Robert Icke’s new adaptation of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck explores many themes that are increasingly present in the world we live in today. A huge focal point in the rehearsal room has been exploring the devices of lying, against what we see as truth. But what is a lie? How often do we tell a lie? Do we even tell a lie for good reasons? Importantly, is lying wrong?
“The life lie. Its a universal stimulant. The stories I tell them are the
ones they tell themselves, and stories are lies. Even true stories”.
During our first few weeks in the rehearsal room these questions have sprung up over and over again as we have worked through the play. The rehearsal room quickly became a safe and honest space. The company would share the most wonderful and brilliant stories and experiences in such detail and we all sit around and just listen and discuss. Stories were both tragic and hilarious, one story in particular including a set of missing false teeth finding their way back home. (I’ll let you guess which member of the company they belong to...).
A huge focal point in the rehearsal room has been exploring the devices of lying, against what we see as truth
While listing to these stories, it was fascinating to understand what elements of a story are needed to keep the listener locked and engaged. As we went round the circle, we started to dissect the vital elements that each story needed, exploring how the information is carefully placed then realised at a certain point in order to keep the re-telling of the story alive, not give too much away all at once. Just like a cake it needs all the right ingredients to make it a successful story, which leaves you wanting more!
The Company then started to question the true version of each of the stories we told: do we ever fabricate our own stories to make them sound better than they are? When we come face to face with a version of a story that we have told, do we still remember the original version anymore? What started off as a tiny lie to enhance our story (what we would call, a white lie), over time has now become what we see as the truth. Is lying the social glue that holds us all together? Are we ever truly honest? We started to think how hard it is to be truly honest: when we walk into work, school or a social event, can we always say what we are truly thinking? To keep an atmosphere that we’re socially comfortable with, we tend to divert from the truth. I started to think what would happen if we were honest all the time, would you be respected for telling the truth, or disliked for telling the truth. We see in The Wild Duck that lies can make you happy and others around you content, but when the lie is exposed and the truth is out we have explored who gets hurt along the way.
Is lying the social glue that holds us all together? Are we ever truly honest? We started to think how hard it is to be truly honest
All the characters in the play have their version of a story that they need to tell and their own version of the truth, what they see as truth. But what they see as a truth other characters begin to question their motives to bend the truth. The play keeps on giving each day as we revisit each scene; we identify new truths and more lies that are being brought to the surface. I have on many occasions battled with myself on who is in the right, and who is in the wrong.
Each character in the play comes with complex history that we don’t see in action, but rich enough to create their own plays. Robert felt it key that we should discover and untangle these stories and sieve out the truth. We created a huge time line spanning over the rehearsals room wall, starting from 1930 to the present day. As we dive deeper into the play our timeline has become a bible when linking the intricate stories together. It has been thought provoking to build the life of these characters for everyone to see, each day we are constantly adding to the timeline and discovering new stories which we try to understand. This begs the question: is honesty really the best policy?
by Denzel Westley-Sanderson, Resident Director
The Wild Duck plays at the Almeida 15 October - 1 December