Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sinister Swordplay

Saw something interesting yesterday, and I think it merits its own post because I’d love to hear details from someone who knows for real.

Saw Othello.  There’s a sword fight at one point between Cassio and Roderigo.  Here’s the interesting thing – Roderigo was left-handed (insert Princess Bride joke here).  Cassio was right-handed. 

This, if you stop to think about it, made the swordplay very … lopsided.  It all took place on one side.  Didn’t feel right.

So tell me, stage combat people, how normal is that? How much of a problem is it? Is there more danger?  I’d think that someone trained in swordplay for right handed people would be more likely to accidentally whack a leftie because the opposing sword is not where it’s supposed to be.  But maybe there’s tricks to it that I don’t know? 


Monica said...

Being a south paw, I once asked in a stage combat workshop if I could use my left hand to for sword play, and I was told: We all train with our right hands so we are all doing the same thing.

I don't know beyond that.

David Blixt said...

That's a shame, Monica. Most lefties I work with have trained just as you say, but by choice, not force. There is one advantage to a dextrous/sinister fight, and that both actors are open to the audience at the same time. And an inventive choreographer can have fun. The Michigan Shakespeare Festival's ROMEO & JULIET (running now) has a left-handed Tybalt. He fights everyone in the show, and I had to design lots of fun ways to cheat him out when the fighting turned (including having him use two swords for the Romeo/Tybalt fight - case of smallsword v. case of smallsword). And Duane, it should never feel lopsided - that to me sounds sloppy, unless it was the fight director's intent. It is supposed to be a drunken fight, at least on Cassio's part, and I know I've had a ball with that element.
In short, I like working with lefties because it's challenging, and changes the stage picture.

Duane said...

I think it felt lopsided to me, David, simply because I'd never seen it before and once I spotted it I was paying most of my attention to that. (Keep in mind, too, that these are kids directing kids - if they can pull off any meaningful swordplay with no one getting hurt, it's a win.)

Also worth noting is that, as staged, lefty Roderigo was stage left, Cassio stage right, so while I wouldn't say their backs were to us, I don't think they were quite as open to the audience as they might have been had it gone the other way.