Friday, 5 February 2010

Rehearsal report 2

I don’t think I communicated exactly what I wanted when I set the cast of ‘Nature Nurture’ off on a task to find an alternative reason for the giving of a birthday gift in the scene I had written (where the gift turns out to be a very constrictive jumper, so constrictive that it’s actually a kind of straight jacket). Need to work out how I can make sure I communicate/set tasks so that I get the results I’m looking for. I didn’t get the response I expected but I did get some response to the work so we proceeded with these ideas.
Pete suggests that we try the scene in a hyper real ‘US TV from the 1960s’ style with saccharin/fake happiness as an attitude. This gives a certain dynamic to the scene and demonstrates that the family are not facing up to the horror of the situation.
Pete thinks that Arnold is objectified by his parents and that if he were dead, they’d care for the corpse and barely notice. We ask what keeps Arnold in the home, ask why he stays there and doesn’t try to escape more aggressively. Pete refers to the Fritzl case (the ‘story’ in ‘Nature Nurture’ has always featured Arnold’s captivity, kept ‘safe’ inside the home by his parents) and to Stockholm syndrome where the victim feels lovingly towards their captor.  We talk about the parent’s motivation to keep Arnold captive, about Munchausen by proxy where parents fake illness in their children to get attention, we explore how Arnold might be brain washed into thinking he can’t survive with out them.
The whole cast are enjoying the idea that the jumper doubles up as a straight jacket. Dean also responds to the scene I’ve written with more ideas; thoughts he has had as a result of the scene I’ve given him and the suggestion that the birthday/gift giving ritual in the scene are not actually because its Arnold’s birthday :
-       Bedtime story as allegory
-       Torture by birthday party – including party hats with elastic that cuts in to skin, hot and cold and sweet foods that are too hot, too cold and too sweet.
-       Being confined by bed clothes – ‘tucked in too tight’ – especially appropriate if having bedtime story.
It is reassuring that my intention and the ideas that I want to explore are coming through from the short scene that I’ve already written and the brief introduction I have given about the project’s aims.
Other ideas that are thrown about are :
-       Arnold sleeping in bed with his parents
-       Him being burped like a baby (he’s mid 30s)
-       Arnold having no comprehension of outside world
-       Frank opening and closing curtains and reporting on weather/day outside but Arnold never actually seeing it himself.

We ask if the doors are locked. We think about how Arnold would be ‘institutionalised’ and have a distorted world view due to his lack of experience; he can only understand that which he has been exposed to.  We ask what would happen if the doors were left unlocked and he had the opportunity to escape? Would he take that opportunity? Would he be equipped to deal with freedom? Or would it be too much for him? Would he be agoraphobic? We realise that Arnold would be highly attuned to the small things around him as his experience of life is so narrow, he would be able to read signs and signals that he may not have become so sensitive to if he had had a wide variety of stimulus. In the absence of the normal world, insignificant things have become significant and his ability to read his parents moods, behaviours could potentially be very profound.
We consider Arnold’s attempted escape as a game/a ritual/ a ‘playing up’ behaviour but that it is never Arnold’s real intention to leave (look at in a future workshop). We consider if Arnold is actually able to free himself from his confines and can choose to be confined or otherwise. Perhaps, when his parents leave him alone, he can free himself and do as he pleases?
I consider a sound effect, an opening and closing door with the sound of a key locking the lock that would be able to represent his confinement further, and also when/if the door is accidentally unlocked.
We consider the presence of a postcard, concealed by Arnold, to represent freedom, or the fact that he has contact with someone beyond his confinement.
Pete creates a nice stage image : playing with an airplane or playing airplane arms. Pete suggests there might be other toys.
I ask about ‘diversions’ or ‘escapism’ in everyday, hobbies, distractions from the mundane. I suggest that Jean knits obsessively and that her great and repressed need to ‘escape’ is represented by an exaggeration of this distraction/diversion in that a knitting is a big feature in the piece (including a knitted jumper/straightjacket and possibly a whole series of them to show that this is perpetual).
Practical exercise, I improvise a story made up of components of fairy tales and Tanja and Dean take one side of Pete each and literally move him like a giant puppet. We undertake this exercise because we see that Pete would be physically manipulated by his parents, put into his clothing and into bed and into his straightjacket jumper etc.
We hot seat each character. We also look at how the character might move in the space before they sit down in the hot seat. We start with Arnold who has an uncanny way of moving where his head points in one direction but his shoulder leads his body in another. This is effective and gives a sense of internal conflict, cerebral activity and 'plotting'. Arnold’s speaking/thinking in the hotseat is very deeply psychological, a feature in the character as we explored in the casting workshop but one that I now want to move away from. We can work on this at a later date.
Next we look at Jean. Her movement style leads from her knees and hands which makes her seem unsure. There is a melancholic, passive feel to Jean which has been there since Tanja auditioned for the part. Jean seems resigned to her situation, this seems appropriate to me. In the hotseat Jean ‘blocks’ certain questions, refusing to follow  the line of questioning. For example, answering ‘I would stop.’ to the question ‘what would you do if Arnold left home?’. This ‘blocking’ is not bad improvisation, it is instictive, it gives an insight into Jean’s inability to see her life beyond the routine that is established. I think this gives a sense of a vacuum in which the family exist and I like the unreality of this.

Frank’s movement around the space is directional and gives a sense of purpose but at the same time seems futile because his direction keeps changing, like a caged animal marking the perimiter of their confined space. Frank’s movement leads from the chest, fists quite clenched and it as if Frank is looking for something or being territorial. I like this dynamic. When seated the dynamic of Frank alters again and we see a kind of military Frank, precise and controlling but quite upbeat, rather than dark.

Throughout this rehearsal/workshop I am at times unsure how to lead. I mention this and ask if anyone else in the group has any ideas where we can take the workshop and any exercises we can try out and ideas do come forward which is very helpful and supportive and productive. It is acknowledged that a director can be out of practice and that it takes a while for performers to be ‘match fit’ when improvising as well.

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