Thursday 29 April 2010

Can I have a Relationship, Please

photo by Rick van der MeidenScenes should always, at their heart, be about the relationship between the characters on stage. No matter what the ask-for from the audience. If you get "carpet" from the audience, the scene is not about a carpet. A carpet should feature (often heavily), but really the scene should be about a relationship.

Say for example, there are three films in the cinema and all you know about them is the following:
1. One is about a box
2. The other is about a doctor
3. The third is about a mother and daughter.

If that's all you know, which film do you go and see? Most people would choose the third one as it promises to be about something inherently interesting: a relationship. Even films that seem to be about an object never are: they are about people and, more importantly, relationships. The Piano was not really about a piano; Schindler's List was not concerned with the list itself; and in Rear Window we learn nothing whatsoever about the window in question. Nothing!

Someone asked me recently, "should we not, then, only ask the audience for a relationship, and not an object, location, etc?" "No," is the answer to that for the following reasons:

  1. We want to keep it interesting for the audience and not ask them the same question each time.

  2. The thing we get from the audience is really only a springboard to a scene to highlight the fact we are improvising. If we start improvising without a suggestion, we would still be expected to create characters and relationships as this is fundamental to what we do. Whatever suggestions we do get, should help us find who we are to each other.

  3. We will almost rarely ever get the relationships we actually play from the audience. The audience will only give us "mother and daughter." In a scene we will play "possessive mother and daughter who wants to leave home," "talented daughter and jealous mother," "selfish daughter and adoring mother," "successful daughter and mother obsessed with cakes," "mother and daughter both coming to terms with the loss of the father." We will never just be a mother and a daughter.


  1. A mother and daughter? Screw that. I want to know what's in the box!

  2. Which of them are the hottest? Are the mother and daughter played by Michelle Pfeiffer and Scarlet Johansen? Is the doctor Angelina Jolie? And the box.....

    Actually are you arguing that this is why Richard Kelly's latest film was a dud?