Monday, 31 January 2011

Day one at Theatre in the Mill

We begin by loosely scheduling the week ahead, establishing start and finish times and deciding when we should identify which material to show on Friday evening and when we'll rehearse and tech it.

I outline three areas for exploration/development - family photographs, family occasions and further development of the possibilities of sound.

The plan is to work in an open way in the mornings, to generate material and then as the day progresses to set this down (sound and script) and then tighten it up towards the end of the day. 

We realise that the method we used in the first phase of the project where I transcribed all the improvisation would not be feasible. We have other means to record the impro but I'm sorry to lose the text based/wordy 'on the page' part of the process as editing this was a very satisfying way of generating text. However, there simply isn't enough time.

The priority for the day is to re-establish what we already know about the family through spontaneous hot-seating. Some of the more detailed back story work is new to Harriet who came to the team after the early devising process. This is the first time we've delved in to her interpretation of the character. 

First we warm up and do some group storytelling. Then we move on to a game of interview/expert. These games are to help with spontaneity in advance of the hot-seating.

Then we get back into character. We focus on the physicality of each character, working through which part of the body leads, how a person with ageing body moves (which bits are stiff/weak/seized up) and how the body is changed through life time's activities. We look at the speed and motivation of movement and think about relative speed ; an older person may be motivated to move quickly but not be as swift as an equally motivated youth. The movement was filmed for closer scrutiny.

We move on to the hot seat exercise. We spend around 25 mins with each character. Pete playing Arnold yields easily, the secret life of his character is rich. I get the kinds of words and expression that I hoped for from Arnold.

Dean as Frank and Harriet as Jean are much tougher to crack and although we explore pasts and moments we're not making such easy progress as we are with Arnold. I decide to raise this to establish what the performer's experience of the exercise has been.

The performers feel that the characters are far too 'buttoned up'/in deep denial/socially conditioned to open up to a stranger so their answers are evasive. It's instinctive for them to behave this way. 

I explain that I want to access Frank and Jean's internal worlds, to find their inner truths and delve deeply below the surface. I want to know what their internal voices are saying...

Performers feel that more time is needed to improvise in character before we can access this deeper level. We're planning long form improvisation which should facilitate this.

By the end of the session I am quite confident that it really is virtually impossible to plan this stuff. I'm glad I have a rough strategy and am clear on what needs to be explored and achieved but really it's fairly unpredictable...I think the key is being prepared for this...

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