Giant Page 1 of 7 1 THE GIANT Welcome to this introduction to The Giant, written by Antony Sher, and directed by Gregory Doran. The VOCALEYES audio-described performance at the Hampstead Theatre will be given on Saturday 24 November. The Touch Tour will commence at 1.45 pm. The live introduction will start at 2.45 and the performance itself at 3.00. The production lasts for approximately 2 hours and 50 minutes, including one interval of 20 minutes. There now follows information about the production which has been split into 4 sections: The first section offers some background information, the second describes the characters and their costumes, the third describes the set, and the fourth gives a list of production credits. Section One: some background information The play is set in Florence in 1501. In the programme the play’s author, Antony Sher, explains that he wrote it after reading how the two great Renaissance artists Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci may have been rivals for the commission to sculpt a huge block of Carrara marble which was known as Il Gigante, or the Giant. Apart from these two artists the story includes several of the major figures and influences in Renaissance Florence, including Macchiavelli and the followers of the fanatical Dominican friar Savonarola,. He ruled Florence for four years during the 1490s before being executed at the behest of the Vatican in 1498, three years before the play’s events take place. Section two: Characters and Costumes. Giant Page 2 of 7 2 There are 13 main characters, as well as number of stonemasons, soldiers, revellers and musicians. Most of the main characters can be divided into two camps – workmen or city dignitaries. The dignitaries wear sweeping ankle length robes with long surcoats in red or black silk, taffeta or velvet. On their heads are tall pillbox hats in matching fabrics and they wear gold chains of office round their necks. The workmen, on the other hand, wear well-worn putty coloured smocks, jerkins and cross gartered loose breeches, with moccasins on their feet. Michelangelo is in his mid twenties, a short man whose bushy brown hair and beard make his head look large. He’s a craftsman in workman’s clothes, carrying his tools in a square leather bag with its broad leather strap worn across his chest. He is constantly wary, looking at the Florentines around him with suspicion, his head poked slightly forward. Only when he is working does he move quickly and confidently, striding round his workshop absorbed in the task in hand. Michelangelo is played by John Light. His rival, Leonardo da Vinci, is nearly 50, a man of the world who moves with easy confidence, surveying those around him with an authority born of his growing reputation. He is sturdy, his fleshy face clean-shaven and framed by wavy grey hair swept back off his brow. He wears a wine-coloured knee-length tunic with puffed sleeves with white slashes, and soft brown leather knee-length boots laced at the front. Leonardo is played by Roger Allam. Leonardo’s constant companion is Salai, a trim youth with an eye for style who keeps a jealous eye on the artist. Salai is eye-catchingly turned out in a flimsy white shirt under a short fitted leather surcoat with puffed sleeves, black pantaloons with bright yellow loops of ribbon at the calf, wine stockings and gold slippers. A heavy mother of pearl necklace and a wine beret with a plume of blue and red feathers complete the ensemble. He has short black hair and olive skin. Giant Page 3 of 7 3 His bright eyes miss nothing and glint maliciously when he perceives any hint of a threat to his relationship with Leonardo. Salai is played by Simon Trinder. A third contender for the contract to sculpt Il Gigante is an artist called Cantucci., a thin man in workmen’s clothes. He has bright brown eyes and his bony face is framed by jet black hair and a close-cropped beard. He is played by Ian Conningham. There are four Florentine dignitaries whom the artists must impress in order to get the contract. The most high-ranking of these is Piero Soderini, a burly man in his sixties. Soderini sweeps in wearing splendid scarlet robes embroidered with gold stars, his wide sleeves lined with ermine. His craggy face is amiable and he is quick to smile. Soderini is played by Philip Voss – who also plays Michelangelo’s father Ludovico, a white-haired old man in a plain red ankle- length shift. A plain brown hood like a balaclava encloses his broad face as he bumbles about apologetically, face creased with worry. Soderini’s right-hand man is Niccolo Macchiavelli, the man whose name has become a byword for the subtle manipulation of others. He is in his early thirties, a high-flyer who can flash a smile which never reaches his sharp eyes. His iron- grey hair and beard are cut short, and frame a fine-boned face with deep-set eyes and an aquiline nose. His burgundy robes are covered with a black surcoat which matches his black gloves. When he claps his hands, a reputation is made, and the other dignitaries follow his lead. Macchiavelli is played by Stephan Noonan. The other two influential Florentines are Spini and Pandolfini. Spini is a commissioner from the cathedral works – a thin man of about 35 with a pale face. He is arrayed in gorgeous burgundy robes shot through with black. Spini is conscious of his rank; from time to time his thin lips stretch into a smug smile. Pandolfini is older, in his mid fifties with white hair and beard. He is stout and Giant Page 4 of 7 4 florid, possibly overheated in rich red velvet robes. Spini is played by Mark Meadows and Pandolfini by Barry McCarthy. The Florence in which these dignitaries operate has only recently emerged from the rule of the fanatical Dominican friar Savonarola, and despite his execution, two of his followers still flit about the streets dodging all efforts to root them out. They are cadaverous creatures, clad in dirty white robes, their hems stained black as if dirt or mud has seeped up from below. A ragged black cross is daubed on the front of each man’s robe from neck to hem, traces of red showing through the black. The acolytes’ eyes burn fanatically in their bony faces as they swoop upon unsuspecting individuals or scuttle away like rats if anyone else approaches. The two acolytes are played by Nick Court and Ricky Champ. A stranger comes to Florence in the shape of a young stonemason, Vito Barratini of Carrara. . Vito is a fresh-faced youth in his late teens with brown wavy hair, bright eyes, full lips and a ready smile. His workman’s clothes rest easily on his muscular young frame, and when he takes off his smock he reveals a perfectly honed body. Vito also appears as an old man, opening the play as a sort of chorus, and occasionally commenting on events as they unfold. Like his young self he wears workman’s clothes, and though he is over 80 his eyes are still bright and his body still trim and muscular. He still smiles, but the smile is knowing rather than innocent and the eyes twinkle mischievously at us as if inviting us to smile at the events of long ago. Young Vito is played by Stephen Hagan and Old Vito by Richard Moore. Many other characters make a fleeting appearance; at one point a bunch of masked revellers appear, their faces hidden by huge false noses or behind white full-face masks with open mouths, their bodies shrouded in black robes. One of them has huge feathered wings, gold talons and a golden eagle’s beak. There is a whore swathed in a red fringed shawl and skirt, her face invisible, musicians with lutes and soldiers. The musicians are dressed in short colourful velvet tunics Giant Page 5 of 7 5 with full sleeves, hose and short leather boots. The soldiers wear simple black tunics. Section two: The set All the action in the story takes place in one location over several years, in a sculptor’s workshop. It is a sturdy but roughly made building; a place where people work but also live, and it is scattered with tools and domestic objects. The workshop is open to us, enclosed by back and side walls made from rough dark upright planks, up to a height of about five metres. Above them is a plain sky blue. The walls are lined with wooden scaffolding all the way round, up to the same height as the walls. There is a walkway round the scaffolding at about twice the height of a man which is reached by wooden ladders that lean up against it at intervals round the room. Characters enter through doors under the scaffolding; there is a narrow door on either side at the front, and to the far right in the back wall are tall double doors, with a smaller door inside the left hand one. Large blocks of grey stone are stacked against the back and right hand walls. On the right hand wall they resemble large steps, reaching almost to the height of the walkway. People sit on them or leave tools there. The floor is made from uneven grey earth, covered in grit, and this, as well as the stoneworking, means that everything and everyone working there is coated in a thin film of dust that floats in the air. The workshop is dominated by two large objects. Filling the whole right hand side of the room is a huge roughly hewn block of pale marble. It is about four and a half metres long by a metre and a half wide and a metre high. Three bands of ropes are wrapped round it at regular intervals and a pulley hangs down from above, consisting of large iron hooks on the end of thick ropes. Giant Page 6 of 7 6 On the left hand side of the room there is a low wooden platform that the block of marble will stand on while it is being sculpted. Its base is a turntable about two metres in diameter with toothed edges, sitting on small rusty metal wheels, that run on a circular metal track. On the left hand side of the turntable are two upright wheels, measuring about a metre across, with teeth that interlock with those on the main turntable, and they are turned with a handle in order to revolve it. A tall upright frame as high as the workshop walls is fixed round the edge of the turntable with metal stairs running up round inside of it, so that the sculptor can reach every part of the upright marble. A grubby curtain can be drawn all round the frame to conceal the developing statue. A rusty metal brazier stands against the left hand wall, next to an old shovel, and a large wicker covered wine bottle. A broom leans against the blocks of stone by the back wall and there are large and small baskets scattered all round the edges of the workshop, on the blocks of stone, and along the walkway. A rough straw filled mattress made from sackcloth lies on the walkway near the turntable. In the front on the right is a knife grinder – a small circular stone fixed on its side in a wooden stand, and nearby is a dusty old wooden bench. As we enter the auditorium the workshop is shrouded in gloom with a few pale shafts of light from above picking out the large shapes in the shadows. A thin mist hangs in the air, drifting out into the auditorium. Section three: Production credits The designer is William Dudley The lighting designer is Oliver Fenwick The music is composed by Paul Englishby And the director is Gregory Doran Giant Page 7 of 7 7 You may like to note that this information was written at the beginning of the production’s life and there are sometimes artistic changes to the show during its run. We therefore repeat this introduction live, fifteen minutes before the start of the performance, accommodating any changes, and adding additional information about settings, costumes or characters. The live audio description will be given for VocalEyes by Julia Grundy and Jane Brambley. This is the end of the introduction to The Giant at the Hampstead Theatre. You can receive a copy of the free VocalEyes Newsletter with full details on all our work by calling us on 020 7375 1043 or by following the links on the VocalEyes accessible website. The Newsletter is available in print, Braille, on tape or via e-mail. VocalEyes is a charity funded by Arts Council England.
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