‘Creating the rhythm of battle’ – Scoring Troilus & Cressida for the Royal Shakespeare Company
by Evelyn Glennie
(Featured portrait: with Bruce O’ Neil of RSC Music & with Co-Composer/Sound Designer Dave Price.)
It was with some trepidation that I considered writing a score for a play as challenging and timeless as Troilus and Cressida. But I had total faith in The Royal Shakespeare Company to produce a magnificent piece of theatre and make it relevant to today’s audiences. On meeting Greg’ Doran and the creative team, this was reinforced. I was inspired by visiting the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and witnessing the passion and dedication exuded by the whole RSC team. This warmth was infectious. There is a distinct ‘Can-Do’ atmosphere in this environment…and I love it!
I was completely out of my comfort zone with no experience in this kind of arena. I observed, listened and asked a lot of questions! I was quickly swept up by Greg’s vision of the play as he shared his thoughts with child-like enthusiasm. The culture of the company was very evident from the ‘read-through’ day as each creative’s reflections were given quality time and attention. There is no sense of hierarchy in the team and everyone has a chance to express.
The ‘Mad Max’ approach to the play’s design, is ideal for the shapes, sounds and execution of percussion. Metallic sound-worlds compliment the hardness of the costumes, large containers, motorbikes etc. Percussion also brings out the more romantic, soft aspects of metal, particularly the sound of bells and the Aluphone. The whole set, in fact, becomes an instrument, producing sounds that are direct and surprising! The actors’ reactions to instruments was particularly fun – they want to play with everything! They can’t stop touching and tapping the instruments! Actors, of course, are very open minded and eager to engage in every aspect of the sound creation.
Greg has thoroughly analysed the text and how music can imaginatively fit with it. The play is not definable as sitting in any one genre. It’s a bit of everything – tragedy, romance, comedy etc. and so the music can leap from one mood to the next. There are no rules when it comes to this play! Specifically, the production has two main sound worlds – that of the Trojans and the Greeks. The Trojan’s world is more refined with larger phrases that are more sophisticated, harmonic, and organised. The Greeks’ world has harder sounds, is more ‘bitty’, more chaotic and less refined. Some characters have their own themes but always with a twist. The main love song, sung by Pandarus will be accompanied by an elephant bell!
I really enjoy working with Sound Designer, Dave Price. He is very experienced in theatre composition and can guide/support the process. He’s experimental and understands the mechanics of percussion, being a player himself. The prospect of trying the score with the full band, is very exciting! The Mad Max take on the play is just brilliant. It brings a great twist to everything both aurally, visually and how the play is projected. The fifty-fifty gender-split breaks down many barriers and highlights preconceptions. This is very much a diverse company which includes differently abled creatives and performers from a huge mix of backgrounds. It is excellent that Charlotte Arrowsmith represents the first deaf actor to cast in a main production at the RSC Main House. The Casting in general is initially surprising yet makes total sense when you see what qualities each actor is bringing to their role.
In terms of the future of the production and it’s score, it will be very interesting to see what happens….it is fantastic that music for the RSC plays are now recorded in-house to the very highest standards for their own label and I love the thought that the production might tour to other parts of the world. I am now excited by the prospect of doing more work in theatre!