What does a Movement Director do?
Part 2 …. The Research
Let’s say, for arguments sake, that I’ve been called in to provide a movement workshop to facilitate movement exploration, creating a workable physicalisation of ‘The Weird Sisters’ in Act 1, Scene 1 of Macbeth by William Shakespeare.
Usually this would come after meeting up with, or at least chatting on the phone with, the Director.
A sensitivity of, and commitment to, the artistic and aesthetic vision of the Director is imperative …. It is their vision which will take to the stage in the end.
So we start with an in depth investigation of the play of Macbeth as a whole, as well as a close inspection of the content of the scene in question. Even given that it is a very short moment containing an entrance, sixty-two words shared between three characters and an exit, the ‘Weird Sisters’ scene in Act 1, Scene 1 of Macbeth, known as the ‘When shall we three meet again, …’ scene, opens the whole production. This position within the play holds the added responsibility of introducing the environment and style of, not only these characters but also the production as a whole, to the audience.
So what are the clues? Let me make this clear … this is in no way a definitive academic research paper on this … it’s just to try and give an idea of some of the aspects of the job of a Movement Director … So here we go.
In the first folio of Macbeth the witches are called the weyword or wayard sisters. There are many ongoing debates as to what this may mean, some are as simple as signifying that these women go their own way in society, they are other and separate. This one clue could provide many options for staging and characterisation. One possible way to go with the ‘Three Witches’ would be to have them sit outside of the society within which most of the action happens … it might be interesting to have them have the clarity that distance can bring to a situation.
Within the later folios, however, these words are replaced with the word ’weird’, which appears six times within the play, (I. iii. 32; I. v. 8; II. i. 20; III. i. 2; III. iv. 133; IV. i. 136). Five times as ‘The Weird Sisters’ and once as ‘The Weird Women’. Within the Oxford English dictionary, the word ‘Weird’ is linked to the Anglo-Saxon noun ‘Wyrd’ meaning Fate. This could imply that the sisters are, in effect, to be considered either attached to, or the personification of, the Fates. In his book The Greek Myths, Robert Graves asserts that the Fates, or Moerae, ‘are the triple Moon-goddess.’ (Graves.1960) This triple-faced goddess, also known as Hecate, appears in person later in Macbeth. Her appearance and clear power and status over the Sisters is very rich seam of information to be mined. Graves goes on to say that ‘The moon has three phases and three persons: The New, the Maiden-goddess of the spring; … the Full Moon, the Nymph-goddess of the summer; and the Old Moon, the Crone-goddess of the autumn.’(Graves, 1960)
The research into these wider aspects of the Sisters could go on for ages … I for one find it constantly fascinating, but there is much to be discovered by taking a closer look at the structure and clues within the scene in question.
Within the lines of the scene, the First Witch asks a question which is answered by the Second and elaborated on by the Third. Could this status interplay between the three characters could be used to provide different ages for the sisters? … Young/Novice, Adult/Initiate, Old/Crone?
It is also worth noting that the first line ‘When shall we three meet again?’ implies they have already spent some time together and are about to take their leave. This could provide an opportunity to create a ‘ritual’ of some sort before the dialogue begins … a chance to set the scene and environment for the audience. The stage directions also ask for thunder and lightning, providing a sound-scape to play with.
Much of the rest of the dialogue draws attention to a point in the future when the Sisters will come together again to meet with Macbeth, implying fore-knowledge of events and, although not elaborated upon at this time, a reason for that meeting.
Both ‘Grey-Malkin’ and ‘Padock’ are words still used in the highlands of Scotland to denote a grey cat and a frog or toad respectively. These creatures are considered to be the ‘familiars’ of the Sisters. D.J. Conway, a leading expert on Animal Spirits within ancient and modern culture claims that ‘Hecate is associated with frogs in very ancient lore.’ Conway goes on to say that ‘In Scotland, the mother of the Witches is called the Mither o’ the Mawkins.’(Conway. 1995)
I could go on for ages about the layers of imagery held within the text, but you get the idea …
One hopes that this kind of research is also being done by the director, the actors and the designers involved, but you can’t always rely on that … putting on a play can be a logistical nightmare, and folks have to prioritise. For me though, research is an imperative and integral part of preparation.
Then one has to put the preparation to task …. and although I love to research and trawl for clues, this is when everything gets to be exhilarating and challenging. Each workshop is different and exists in the moment.
I’ll think about that and get back to you in Part 3