Sunday, 14 February 2010

Rehearsal report 5

Ruth, Sarah Lou and myself get together for a Sunday afternoon workshop rehearsal for 'Mother and I'
I have been able to prepare for the session by reading  the chapter about status in Keith Johntsone’s  book ‘Impro’. I have also transcribed the improvisation I recorded on my dictaphone and written the beginnings of a scene so that Ruth and Sarah Lou can explore the characters’ status without having to grasp for words.
We begin by reading through the transcription and the scene and I ask what works and what doesn’t work in each text. We identify that the improvised text is quite a realistic account of a vicious argument between a mother and daughter and that through this argument various information about the characters’ past is exposed, however, there is no story telling. The lines were brought forth spontaneously in the improvisation and and don’t have any particular direction. We acknowledge that the status play between the mother and daughter is very engaging (and Keith Johnstone mentions in his book that any status play makes compelling viewing). We notice that the script that I have written adheres more closely to the objective of the scene, to portray Fiona’s epiphany regarding her mother’s condition, to reveal the extent of Lucinda’s alcoholism, to demonstrate Lucinda’s denial state and the strategies she uses to perpetuate that denial. I tell Ruth and Sarah Lou about the status strategies that Johnstone talks about in his publication, point out where I have used them in the scene.
We agree that the beginning of the scene as written is entirely appropriate and should be kept and that we should now work to a climax and satisfactory conclusion for the scene.
We then have discussion about the stages of alcoholism based on my research and point out where these feature in the script.  Once again, the question of ‘how low does/will Lucinda go?’ is considered. We decide that some areas of Lucinda’s personal hygiene are being neglected and that while in the States she goes on alcoholic ‘benders’, attempting to avoid the consequences of certain destructive actions and behaviour. We decide that Fiona will reveal that she has been having regular telephone contact with Lucinda’s husband. This will seem like betrayal to Lucinda and she will feel further ‘backed into a corner’ as a result of this, realising that Fiona is aware of tasteless misdemeanours that she had believed were only known to her husband.
We decide that Lucinda would become abusive/offensive/defensive when backed into a corner and consider how Lucinda will try to gain status over Fiona. We think that between a mother and a daughter the smallest insults could be the biggest insults (boring, prude, perfect, prissy, failure, selfish, uncaring, unfeeling, cold hearted)  We also think that any bigger insults would show Lucinda up and lower her status and that inappropriate references (frigid, reference to bedroom) will make Lucinda look very irrational. I explain that Fiona will not be demoralised by Lucinda and will remain high status (though a moral high ground rather than in a position of control).
We play a scene where Lucinda attempts to insult Fiona using the words we have talked about, with Fiona maintaining high status (i suggest that Sarah Lou keeps her head still when she talks, moves slowly, maintains eye contact to retain high status). However, this dynamic is not very effective. Sarah Lou’s playing high status so adamantly is actually limiting. So I suggest turning it around and letting Lucinda have high status, bizarrely Lucinda instantly becomes low status and Fiona remains high, but this is because Fiona is not a high status player so, when Lucinda attempts to lower her it is purely because of her own desperation to maintain her own high status, Lucinda seems unreasonable and desperate and undermines herself . This just goes to show the complexity of status play, it’s about how the message is received as much as the intention behind the message.
The project’s designer Hannah Sibai joins us to have a look at the work we’ve been doing and to talk to Ruth and Sarah Lou about costume.  This seems quite straight forward. The performers are to take responsibility for the main items of costume in consultation with Hannah, and Hannah will see to any more complicated items.
Hannah stays and observes for a while and offers her view that there may be more suggestion of Lucinda’s alcoholism apart from the larger misdemeanours written into the text. This brings about a very interesting discussion where we look at physical clues and what and how Lucinda might attempt to conceal. We realise that she will look ill and that the alcohol will have aged her, her breath will smell and her body will also smell of alcohol, these will be difficult to conceal, and Lucinda’s attempts to conceal them (perfume, breath mints, make up) will be as obvious as the problem itself.  There will also be concealing of the more drastic behaviours, incontinence being one of them, deemed to be the most demoralising.
Fiona attempting to make Lucinda face up to these things about herself is offensive to Lucinda, so these will seem like insults to her and she will retaliate using the insults that we have already explored.
We improvise another exchange with this in mind and I record it on my dictaphone. I will transcribe the recording again prior to reworking the script.
I ask the performers how the scene might end. Consensus was that this will be a tragic ending with Lucinda continuing to refuse to face up to the problem and ‘threatening’ to go home to the States. We like the idea that she will really show herself up, spit at Fiona in anger (having been so backed into a corner) and then leave the stage taking a bottle of wine with her, a nice contrast to the beginning of the scene where Lucinda is seated onstage with Fiona entering the scene.
We conclude the workshop/rehearsal by running the scene as written so far and timing it. It runs for eight minutes.
We then focus on the first few minutes of the scene, a monologue where Lucinda’s actions and behaviour are entirely contradictory to the words she is speaking. We ensure that there is evidence of an alcoholic hang over in her demeanour. We add Fiona into the scene and explore her subtle reactions to Lucinda’s monologue. A very exciting dynamic is achieved by Fiona doing very little, just turning twice (she has her back to Lucinda otherwise) to look over her shoulder. There is a real sense of anticipation, that Fiona has had a shocking realisation, has something to say and is dreading saying it, but is determined to do so.
I inform the performers that I will continue working on the text and bring it in a revised shape for the next rehearsal on Thursday18th February.

1 comment:

stefan lubo said...

Its fascinating to see how the play is evolving through rehearsal and everyone involved chipping in.

Stage Fright continues to evolve even at every full performance in front of the audience.

I look forward to see further developments in later posts.