Total Eclipse was written in 1967 by Christopher Hampton. The play is about two poets, Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine. I played Rimbaud who was a radical that believed that to be a writer he had to experience as much as possible in mind and body. and I decided that whilst in character I would try and convey the idea that Rimbaud had very strong feelings for Verlaine but I didn’t like showing it to him because as he was married and had another life to fall back on without Rimbaud, whereas Rimbaud had nothing else.
This also makes him very dependant on Verlaine especially seeing as without him, Rimbaud would have nowhere to live. This play covers a number of very powerful and fragile topics such as homosexuality, which during the late nineteenth century was not approved of, and abuse. Verlaine best depicts this as he is very abusive to his wife Mathilde even during her pregnancy, and has blatant homosexual feelings for Rimbaud. Rimbaud too is very abusive; in an act of rage and sexual frustration he stabs Verlaine in the hand.
A key moment in rehearsal for me was when I realised that whilst playing Rimbaud I would have to express that he shows two very different sides to his personality to Verlaine, one is very playful and loving and the other is very aggressive and unpredictable. We chose a scene that consists of a heated conversation held between a drunken Verlaine and Rimbaud in they’re hotel room. After a very intense two-year relationship it leads to this scene.
To keep it simple, our set was a bed in the middle of the stage scattered in Rimbaud’s clothes. Rimbaud announces that he is about to leave Verlaine and Verlaine eventually begs him not to leave. During this scene Rimbaud shows a number of versatile responses to Verlaine. This impacted upon my interpretation of Rimbaud as the transitions between each emotion should be very sudden and obvious because it is in his nature to do so. As well as this each emotion would be emphasised a lot through his body language as he sways from
Another very important characteristic that helped me develop Rimbaud’s character was his subtle messages to Verlaine telling him that he does actually have very strong feelings for him. Although in this scene Rimbaud is trying to trying to tell Verlaine that he is leaving him he doesn’t reject the idea that Verlaine should leave with him as he says that he “[doesn’t] mind travelling with [him]”, this is evidence that Rimbaud does actually have feelings for Verlaine. To show this I used my body language.
For the majority of the scene I am facing away from Verlaine, however very occasionally I turn my head and body towards him and lovingly stare into his eyes. Rimbaud shows his immaturity by thinking that he knows Verlaine down to the smallest action or decision and Verlaine hates this. This is why Rimbaud pushes Verlaine to the limit by aggravating and mocking him. I intended to show this by giving Rimbaud a very smug and overconfident attitude. I did this by smiling and laughing at some of Verlaine’s suggestions to sort out the relationship.