Monday, 1 March 2010

Rehearsal report 12

We begin to work on the silences in Nature Nuture. We go straight into character and into the improvisation. The agreement is that I will coach while the performers are improvising. We don’t see how notes could be given retrospectively when the cues are looks and silences, how would the performers know which silence I was referring to?

We see the same banal domestic scene and it continues to engage me. The sound team are present and they set about constructing the soundscape.

The performers make a noble attempt at working with the silences, but the silences restrict and block them so much that they express their exasperation and we stop the improvisation.

I’ve sought the advice of various theatre makers who have reframed silence as ‘a space where things can happen’, referred me to comedia del arte lazzi games of status, suggested ‘listening’ to the silences, playing out internal monologues, mask work etc. but when I tell the performers about these things we are not able to transform these suggestions into anything. I am not trained to direct these kinds of things and the performers have a varied experience of working with silence. I realise that being able to perform silence or facilitating the performance of silence is not a common skill to have. We hit a big block.

Jonnie, one of the sound designers is good enough to step in with suggestion to help out. When I had my initial eureka moment I had thought about a family photograph/portrait that speaks and that the stage image would be still and silent but the voice would be a sound recording played over the image. This is inspired by one of Jean Claude Van Itallie’s plays ‘Photographs : Mary and Howard’. Jonnie suggests that we attempt to try this rather than continue with the silence, as he believes that the audience will need more clues to the story than the visual clues.

We spend the rest of the session recording material for the sound bites which will form parts of the soundscape.

This involves returning to the family portrait/continuous family monologue exercise that had been successful in previous rehearsal workshops.  At times I write notes and pass them to the performers to guide their monologue.

Once the rehearsal workshop has finished I set about listening to what has been recorded and selecting and ordering sound bites that resonate the story. I’m intrigued to find out how little exposition I can get away with for the audience to get a sense of what is happening.

I hope that the soundscape and the sound bites will help the performers relax with the silences. They will be able to interact with the soundscape, to juxtapose it and they will be able to directly address the audience and ‘play’ with them. I think that if I had set about working on the sound bite idea from the outset the performers might not have engaged with this idea as much as if I had begun exploring only the silence. I think the performers will be relieved to have the sound bites having been so restricted previously. I am glad I attempted to pare the piece back to silence before we explored the sound bite idea.

I am incredibly grateful to the performers for their commitment to the project and for not abandoning it when we hit a creative block. The project has changed and shape shifted so much and I suspect that this was not at all what the performers expected when they came on board. In the future, if I think a project might go down the same route as Nature Nurture, I will be more specific about this from the outset, investigate further the kinds of skills that the performers have and find out where their comfort zones are. In this instance however, i did not foresee the process taking the turns that it did.

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