Tuesday: It was the first full day of Richard III rehearsals after the read-through on Sunday, and there were a lot of scenes on the docket. One of the major scenes the actors covered was the wooing scene (1.2), where Richard famously woos Anne in front of her husband’s father's corpse. This is a horrific act, yet the way that Richard is able to woo Anne in the face of her disdain with only his words illustrates Shakespeare’s own command of language, which he certainly seems keen to show off to his contemporaries at this early stage in his career.
The actors first tried to figure out the blocking of the scene -- specifically whether or not Gregory Jon Phelps should be on stage as the corpse of Henry VI or if it should just be a dummy. They ended up deciding that it would be more powerful and impactful for the audience to have an actor in that position throughout the scene. Then they had a discussion as to whether or not the blood that seeps from Henry’s wounds in this scene is real or imagined, and, if it is real, how to stage it. Brandi Rhome voiced her opinion that it should be bleeding in the presence of the murderer as a sign of Richard’s villainy to Anne. The audience informs many of their decisions, both practically, such as keeping track of who can see what’s going on, and also thematically, to make sure the audience can always understand the story they are telling.
Watching the actors work without a director is intriguing because they make all of their own decisions about blocking and crossing, among other things. They decide how everyone should enter based on the exits from the previous scene and on the information the text provides. In this scene, the halberds are initially heading towards Chertsey, and then Richard tells them to go to Whitefriars instead. The company decided to physically demonstrate this shift by having the halberds originally headed towards the left door and then changing to the center discovery space for their eventual exit.
Getting the right ratio of intimacy and disdain in this scene is important for showing Richard’s characterization, and Ben and Brandi walked through the lines while having René Thornton Jr. watch to give his opinion on their movements and dialogue. They noticed how the switch from the formal you to informal thou is important and should indicate something in their physicality. They decide to use this point to move closer towards one another, crossing the lifeless body of Anne’s husband and Richard’s latest victim. It’s amazing to see how Shakespeare embeds many of the details of the play — the staging, characterization and plot —in the lines. Frequently, one actor suggests that someone storm off or be friendly towards the other characters in the scene, only for someone else to point out whether or not that fits with the rest of the information given in the play.
Based on Anne’s retort, “’Tis more than you deserve,” Ben and Brandi decided to stage the lead-up to a kiss immediately before this moment so she uses the line to refuse him. During Richard’s line, “Bid me farewell,” Richard moves in for a kiss and lingers, waiting for Anne to requite his love. Their decisions show how intimate this scene is, while still getting across the fact that Richard is ensnaring Anne in his web.