Friday, 11 March 2011

Getting everyone on the same page

Having established that Duncan would benefit from reading the transcripts from all previous improvisations I go back through my files and find all text generated at all stages of EITR,  from the casting session where the characters existed as monologues; to the first ever ‘scene’ where Arnold was given a straight jacket jumper as a birthday gift in a perpetual birthday situation as he attempted to leave home; through to various abandoned attempts at Berkoffesque verse and all the transcripts of improvisation that I had typed up.

I had experienced resistance from a performer to rehearsal that involved a lot of textual analysis without any practical/physical activity but I felt it was essential to start off in this way. I had a practical exercise planned to follow the textual analysis but actually reading through everything together took numerous hours so we didn’t make it away from the table and the script work.

My aim (as outlined in post dated 21st February): I want to re-set the tone to re-discover the misery and desperation we established initially.

So going right back to the beginning and following the work’s development in tone as recorded on the page is a very sensible move. One of the team members feels that ‘the way it is now is the way that it is’ but I am frustrated by this. I have a clearer vision of how the piece will work best and I’m not happy to drift off from something that was very successful initially but seems to have been lost. It’s at this point that I realise that notes must be taken, even if we’re not working on scripts, so that performers don’t drift off from what we worked hard to put into place.

We read through all of the text, contextualising various parts of it for Duncan so he understands some of the decisions to move away from or retain certain features.

I brief the performers on my desire to return to the absurd tone that we had achieved previously. I articulate that it might not be 100% possible, I don’t want them to feel my objective is unrealistic, but I let them know that I’m going to have a damn good try to get it back to that place again and that I feel as director with a vision as motivating as mine that it’s my duty to do so.

Then we discuss what has changed. One of the first things that is noticed is that Frank’s character seems to have shifted and that this has impacted on the tone. I request that we return to a former Frank, a ‘man under siege’ who is at breaking point from trying to keep his family under control. There is some resistance to this, ‘boring’ and ‘archetype’ are words that are used in protest but as I see it without this quality in Frank the other two characters don’t have the resistive force they need to work against and the tension is lost. I stand firm. I’m glad I did.

The rest of the session is spent re-recording Arnold’s voice over in Duncan’s own voice. It’s great fun directing Duncan in this context. When we put the original voice over together it was under duress in a very tight time frame and the resulting soundtrack was an edit of recorded improvisation from which we edited. Working with Duncan I’m able to suggest tones and attitudes and the results are delightful.

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