Years back, in the early days of Britain’s National Theatre when it was still at the Old Vic, they mounted a revival of Feydeau’s A Flea in Her Ear for which they brought over from Paris the celebrated director Michel St Dennis to work with the actors. M. Dennis, immensely experienced in the intricate and subtle workings of farce, would say to them, “Tiens! If you stand zere you will not get zee laugh. If you stand ‘ere… ” and he’d move them maybe a foot or two upstage/downstage/left/right/… “… you weel get zee laugh.” This perplexed the cast but they took him at his word and lo and behold, when they played before an audience, his predictions came true. Now while I don’t generally subscribe to the notion that anyone can accurately predict what will make an audience laugh – I find it somehow philistine and rarely productive as audiences will always surprise you – with a man of M. Dennis’s experience, it pays to listen.
Which brings me to last night: more than two men clashing over radically differing ideas of tailoring (the Republican ticket seems clueless about how to fit a jacket properly let alone a shirt collar, Ryan looked like a boy wearing hand-me-downs), we had on display two very different ideas on how to use a stage.
Beginners will always try to get as far downstage as possible thinking this gives them an advantage as they’re closer to the audience. Wrong.
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