The room this week has been filled with the sound of music, in large part from the guitar of Victoria Abbott (@vittyabbott). Vicky has set the play’s two songs to music and has been taking the group through a range of vocal exercises and teaching us the songs, with harmonies (all while fresh from writing them–the songs were still warm, as it were, when we started to give them voice!). We’ll be talking to Vicky later today and hearing about her process.
Performers have also been giving these songs body, through a series of choreographed movements and displays. One song is the “boys’ song” and the other is a “nymphs’ song,” sung by those in Diana’s train.
Yesterday the group was split into two groups along these lines, one working with the boys’ scenes and one with the nymphs’. The boys of Galatea are brothers who lose their master in a shipwreck and spend the rest of the play (the space of a year, in this “subplot”) searching for new employment from a series of comical and hapless employers (including an alchemist and an astrologer who cannot foresee his own offstage pratfall into a lake…). Around this story, the group has spent a great deal of time discussing and exploring the possibilities of these characters, their world, their frustration, and talking through the gaps left by the text.
The day offered an absorbing staged reading of one of the play’s early scenes, in which the boys realise their master is drowned and seek to learn the trade of a mariner.
The scene worked between BSL and spoken English and experimented with communication among the boys, with only some of the BSL interpreted aloud. Working on signing this scene offered, for me (that’s CD–always fond of a pun), a particularly exciting moment where a pun in the text was modernised to work in today’s English but also doubled as a BSL visual pun. The layers of visual-verbal play, stemming from but working around and beyond Lyly’s text, were fascinating.
This scene also includes the boys’ song–a lament about sea-life, lack of employment, and turning to crime for income.
The nymphs were led in a choreographic response to their song by Alexandrina Hemsley. Alex, Vicky, and the performers explored the relationship between movement, the lines of the song, and the tune:
The two groups joined in choreographing the shipwreck that sees the boys stranded on the shores of Lincolnshire:
We also had a chance to capture the end of the nymphs’ song, with the dance’s beautiful exploration of the symbology of their chaste community under Diana, their energies, and their complexity:
Exploring the nymphs and the boys has offered up a range of visual, verbal, and intellectual responses, ranging from Brazilian celebrations of the sea to BDSM relationships to football chants. We look forward to more music and dancing today and tomorrow, and to speaking to Vicky about composing these wonderful and haunting (and catchy!) songs.