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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.
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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.
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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
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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
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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.
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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
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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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