Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Stagecraft (2 of 2)

So, about five hours into the show, Lyra & Pan make a voyage to the Land of the Dead.  This is notable because they're not dead yet.  An administrative guy (with a clipboard) complains that they don't belong there, so sends them over to the waiting area, where they sit with all sorts of other still-alive people.

Some of the other still-alive people are surprised to see Lyra because she is there "without her death."  They explain, "Before we arrived, we could never see our deaths.  We always had them, though, like everyone else.... Your death comes into the world with you the minute you're born, and it stays with you every minute of your days, until it's time to go.  It could come at any moment.  When you're sick with a fever, or you choke on a piece of dry bread, or you stand at the top of a high building.  In the middle of all your pain and hardship, your death comes to you kindly and says... 'Easy now, easy, child, you come along o' me.'  And then it shows you into a boat and out you sail."

So they tell Lyra she won't ever be able to get on the boat until she asks her death.  They tell her she can see her death if she just wishes to.  She wishes.  Pan tells her not to -- he's frightened by the whole idea.  He hides in her arms -- the puppeteer hands the puppet to Lyra like we've seen him do dozens of times already.

And then he walks downstage, slowly removes his fencing mask, and Lyra identifies him as her death.

What an amazing piece of staging!  This is why I love theatre.  With that one little quirk of double-casting, they've created this unspoken, beautiful connection between a person's soul and his death.  I'm still marvelling over it.

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