Sunday, 6 March 2011

Where I realise that it’s virtually impossible to carry out role of director when feeling unwell and vow never to go into a rehearsal room un-prepared again

I am ill. Not sure with what but I’m exhausted and barely functioning so the lengthy rehearsal ahead seems very daunting. I can’t gather my thoughts and haven’t had huge amount of time since last rehearsal to really plan how to proceed.

As I observed the performance at Bradford Theatre in the Mill I came to conclusions about possible lines of enquiry for the future. My gut instinct is reaching towards something more essential/expressionistic – see post dated 21st February: I feel the piece needs to be taken in hand, to be pared back to something more essential, less wordy, more ‘soundy’ with performances more deeply resonant and darker...

Rattling around as an unformed notion is the idea that some kind of improvisation can take place between the performers and the sound we’ve already recorded. That we can play the sound as it is currently recorded/structured and that the performers can start to experiment with what happens on stage. The story should still stand even if the on stage action/stage picture is quite different. However, in my depleted state and with the pressure of the deadline on 1st & 2nd April and a whole host of other priorities to attend to I briefly mention this but don’t push the issue.

There’s an awful feeling of chaos in the room, for me it's awful anyway, a reflection of my own chaos and it feels like a failing. I need time and space to think, to pull myself together. I knew I was feeling under the weather but I hadn’t realised that I would be so paralysed and slow in my thinking. If I’d realised earlier that I wasn’t able to function I would have telephoned in sick and cancelled the rehearsal. Or if I’d known my brain would stop working I have planned the session so it was idiot-proof (with me being the idiot I hasten to add) and could run without me.

As I’m trying to gather my thoughts the team start to chat and figure their own way to make use of the time. So, although I am berating myself for being unable to function, the team are taking responsibility in a way that they hadn’t had to before. I recognise this as a positive.

Jonnie picks up the improvisation strand that I had briefly mooted and encourages us all to try it out. His idea is to improvise with the sound as the performers are feeling unsure (possibly due to my own unsurity) about changing the stage picture without guidance. I suggest that they could venture beyond the physical structure so long as they returned to it further along the line for the next bit of action and this seems like a happier compromise.

Of course the results of this are really exciting. I regret at that moment not having any means to record what I see. It is all the things I was hoping to achieve – essential and pared back. Jonnie heavily edits the sound so that we hear phrases and words rather than chunks of text. It works really well.

After this success Jonnie gently scolds me ‘you see, trust your process’.

I realise we are on really interesting ground but don’t want to move any further with this at this stage. If I can’t record the improvisations I can’t reconstruct the parts that work particularly well at a later date. I do feel considerably boosted however and I am able to conclude that this is a very interesting line of enquiry but for now we should work on ‘blending’ the performance styles and addressing the status/parity issues that are resulting from having a new Arnold. The rest of the day is spent focussing on ‘the master scene’ and progress is happily made despite my ill health.

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