Back when I was doing the plot synopsis for Act Three in Antony and Cleopatra, I mentioned the strange opening stage direction for Act Three, Scene Ten: “Canidius marcheth with his land army one way over the stage, and Taurus the lieutenant of Caesar the other way. After their going in is heard the noise of a sea fight” (III.x.opening s.d.).
How do you stage that?
OK, you march Canidius and his “land army” (what, a half-dozen guys is Roman tunics?) across the stage. Then you march Taurus (solo?) across the stage in the other direction. Then you pipe in the sounds of a sea fight. And just what distinguishes the “noise” of a sea fight from that of a good ol’ land battle? (that sounds like the set-up for the lamest drama-geek joke of all time… would the punchline be “the lack of horsey-neighs”?)
Staging this play must give directors and designers fits and nightmares.
I mean, the play’s got 43 scenes in it…that’s more than twice the average play’s 21. Histories and Tragedies average just over 24, but that’s still nineteen short. How do you present these quick changes in setting and locale?
Like I said the other day, there are times where this feels very screenplay-like.
Except for one thing (well, make that two): the Enobarbus description of the barge and Octavian’s recollection of the news from Alexandria. In a screenplay or film, you’d just shoot it–maybe you run the speech as voice-over, but maybe you don’t (in the same way Kurzel stripped Macbeth down to the dialogue bone). But on stage?
I have a vague recollection of last year’s OSF production actually staging the happenings in Alexandria as Octavian’s describing it, as a kind of visual show-stopper just before the intermission (though my memory is not what it used to be).
So. Yeah. Fits and nightmares for the director/designers…