From Studio to Stage: Creating fights in Hamlet and As You Like…

From Studio to Stage: Creating fights in Hamlet and As You Like It

Yarit Dor is part of the Globe Ensemble, (performing Hamlet and As You Like It) as Fight Director. Here she concludes her blog series to tell you more about how she keeps the actors safe and creates fights that still make you wince to watch.


Once I brainstorm with the actors I then go away and do some work on my own. Like any designer of sorts “fight designing” has an element of solitude to it. 

Hamlet and As You Like It are not set in a specific time or era and this timeless aspect opens up a range of styles, research, and opportunities. I wanted the fights to support that by taking styles from different eras. 

As You Like It
The wrestling match has a mixture of wrestling ‘tastes’ in it. Some moves or concepts such as Medieval wresting are from Talhoffer and Meyer (15th and 16th-century fencing experts); some are Greek/Roman and some are more ‘contemporary show-off’ wrestling moves. We devised all the moves that emphasise the abilities of the actors and their ideas of storytelling earlier on. 

The rope came alive to fit with the overall style of the semi-physical-theatre like elements such as the sheep and the deer which come later on in the play. 

Hamlet
‘To Block or not to block’ – as part of the concept of actors owning and creating their own material, we tried to find a way for the ensemble to ‘improvise’ violent physical interactions that could change from one performance to the other. And so physical moments that you might find between Ophelia and Hamlet or Ophelia and Claudius explored by the actors in that performance might not repeat themselves if you see another show. To facilitate that kind of exploration we did a session looking at stage combat vocabulary, safety concepts and their installment: how to redirect someone’s energy or shift them to a safer space, how to go with verses that look like you resist, styles of contact, body positions, tension levels etc. 

When the general direction was that the last scene would feel like a ‘Tudorish’ sporting event, rapier & dagger were a joy to work with (and a favourite of mine) my research was then based on a time-mix between Vincentio Saviolo, Giacomo di Grassi, Salvator Fabris and Nicoletto Giganti who were all Italian sword-masters in and around the 16th and 17th centuries. There is much more sword-point based work in the two first phrases, rhythm changes and less ‘swashbuckly’ flair moves you may find in some productions or movies. Cuts and slashes were integrated more towards the end when Hamlet and Laertes start losing control and the line between sport and fight gets blurry. We decided not to have curved pathways around the pillars or through the courtiers in order to allow the non-fighting actors free movement around the fight and for Osric to manoeuvre himself. They’ve done brilliantly and it’s always an inspiration to see two actresses fight with blades in such an emotional rollercoaster of a play.