silent and cabalistic body language that condenses many weeks of rehearsals during which actors have slowly built their journey, their descent at breakneck speed.


There is a lot of slowness involved in a rehearsal. When an audience member, gone astray, opens the door to a rehearsal room, they often leave disappointed, although also impressed by the meticulous labour they have witnessed. We are told that every rehearsal is different, that every director and every actor have their own ways of working. Sure. But at the same time, rehearsals can only be one thing: a way of looking for a gesture, a tone, emotions that ring true. As well as the intensity and colour of the lighting design, the way a piece of costume is cut, how it fits with the stage design, why an element of the set doesn’t work, the way make-up can be ruined by sweat… a whole array of small details that, to be assembled harmoniously in performance must first be noticed in rehearsal


From the ritual of rehearsal to the repetition of the murderous ritual that Richard likes so much, there is a properly Shakespearian similarity here that gives a very specific flavour to what it means to be rehearsing Richard III.



Un clown, alité, face à son propre reflet, face à un double féminin qui se métamorphose, lui renvoyant l’image de...