The Dark Side of Love: Tackling the text

Following The Dark Side of Love‘s last blog on mastering Shakespeare’s language, cast member Christine Gomes shares her thoughts on tackling the text.

Being part of The Dark Side of Love has really influenced me in a way I never thought it would have when going to that first workshop audition. At school I was familiar with Shakespeare, my favourite play being Romeo and Juliet, especially watching Baz Luhrmann’s Hollywood blockbuster. Even though I respected and found Shakespeare’s work interesting, I never truly took time to understand it. When I signed up to take part in The Dark Side of Love, I was prepared to be given a Shakespearian script and concentrate on the authenticity of the text when acting it out. However this hasn’t been the case and it has surely worked out for the best – as I can understand Shakespeare better in just seven months than I did in all my years in education.

Rehearsals have comprised exploring the themes Shakespeare wrote about all those years ago. For example, the complicated, young and naïve love expressed in Romeo and Juliet to the domestic violence seen in Othello. In the early stages of rehearsing we were encouraged to do some research on the dark love stories Shakespeare wrote, especially Hamlet, Othello and Romeo and Juliet, and between each other we would discuss how the themes raised related to relationships we may have experienced or have seen today.

As a cast, we have had many privileges of working with people who understand Shakespeare, who are keen to share their knowledge and teach us how to understand it. This has not been not in the conventional way of text analysis, but by approaching monologues from these plays, and verbally and physically deconstructing them. A great example was when we looked at Mercutio’s ‘Queen Mab’ speech. I remember being told not to look at the script as soon as it was handed to me, but to wait until the group was ready and we then read one by one, stopping at punctuation marks. After doing this to become familiar with the speech, we were able to make shapes with our bodies replicating what we thought words meant, and make the monologue flow in one voice. A combination of exercises like this helped me leave a rehearsal understanding the speech without stressing my mind out, which was very enjoyable!

As well as looking at Shakespeare, in rehearsals we have been working on how to explore the intimate and round space of the Dorfman Hub, which is below the main space of the Roundhouse. From working on this project, we have used a lot of physical theatre to tell our story. With influences of circus and choreographic movement, I have been able to recognise that theatre does not stand on words alone and the way a person moves their body can reveal many things – and even be as strong as words. It’s so exciting to be presenting Shakespeare as though it was as fresh as when it was first performed.

The Dark Side of Love will be staged at the Roundhouse 26 June – 8 July. Commissioned by the Roundhouse and LIFT, it forms part of the World Shakespeare Festival.