Almost thirty-five years after the release of the original concept album, I thought it would be fun to begin thinking about how I would stage a production of the show today. Unlike my previous version, I did not want to create a completely new structure or change the story in any major way. I actually wanted it to more or less follow the published text, with just a few alterations. Below, is my current ideas and thoughts. I hope you enjoy reading them and as always, I'm sure many will disagree, but that's the fun of this wonderful show - every variation brings something new and interesting.
I would love to add set designs and model pics to this, but I won't get around to that for a while. If you look at the designs I began for my original virtual production, you will get an idea of how the show might look - at least for act two, as that version was all set in Bangkok, so there are no Merano illustrations.
OVERTURE [On location in the US and USSR]
The show begins with a new overture, possibly still using 'Champions' as underscoring, but including segments of Pity the Child, Anthem, Someone Else's Story, He Is A Man and US v USSR. As the overture plays, we see two 'dumb shows' taking place on location in both the US and the USSR.
Anatoly is seen with Svetlana, as he prepares to leave for the tournament. From their clothes we 'feel' the coldness of their surroundings, and from their body language we feel the coldness of their relationship. She might kiss him on the cheek, but he shows little affection towards her. Molokov arrives and Svetlana is left alone as Anatoly leaves without a backward glance at his wife.
Freddie and Florence are seen in a much more sunnier location and an equally warmer relationship, though with some tensions. Perhaps, like a careless teenager, he forgets his back pack as they leave and Florence has to run back to retrieve it, throwing a friendly or exasperated punch at him in retribution. We see them leave together, an outwardly more happy and confident pair than Anatoly and Svetlana. They meet Walter on the way and head off to Merano.
The lights fade out and we begin to hear various commentaries about the championship and the players. TV screens positioned around the stage flicker on, and show chess related footage. Onstage, lights begin to pick up reporters doing pieces to camera. All of these spoken parts are pre recorded and mixed together to provide a cacophony of 'media attention'. There are different languages and different qualities to the recordings, mixed possibly with station jingles etc. The TV screens and the commentaries eventually fade away.
I like the idea of seeing the main characters before the show really begins. I want to show them in a kind of normal everyday setting before we see them leaving their homes to take part in the biggest chess tournament in the world. I feel this could help to humanise the characters and help the audience to engage with them. Seeing a brief glimpse of their lives before chess gets in the way, would hopefully provide a small insight to who these people are in their normal lives. Everything we see during the rest of the show, is these same people, but under huge amounts of stress, being manipulated from many directions and very far away from home.
I would like the media to be visible at many points during the show. This might be with actual reporters in attendance at various public events, but may also just be the screen images, showing the global attention. I want the audience to always remember that much of what they are seeing is being broadcast and talked about all around the world. I want them to understand the added pressure that this causes the key players.
THE STORY OF CHESS [The Chess Arena]
The scene changes to the chess arena, where the opening titles for the televising of the tournament are being recorded. On stage, dancers and floor managers are seen going through some final moves and maybe recording some close up shots before the recording of the full sequence begins. The cast take up their starting positions and freeze until the director gives the signal and the 'story' begins.
As the filming starts, the stage becomes the finished recording, i.e. we don't necessarily see cameras etc. in the way it would really be, we just see the 'finished' magical title sequence. There are several cameras in view, but they are recording the wide angle shots, so they are kept to the side of the stage. The Arbiter is centre stage, surrounded by his assistants, we see him leaning over the chess table and arranging the pieces. As he does so, he begins the song. “Each game of chess means there’s one less…” Gradually his assistants begin to tell the story of chess. During this there are a number of sequences, which help to depict the words being sung. Towards the end of the story a number of the dancers make their way to upstage centre where they freeze into a tableau of the championship logo.
As the story ends, the Arbiter is downstage centre, where he makes his announcement about the tournament and the champions. "The international chess federation.... welcomes you to Merano, Italy, for the 1986 World Chess Championship...." During his speech the lights fade to just a spotlight on the Arbiter. As he ends his speech, behind him, the sleepy little town of Merano begins to come alive.
I have gone for my original staging idea for this scene, but I do think it could work well if done more like a press conference and could lead on quite well from the media montage that has come before. The media representatives would be seen 'reading' the press release they have been given and the scene becomes their interpretation of this info. They would be 'reworking' this info for the articles they are writing and recording. It would be great fun to work out how to stage it in this concept and maybe I will try to put my ideas for this version into words at a later date, but for now, I'm going for the easy option!
MERANAO [Merano Train Station]
Just one or two of the people of Merano appear at first, then more begin to arrive. The first people are in normal clothes, but eventually a small group begin to gather in traditional outfits. These are the welcoming group, who are going to put on a show for the arrival of the champions. There will also eventually be a few reporters in attendance and also tournament organisers and the Arbiter.
As Freddie arrives, he is greeted by the welcoming group and presented with a large Murano glass chess piece, probably a king. He appears to accept it graciously and poses with it held high above his head, champion-like. All seems fine, until Anatoly arrives and Freddie realises there is a chess piece for him too. There is an attempt at getting Anatoly and Freddie together for photographs, but at this, Freddie decides it's time to leave and throws his chess piece back to the person who gave it to him. They almost drop it, but only just manage to prevent it from smashing to the ground! Freddie storms out. We see Walter and Freddie laugh together as they leave. The chess piece might be offered to Florence, she may or may not accept it.
Anatoly receives his chess piece gratefully and enjoys the attention of the crowd and the media. The people of Merano and the press are delighted with Anatoly's polite and gracious manner and the locals end their memorable morning by surrounding Anatoly for a group photo as the song ends.
COMMIE NEWSPAPERS [Florence and Freddie's Hotel Suite]
It's the following day. Freddie is already in their room when Florence arrives with a pile of newspapers. It is clear that Florence is not happy with what Freddie is doing. She thought she had managed to convince him to tone down his behaviour, but after his treatment of the Merano welcoming group, she has realised that he has no intention of changing his ways. He in turn is seen to be angry with her for not supporting him and questioning his actions. When she tries to get him to NOT go on about the Russians at the Press Conference, he is not prepared to listen. He walks out, leaving her to question just how much more of his childish behaviour she can take.
[I want to change the feel of this scene, to show the stresses and strains within their relationship. I feel it helps if we begin to see the problems in the relationship from the very beginning, rather than making them look quite lovey-dovey at this point. I believe it could make all that follows, in a very short period of time, more believable.]
SOMEONE ELSE'S STORY Florence realises there is little hope of her being able to keep Freddie under control. He's made it very clear that he is not prepared to listen or take her advice. This leaves her wondering why she bothers putting up with his behaviour and begins to think about the kind of life she could have if she were to leave him. She certainly doesn't feel that he would care if she did decide to walk away from their relationship. At the end of the song, she reluctantly grabs her briefcase or folders and leaves for the press conference.
It may be quite early for this song, but I think it makes for a more interesting introduction to Florence and it also (I hope) kind of helps to establish her as the main character. She is the one we are going to be following through whatever story is to follow and she will be the one we are going to be rooting for - hopefully to the very end.
PRESS CONFERENCE [Conference Room]
Walter and Freddie are already in the conference room and the press have started to ask questions by the time Florence arrives. During the conference, Freddie senses the press are turning against him and he realises he has to either toe the line to try and get them onside, or just turn up the heat and stage something to cause even more publicity. He goes for the latter and lunges towards one of the unsuspecting reporters, angrily shaking him by the lapels. The other reporters separate them before it becomes too serious. Walter escorts Freddie out of the room and Florence is left to deal with the press. Even though she is sick of his behaviour, she is still obliged to defend him.
I like the fact that we now know that Florence is going against her own instincts and having to defend Freddie, rather than just say, you're right, he's an idiot! To me, it makes her more interesting. I also like Walter being in attendance, it kind of shows that Freddie is maybe allowing him to have some influence on what he is doing, possibly undermining Florence and again helping to build on what she is up against.
ANATOLY AND MOLOKOV [Anatoly's Hotel Suite]
As the scene changes, we see (and hear) via several screens, what has been going on at the press conference. Anatoly and Molokov are watching this in Anatoly's room. Molokov is aware that Freddie is a loose cannon and that he has the skill to unnerve Anatoly. He is worried that this could damage Anatoly's game and begins to make plans to try and make sure this doesn't happen. He talks about Florence's Hungarian origins and even suggests that if Anatoly could steal Florence from Freddie, he would be sure to win the championship. Anatoly wants nothing to do with these underhand tactics and tells him go.
WHERE I WANT TO BE
As Molokov leaves Anatoly's room, we see him speak to several KGB men 'on guard' keeping an eye on any activity on Anatoly's floor of the hotel. Alone, Anatoly feels frustrated by what Molokov has said and begins to question the current state of his life and wonders what all his hard work and dedication has been for.
DIPLOMATS (US V USSR) [Chess Arena]
As the scene changes to the chess arena, we see the US and USSR delegates begin to arrive. Anatoly and Freddie will eventually arrive too. Molokov and Florence guide their players to where they should be and who they should be speaking to. It's all friendly on the service, but underneath hatred and scheming is brewing.
The delegates are basically pushed aside as the Merchandisers storm the arena. They arrive from all directions, via the aisles of the theatre, passing through the audience and handing out various souvenirs - flags, badges, bags, leaflets etc. Walter may have something to do with this, though he possibly tries to make it look like he doesn't.
THE ARBITER It's time for the serious stuff to begin as the Arbiter arrives and shows his authority. He brings with him a troupe of assistants . They quickly usher the merchandisers off the stage and out of the arena. As his song begins, the Arbiter is seen 'talking' to Anatoly and Freddie. They are standing at first, discussing things with the Arbiter and their delegates. The Arbiter and his assistants move on to checking the chairs, table, clock etc. Until he is happy with every aspect, the game cannot begin.
While the song continues, the Arbiter's assistants usher the delegates and everybody else in the arena to where they want them to be. Eventually the game begins "As you settle done behind your pawns, power passes to me..." There may be a few mini scenes where the players move away from the table and speak to the Arbiter, but eventually it seems any issues are sorted and as the song ends, the game continues peacefully. Or does it?
I'd like to try and have the Arbiter and his assistant to be 'operating' on two levels of reality. In some ways, the words the Arbiter is singing, are words that the players and delegates do hear, but at the same time, what he and his assistants are doing is not always visible to everyone else on stage. The assistants may enact, in a stylised choreographed manner, some of what the Arbiter is discussing, but this would be ignored by everybody else. The dancing that we are seeing is the Arbiter and his assistant's inner 'vision' of themselves and how they will control the match. So while everybody was reacting to the merchandisers actions, when the Arbiter and his assistants dance, they do so in a kind of void and nobody really pays attention to them. This might be difficult to make work, but I think it would be very interesting to try.
As the game continues we see some antagonism beginning to grow between the players. It escalates and as the music becomes more frenetic we see the two players becoming more and more provoked by each other. Eventually they get into a tussle and the board is knocked to the floor.
Originally Chess 1 took place over a period of at least a week with various games being played. I quite like the idea of using just half of Chess at this point and having it just be one single game. This might not give a lot of time to establish some antagonism between the players, but I think with the extra 'playing time' that can happen during The Arbiter, this might be enough.
THE ARBITER (reprise) We see Freddie speak to the Arbiter. The Arbiter, however, is outraged by what has happened. He reiterates that he will not stand for this kind of behaviour. Freddie dismisses these comments and storms out in disgust. Florence tries to stop him, but he pushes her aside.
It might be good to have some dialogue from Freddie that will explain what has happened or what Freddie's issue is with Anatoly. Although the detail is in the lyrics of Quartet and Molokov and Florence, it might be helpful to make it a little more clear exactly what has angered him so much.
A MODEL OF DECORUM AND TRANQUILLITY (QUARTET)
The media are trying to get the low down on what has actually happened and they swoop towards the stage to try and speak to anybody who can give them this information. The Arbiter's assistants quickly clear the arena, but we see Walter speaking to a reporter as they leave together. As the song begins, the quartet remain in the arena, but eventually also leave the arena stage and the scene changes to somewhere less public. It becomes clear that Florence and Anatoly have some sympathy for each other's situation.
FLORENCE AND MOLOKOV
When the Arbiter leaves, Molokov waves Anatoly to leave too. Molokov and Florence are business-like at first, but that soon breaks down. Florence is angry with Freddie and perhaps has some sympathy with Molokov and Anatoly, but that quickly changes with Molokov's comments to her. When she is trying to think of what to do, she notices a poster on the wall advertising the Merano Mountain Inn. There are leaflets too, she picks a couple of these up and thrusts one of them towards Molokov and suggests that this is where they and their players should meet.
Originally, Florence took a leaflet for the Merano Inn out of her bag, which could still work, but I thought it might be fun if the idea was inspired by a painting or advertising poster. In the next scene, the lines do not tell Freddie where the meeting is, so he only knows this by Florence showing him the leaflet, so she needs to pick up a leaflet at some point. Obviously some lines have been changed in subsequent versions, especially the RAH, so these could be used and the issue with the leaflet is removed, but I also like there to be some kind of reason why that particular inn comes into Florence's mind as a good place to meet.
TV REPORTS The details of Freddie's walk out and his demands for an apology have now made the news. Various reports are seen and heard on the TV screens as the scene changes.
1956 / YOU WANT TO LOSE YOUR ONLY FRIEND [Freddie's arena dressing room]
Walter and Freddie are in Freddie's dressing room when Florence arrives. Freddie has now decided to demand more money and Walter seems to be as frustrated by him as Florence is. He leaves her to deal with him. Freddie still thinks that his way is right and refuses to listen to Florence. When he hears about the meeting she has arranged, he accuses her of losing her grip and allowing the Russians to control her. He really hurts Florence when he brings her father into the argument. She is appalled by what he says and she is the one who actually storms out. She wanders about the arena complex, trying to defuse her anger.
NOBODY'S SIDE [Around the arena complex]
As Florence makes her way through the arena complex and later towards her hotel, she is seen to be somewhat exposed and alone as people pass her by. She sees reporters recording their reports, chess delegates and fans going about their business. As these people partake in their own 'games' within the world of chess, Florence finally realises that she has taken too little care of her own needs and tries to remind herself that she has to do what's right for her.
I like the idea of there being other people around Florence as she moves about the arena complex. She is unsure about what to do or where to go at first. As she sees various delegates and chess federation personnel around the building - people, some of whom she will know, but not friends, she feels more alone than ever.
DER KLEINE FRANZ [The Merano Inn]
As Florence and the other people leave the stage, a happy chorus is heard coming from the Merano inn. Upstage there is singing and dancing. Most people are in normal dress, with just an 'in house' band of merry staff dressed in traditional costume.
This could be done without even seeing the other people in the inn, with just the sound of the singing and merriment.
Molokov and Anatoly are already there when Florence arrives. Molokov guides her and Anatoly to a quieter area, maybe an outside terrace and then makes a discreet exit. At first they are uncomfortable and don't know what to say. They slowly relax and soon the atmosphere becomes much more friendly as they both let their guard down and allow themselves to enjoy a few moments of frivolity. There is something building between them, an understanding perhaps of how frustrated they both feel about their lives. They grow more and more comfortable and are laughing together when Freddie arrives, with Molokov not far behind. Freddie is furious by what he sees and is quick to interrupt their intimacy. He tells them that the meeting is a waste of time and as a result of his new agreement with the TV company (which means more money) he is prepared to continue the game.
I don't think there should be a kiss and I think it's better to use body language to show that a kiss could have happened if Freddie hadn't arrived at the moment he does. Freddie must believe that they could have kissed. His jealously and insecurities filling in what didn't happen - to the point where he almost convinces himself that it did happen!
CHESS 2 [Chess arena]
The scene changes to the arena and the games continue. Several games could be implied by the staging, but this would only be the shorter, second half of Chess. There may be a few moments of nothing or 'something' between Anatoly and Florence, even if it is only her purposely avoiding Anatoly in the arena. The screens and TV reports announce the score as the games progress.
FLORENCE QUITS [Florence and Freddie's hotel suite]
In their hotel room, Freddie is devastated by the current 5 -1 score. He knows he has little hope of winning the next game and thus Anatoly will become champion. He blames Florence for his downfall, but really it's what has been going on in his own mind that has caused it. She has done nothing other than try to help sort out the issues he caused between him and Anatoly. He flies into a rage with her and goes too far with his words. Florence has tried to keep him on a even keel, but he has been his own worst enemy and ignored everything that she said. Florence has now had enough, she will not put up with his behaviour any longer. She quits her job and their relationship.
PITY THE CHILD
As he watches Florence walk out on him, Freddie falls even further into a state of despair. He paces about, uncertain about what to do or even what to think. Without the woman who has supported him for years and helped him to get where he is, he feels stranded. Perhaps seeing Florence walk out, makes him think of the day his father walked out on him. He wallows in self pity and eventually, unable to contemplate sitting down at the chess board the following day, he decides to resign. Even as he sits to write his resignation, he is unable to complete it. Standing up and pacing about again, before finally going back to the letter and signing it. Or maybe he doesn't actually manage to sign it at this point. He puts the letter in his pocket and leaves.
I know a lot of people prefer Pity the Child in act two, but I feel that this point in Freddie's life is the most dramatic, he is about to resign from the game, which is almost unbelievable. He must be seen to be at an all time low and although I've always thought of the song as potentially being motivational for Freddie, perhaps, it can illustrate that even his recollections of everything that he has achieved, is still not enough to get him out of the depression he has fallen into.
The following day, everybody is in the arena, awaiting the arrival of the champions. Anatoly arrives, but there is no sign of Freddie. Florence is there too, only on the edges of the scene, but she wants to see what happens in the game. Walter arrives, but he seems agitated and shrugs his shoulders when Florence asks him something - presumably, "Where is Freddie?." One of the Arbiter's assistants arrive and hands the Arbiter a letter. He opens it and announces that Freddie has resigned. There is a flurry of excitement as the reporters try to speak to Anatoly. We see Florence make her way towards Anatoly and offer her hand in congratulations. She quietly tells him she has left Freddie. They shake hands, then as she goes to walk away, inspired by the news he has just received, Anatoly grabs her hand again and they both run out of the arena!
EMBASSY LAMENT [A consulate in Merano]
As the reporters and delegates leave the arena, the scene changes to the Embassy. A number of secretaries, assistants and cleaners are seen milling about. None of them really seem to be taking Anatoly's situation very seriously. Eventually Anatoly gets to see the men in charge and is given the necessary papers.
I would quite happily cut this completely. The plot could be explained via the media and reporters and this would possibly make the whole end of the act much more dramatic. I do feel it does quell the excitement of the defection and the act could benefit from not having this comedy song included. For the meantime though, I am keeping it and will think more about it's possible removal.
ANATOLY AND THE PRESS
As Anatoly and Florence leave the embassy, the press are waiting for them. They are desperate to know what is happening and to get some comment from Anatoly or Florence. His defection is big news, the world is watching and is highly intrigued by recent events.
They push their way through the reporters, trying to ignore them, but when Anatoly is asked why is he is leaving Russia, Anatoly feels that he wants to answer this question. The press crowd around him to hear his response. The reporters may remain on stage during the whole song, but they 'disappear' as the lights slowly fade out on them. As the song draws to an end, Anatoly is in a spotlight and Florence is softly lit upstage left. Upstage right we see Svetlana, back in Russia, as she receives the news about Anatoly's defection. Perhaps reading a newspaper or more likely being told by a KGB man. We see her physically break down when she realises the implications of her husband's actions. The light fades out on Svetlana slightly later than on Anatoly and Florence. We are left with the memory of what Anatoly has just 'told' the press, but our last thought is with his wife who is now alone and devastated back in Russia.
OVERTURE [England and Russia]
Another dumb show introduces us to the competitors in the 1987 chess championship. We see Florence and Anatoly, now a couple, as they prepare to leave their home in England. They seem happy and confident.
In Russia, Molokov is seen with a new young champion, Viigand, who he has been coaching to hopefully once again regain the championship title for Russia. Viigand looks as controlled and as unhappy as Anatoly did the year before, but he is young and vulnerable and compelled to do exactly what Molokov tells him.
The same Champions Overture underscore is used, with perhaps a mixture of Anthem and Heaven Help My Heart over the top.
GOLDEN BANGKOK [Chess Arena and various locations]
The television company have once again created an exciting title sequence for their chess programmes. We see the camera crews recording certain sequences for this and like in 'Story of Chess', we see the finished product as the act begins. There are Thai warriors seen in battle, blending with Thai boxers, Buddhist monks mingling with classical Thai dancers, possibly representing a specially designed Thai inspired chess 'set'. By the end of the sequence we see the first game of the tournament getting under way. The arena is viewed from the backstage area and as the game progresses the scene changes to the streets of Bangkok.
ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK [Streets of Bangkok] Freddie is now working for the television company as a specialist chess reporter and takes a camera crew out onto the streets of Bangkok. We see him witness various aspects of Bangkok life, including some of what we have seen represented in Golden Bangkok. Through the gauze screens, classical Thai dancers are seen 'transforming' into dancing girls in a bar. A Buddhist temple appears, with monks in attendance. Thai warriors and boxers burst into view. Market stalls, covered in bright clothes, umbrellas, flowers and fruit. There are merchandisers seen too, handing out chess merchandise to some of the locals.
In his final piece to camera, he reports on the chess tournament, which is "well under way" and is "two games in." Anatoly has got off to a great start and his Russian opponent, Viigand, seems to be out of his depth. We see footage of the games on the screens and also on stage, we see that day's play coming to an end.
ONE MORE OPPONENT [Florence and Anatoly's hotel suite] After a day of playing chess, Anatoly is tired and cranky. He and Florence have been watching Freddie's TV report and are also looking through that day's newspapers. Anatoly questions why Freddie is in Bangkok and wonders if he is there to try to see Florence. She convinces him he is only there to work with the television company and to earn a lot of money. Florence suddenly sees a newspaper report (she may in fact have seen it earlier, but kept it from Anatoly while he was playing) where it is suggested that Svetlana may be coming to Bangkok. This information leaves them feeling apprehensive and causes tension between them. Anatoly receives a call about a TV interview he is doing for Walter that evening and has to leave. Alone, Florence begins to reflect on her relationship with Anatoly.
The dialogue needs a few small changes, but I think it's more believable if this is how Svetlana comes into the conversation - in a way that really is a surprise for both of them. It should be possible to build up some tension in the relationship, which leads to how Florence is feeling in the next song. In the concept synopsis, this news about Svetlana was revealed during TV Interview. And it would be nice to revert back to that, if it's possible to not mention it here. There needs to be something to make Florence feel a little apprehensive about their relationship though.
HEAVEN HELP MY HEART
As she watches Anatoly leave, Florence begins to reflect on how her relationship with him has progressed. She sees the similarities between Anatoly and Freddie and the kind of relationships she has had with both men. Has she made a mistake to become involved with Anatoly? She may be starting to have her doubts, but she loves the man and wants to make their relationship work.
I think this is the weakest song in the show, but I think it can work well here, in its original position. It helps to restart Florence's emotional story and engage the audience back into her life. It could work well at re-establishing Florence as the main character. She is obviously apprehensive about her future with Anatoly. Freddie's presence in Bangkok does have an effect on her. She knows what he is like and she may be worried about the effect he could have on Anatoly, both within the game and his personal life. She may also be thinking about what he is going to say to her - if they ever meet, which she is probably thinking is very likely.
WHERE I WANT TO BE (Instrumental) [Russia]
Svetlana is seen preparing to leave Russia. She is accompanied by a KGB agent. We see her say goodbye to her parents and being escorted away by the KGB agent. It looks like she has little choice in what is happening.
I don't want there to be any children, but if the lines within the show which mention the children had to be kept, then the children would need to be seen as their mother left them behind with their grandparents. An instrumental section from He Is A Man could be used here rather than Where I Want to Be, if that worked better.
THE SOVIET MACHINE [Molokov's hotel suite]
Molokov's cronies have become worried by the sudden lead that Anatoly has taken in the match. He gathers them in his hotel suite and explains why they have nothing to be worried about. If things go as he plans, there will be no chance of Anatoly retaining his title. Russia will once again be the champions of chess. As the delegates become more relaxed and convinced by Molokov's plan they let their guard down and enjoy some drinking and dancing!
A KGB agent arrives in the suite and hands Molokov an envelope. It contains a file with information he has been waiting for. He brings the meeting to a close, sends his cronies away and makes a phone call to Walter. When the call has ended, Molokov puts some of the papers into an envelope and sends the agent off to find Walter. There may also be a video tape in that envelope!
We see Walter receiving the envelope and studying its contents.
INTERVIEW [TV studio]
The studio is busy with various camera and stage crew setting up the scene. Walter arrives and tells Freddie that he has decided that he can make the interview as intrusive as he wants. They have acquired a video of Svetlana, which they intend to screen in an attempt to provoke Anatoly. As the interview progresses, Anatoly becomes increasingly frustrated and when the video is shown, which has footage of Svetlana leaving Russia, he throws off his microphone and storms out.
ARGUMENT [Florence and Anatoly's hotel suite]
Anatoly arrives back at their hotel and finds an angry and upset Florence, who has watched the interview on TV and is now watching it being re-screened on the news. The cracks begin to show in their relationship. She seems unable to shrug it off, but Anatoly knows exactly what Molokov's game is and he seems more able to ignore it. Florence sees it differently and they seem to have arrived at crises point. Anatoly becomes angry and they each say things they don't really mean.
I really would like to have Argument back in the show. The problem is the lyric does not quite work, if the news of Svetlana coming to Bangkok is discussed earlier. Originally, in concept, the story was that the Russian's wouldn't let her out of Russia. Obviously, in that context the idea must have been that Molokov has finally managed to pull the necessary strings to get her out - for his own purposes. The news about this happens in TV Interview, and thus "The first hint of trouble.." is on TV.
Argument sums up exactly what is happening to Anatoly and Florence and the influences around them. However, it just might not work anymore. I do find it quite an aggressive song and as such, I'm not sure I want that kind of aggression within this relationship. I'm leaving it here at the moment, but it might be cut in virtual rehearsals if the scene can be made to work without it. You and I would only be used if Argument is kept and its purpose here is to soften the aggression and show that Anatoly and Florence do temporarily recover from their argument brought on by Svetlana's arrival.
YOU AND I
They are both visibly upset and realise just in time that they are letting life get in the way of their love, "An all too familiar scene..." They embrace and their love gets them over this moment of crises. The lights fade on this long and eventful night in Bangkok.
CHESS (Short section)
As a new day begins, the scene changes to the chess arena, where the first game of the day is already in progress. We see it from the backstage view and also via live footage on the screens. The game may come to an end and the players leave the arena for a break.
Downstage a new scene emerges...
HEIS A MAN HE IS A CHILD [Svetlana's hotel room]
We see Svetlana being escorted by a KGB agent to her hotel room. As she begins to unpack, she watches the live coverage of the chess match. She reflects on the man she fell in love with and married. Who is that man now and who is she? How will she cope with seeing him and what will his reaction be? She feels apprehensive and worried about what will happen when she does meet him. As the song ends we see the KGB man come back and they leave together.
The lyrics for this song were obviously conceived for a production that only had one setting and occurred over just a few days. So, Svetlana is still very much his wife, in fact it's only a very short time since she last seen him. In this 'new' version, she has been separated from him for a year. For this reason the thoughts in her head are going to be a little bit different to how they were originally conceived. Ideally the lyric would be reworked and the song would be a bit shorter than the current version.
In my fantasy 35th anniversary production, Svetlana would probably be given a completely new song, but I guess we have no hope of any new songs for Chess until a film is made.
THE DEAL [In and around the arena complex]
Svetlana & Molokov The scene changes back to the arena, where the final game of the day is about to come to an end. We see Svetlana arriving backstage, where Molokov greets her and reminds her exactly why she is in Bangkok. She must convince Anatoly to lose the game. If she does, she can have any kind of life she likes back home, but if not, then he can make life very difficult for her when she goes back to Russia.
Svetlana & Anatoly As the game ends, Aantoly and Florence leave the arena stage, Molokov arranges it so Svetlana walks right into their path. Walter steps in and escorts Florence away from the scene. Svetlana asks Anatoly if it's really so important for him to be champion for another year? Why does he keep on with his ambitions despite them not bringing him what he really wants. Svetlana tries to point out that he has achieved nothing. He is doing what he wanted to do, but he is still no happier or more content than he has ever been.
Walter & Florence Walter has taken Florence aside and tries to convince her that her father is alive in a Russian prison. If she can convince Anatoly to lose the match, then he will be released and she can have her father back in her life. She does not believe what he is telling her and tells him so.
Florence Florence walks away from Walter and reflects on her feelings about her father and her past. Although she finds it hard to believe what Walter has said, she does begin to question her own judgement. The idea that her father might possibly be alive has certainly made her begin to wonder if it is worth risking his release for a game of chess?
Walter & Molokov Walter and Molokov discuss how their plans are progressing. Walter lies to Molokov and tells him that Florence is fully on board with the deal. Molokov does not seem to be totally convinced. Walter suggests that Freddie might be able to put some additional pressure on Anatoly.
Walter & Freddie Walter catches up with Freddie and explains that Florence's father is alive and that if he can convince Anatoly to lose the game then they can get him released from Russia.
Freddie & Anatoly Freddie tracks down Anatoly and tries to convince him that he must throw the match if he loves Florence, but Anatoly is not convinced.
Freddie & Florence Freddie then goes to find Florence and tries to convince her that she should ditch Anatoly and come back to him. Together they could be a great team and take on the chess world once again. Florence explains that a lot of things have changed, chess is not what's important anymore. Freddie tries to explain that Anatoly will not help her, he won't throw the match, chess IS what's important to him, not her.
All the attempted deals have been unsuccessful and nobody makes any progress with their plans. Everybody is playing their own game, with their own aims in sight.
We need to see some kind of 'split' between Anatoly and Florence at the end of the scene. She walks towards him, he is frustrated and walks away, like wise when Svetlana tries to engage with him again, he brushes her aside too. Everybody is seen on their own, alone with their own thoughts and fears.
I KNOW HIM SO WELL
The various characters begin to the leave the stage. Florence is left, stranded somewhere in the arena complex. She is feeling lost and very much alone. She begins to realise that perhaps her relationship with Anatoly is over. She may not actually be enough for him, she feels he needs something that she can't provide. Meanwhile, Svetlana is also left stranded with, it seems, no hope of a reconciliation with her husband. She too realises that she is not, and probably never was enough for him.
I think it's more interesting if the ladies do not meet for this song. It's messy without some good dialogue and for them to stand and sing to each other - in other words have a conversation about Anatoly - just does not seem logical. Best for them not to meet at this point.
TALKING CHESS [A Buddhist temple]
As I Know Him So Well comes to an end, the scene dissolves to a temple. We see Anatoly arrive and looking rather uncertain about why he is there. Freddie is aware that the extra pressures being put on Anatoly has resulted in a loss of form. There has been a series of draws and Anatoly is at risk of losing his title. Freddie decides that he cannot stand the thought of Anatoly losing to Viigand and he thinks that he has seen something in Viigand's strategy that Anatoly could use to secure a win against him.
He has sent Anatoly a note, asking for a meeting at the temple, but not telling him who it is that wants to meet him. Anatoly, intrigued by the contents of the note (obviously saying something very pertinent to his current form and the risk of his losing) agrees to the meeting. Freddie arrives and explains what he believes is Viigand's weak spot. Anatoly listens to what he has to say and they discuss the relevant moves. Anatoly asks Freddie about losing the game. If he wins, it will be bad for Florence's father, but he feels unable to lose for the wrong reason, what would Freddie do? Freddie implies that he would not let 'mediocrity' win, i.e. Viigand is not an exceptional player and should not be allowed to hold the world title. Freddie leaves and Anatoly contemplates his position. As he thinks about the many great champions who have come before him, the scene changes to the arena. Eventually it looks like Anatoly has come to a decision and he too leaves the temple.
I've not decided if I would use the RAH additional/new lyrics for this. I kinda prefer the originals.
ENDGAME [The Arena]
The deciding game of the match is about to begin. As everyone reflects on previous champions, the Arbiter and his assistants prepare the arena. We see Anatoly, Florence etc. arrive and there is obvious tension between all concerned. This is seen to be increasing as the beginning of the game gets closer. The players are like actors preparing to go on stage, the nerves are building and they are becoming frustrated. The drama in the Champions music is replicated within the characters in the arena. Finally, as the game is about to begin, a sense of calm sets in and everybody concentrates on the chess.
Freddie of course is also there to report on the game and he gives his view as play begins.
Molokov has total confidence in his player. He feels certain that not only will he win, but he will also stay loyal to Russia. He dismisses Anatoly as weak and unfocused.
Walter seems confident that he has done all that he can to influence the outcome of the match. Anatoly has been left with no doubt that if he wins the title, that is all he will win, he will lose everything else.
Florence has resigned herself to the fact that Anatoly will possibly win the match. She doubts that he can resist the glory of the championship title. She begins to realise that really, he has little love for anything beyond his own glory.
Anatoly, is torn between his love for Florence and his love and loyalty to the game of chess. He spends the entire game weighing up what he should do.
Svetlana watches as her husband keeps control of the board. She sees little chance of him putting her before chess and has resigned herself to a life without him.
The press and the world look on and comment on his position.
In the end, he decides that he cannot throw the game and ends it with a stunning victory.
THE STORY OF CHESS (Reprise)
As the arena begins to clear, the Arbiter's assistants begin to clear the chess pieces, table and chairs. As they do so, they reflect on how "Each game of chess means there's one less variation left to be played... one less mistake less to be made."
YOU AND I (reprise)
Anatoly and Florence have left the arena, but not gone far before they begin to discuss their situation and what they are going to do. It seems obvious that if there is any chance of getting Florence's father out, Anatoly will have to return to Russia. In their hearts they still believe that what they had, could have been special and lasted forever.
It's just the two of them alone and removed from the entire world for these few moments. Their minds are filled with what they have had and what they are about to lose. They try to be optimistic about the future, but without each other they don't quite see how they can be happy again.
A stunningly beautiful song and one that has to carry the whole point of the show in these final few minutes. That is, if the show is a love story, which I think it is. It's a Romeo and Juliet story, but rather than families in opposition of the love, it's nations, maybe not in opposition, but causing the turmoil within the affair. These two people have found a love that has filled their hearts with joy. A shared love and passion (for chess) in theory they were perfectly matched and could have been completely happy. The world of chess and politics have made this impossible.
WALTER AND FLORENCE
Walter appears and discusses Anatoly's decision to return to Russia. He seems to think this will secure the release of Florence's father, but does not hesitate to point out to Florence, that nobody can be certain that her father IS still alive. Florence realises that she and Anatoly have been used as pawns in the game being played between the US and the USSR. The awful realisation that she may have lost not only Anatoly, but also any chance of getting her father back, or even finding out what happened to him begins to dawn on her.
As Florence brings the show to a close. She is obviously devastated by what has happened. The "Playing games..." dialogue has to be cut, better with no words than these. Her feelings are portrayed physically, we see her crumple in front of our eyes - devastated and defeated, she feels alone and abandoned, as she did when a child in 1956. This leads into her Anthem. It doesn't really end the story in a specific 'conclusion', but it is powerful and probably the best that can be hoped for.
Florence is seen alone on the stage, as Anatoly was at the end of act one. But unlike then, she is now the one the press want to talk to. We see a few 'press' characters appearing around the stage, maybe 'reporting' on the latest news within the chess world, the tournament etc. but also looking to her for some inside details about Anatoly and perhaps what her plans are now - will she go back to Freddie?
Although Florence, Anatoly and Freddie's lives have changed considerably, the media and the chess world have already moved on and their lives are no longer of so much interest to them - unless there's a story angle they can use. We also see Anatoly and Svetlana leaving together, but still quite apart. Freddie is alone too and as he leaves he is unable to avoid looking backwards hopefully at Florence.
The show could end with You and I, but I do like the 'drama' of Anthem. If ending with You and I, I'd still like to have a physically similar ending. As the chorus build up to the choral ending we see a snap shot of the final moments of the story, as experienced by each character. Anatoly leaving with Svetlana, looking back at Florence as he goes, Walter and Molokov shaking hands - proud of what they have achieved, Freddie still longing to get back with Florence, looking at her as she falls apart under the weight of all that has happened and Florence, devastated and alone, practically unable to move. In the final seconds before the lights snap out, the scene is frozen, like chess pieces the main characters are stuck at that point where their stories can go no farther. Endgame, checkmate, no more moves to be made, the story and this game has ended! It could be quite effective and if the drama is done right leading up to this moment, the show doesn't need the 'trick' dramatic ending of Anthem.