I can’t shake the thought that the crusades are at the heart of The Cardinals so it has proved difficult to cut away at their place within the show. It took pro-active devising partners and reflection on past experience to make it happen.
Away back I was thinking, reading and even doing practical work around The Inquisition wondering if there was a show to be had in that area. When I failed to grow inspired here I moved on to thinking about The Crusades. This territory felt more dynamic so we committed to making The Cardinals. At the time we spoke to promoters about it as “three cardinals doing a puppet show about The Crusades”.
Reading in more depth about The Crusades I came to realize that unless you’re into the real detail it is a highly repetitive story, lots of marching, lots of sieges, lots of hacking people to bits. At the same time it became clear that if The Cardinals were to explain The Crusades they would need to explain the significance of Jerusalem, which requires an explanation of Jesus, whose story starts in the Old Testament, hence would find themselves starting their show at the beginning of the world. Having reached the thirteenth centuries from creation it seemed daft to stop them before the apocalypse. In this way the Cardinals have ended up telling the whole history of the world. Thus The Crusades went from being the whole show to a section of the show.
Stan’s Cafe’s history is littered with shows that have problematic sections. When we’re lucky these sections are merely the last bit to be fixed before the show opens. Sometimes we end up doing running repairs on them as we tour. Sometimes reviving the show provides the crucial space to take them apart more thoroughly and sort them out. Occasionally they defeat us and remain a source of frustration and irritation. For The Cardinals The Crusades section has been problematic.
It wasn’t too long – it wasn’t good enough. We worked hard on it, nailing the logic down, making the execution slick, introducing new fresh fun elements. It got better but not good enough. Yesterday, left to their own devices the devising/acting team came up with a radical proposal, they fashioned a version of the scene that focused on the drive of the scene and worked back from there, cutting out everything that frustrated that drive. Watching their proposal I came to realise that having started with The Crusades as the whole show I had been finding it impossible to be radical enough in cutting it back.
The proposed though better still didn’t quite work. There was a glitch, like a continuity error, that needed sorting out. This was easily done but more impotently I had to decide if it was necessary or important that we see Jerusalem changing hands before Richard Lionheart is seen. Here being ancient really helped. I thought back to The Cleansing of Constance Brown in which we identified a problem in the show’s structure 2/3 of the way through when we were introducing a new tone to the show that was frustrating the audience’s growing sense of momentum. We labelled this ‘the problem scene’ cut all but its final image fixed the problem. I recognized this ‘momentum’ problem in The Crusades scene and decided that we should chuck historical detail out and focus on delivering the scene’s drive. I am currently happy with the results, though the true test will only come in front of an audience on Monday.