This post is all about props, and why they are more important than you might think. (And because, in its own way, a post is a prop. Boom boom.)
In order for a production to have some quality, props (and costumes) need to be given some thought. Of course, in the professional theatre, responsibility for both those elements are delegated, but the director still needs to make them fit with the overall approach. At one end of the spectrum (say, the RSC) there is total geographical and historical accuracy. And the opposite of that is not, as you might think, actors all in black miming everything (say, Steven Berkoff) for that too displays a consistent vision (and requires enormous skill). The opposite is the actors or wardrobe person just cobbling together stuff, with props a mixture of just stuff lying around with bits of mime when nothing suitable comes to hand.
So what idea ties together The Chalk Circle (and which end of the spectrum are we closer to?) For a start, I am responsible for both wardrobe and props, so it’s all down to me. And the production as a whole, story and cast, reflects the refugee experience. Recycled, scavenged, acquired, bought when necessary. Which is not as random as it might sound. And is not to do with saving money (except where that fits in with the refugee experience as well.)
The soldiers’ weapons and the Prime Minister’s staff are cardboard tubes rescued from the rubbish binson the corner of every street, tarted up with some electrical tape. The chair too was destined for the bin, having been chewed to near-death by some cat. The cloth bag of diamonds used as a bribe I found lying on the street; I washed it and filled it with stones. The Queen’s jewellery box was a discarded shoe-box I picked up on the street, prettied up in Yiola’s workshop; the feather for a quill, and the two walking-sticks (both from broken umbrellas) came from the same place. I borrowed the rope for the bridge from Tassos, my landlord, and the trunk was lying in the cupboard at Gekko X. I drew the architect’s plan for the King’s new palace; Shukira wrote out the two official proclamations in Farsi. I did shell out good money for the lemons (from the local veg stall), the basket (from a Roma street-trader) and the brush (from the corner-store.)
And then there’s the baby. A couple of different people offered me a baby doll, and I hope they were puzzled rather than offended when I turned them down, and tried to explain that actually I preferred a small pillow wrapped in an old sheet.