I am in awe of actors and their ability to remember lines. I am in double awe of actors who work on plays for which the script is fixed, but under constant revision. I am in quadruple awe of actors who work in these circumstances with a 400 year old text in which none of the phrasing conforms to our 20th Century expectations. So my respect for the Anatomy of Melancholy team is off the scale.
Over the last couple of working days the edits for our latest draft of the show have started to stabilize and reluctantly all for actors have taken up my offer of printing out new copies of the script. You or I might think that replacing a tattered script rendered almost incomprehensible though layer upon layer of crossings-out, over-writings, inserts, triple changes and arrows up and down would be welcomed, but no. Where we see a mess the actors see a landscape they have grown familiar and comfortable with. As they recall their lines they are traveling through that landscape, so though it may be a war ravaged territory, that has changed hands many times and had holes blasted in it, the gaps and land they once held help them orientate themselves. The new scrips set out the same words but familiar cross hatched zones are gone, the signpost annotations erased, the pages turn at unexpected points, everything is too clean, the land has become foreign again.
I’m glad that’s not my job. The actors get the applause at the end of the show for good reason. It’s not the directors that have to learn the bloody lines!