Confession: I am writing this entry mid week five, and because I am struggling to remember what we did, I look back over my exercise book. Here is what I find at the top of the page:
Reckon pens funnier if they are thrown individually
Does Mark always smoke inside or is he trying to impress her?
Should we amplify the sound of the pills rattling in the glass?
We had rehearsed every scene by then, so the week was spent revisiting the play from the beginning to work it in detail. What these scribbled thoughts reflect is the stage in our process where the team begins to think on a more micro level about the material. The broad-brush strokes of staging and working out the practical elements of the show are now mostly in place, so its ‘play time’ again for the actors and director but within a definite structure. For stage management, they are also working with a finer brush; Assistant Stage Manager Ian has asked the actors to invent characters’ surnames so the prop paperwork used on-stage can be accurate, and he also asked Jeremy (the director) to name our fictional rehabilitation centre, so he can get the costume department to sew a logo onto the medical gowns. (Jeremy christened it 'Orchard Street Recovery Centre', in case you were wondering.)
Revisiting the play from the beginning with the knowledge of having rehearsed the end of the show, means we are able to approach it holistically rather than episodically. This means there is now a sense of the rhythm of the play as a whole and the emotional arcs of each character. Enabling Jeremy to start calibrating scenes tonally as they are revisited, observing the emotional shifts of the play more fluently. The relationships between the characters are now more developed, because the actors have now interacted with each other over the whole play. In a sense the characters are beginning to get to know one another, making for much more nuanced work.
Polly, the movement director, has been honing her work, with both the main cast and supernumerary actors. She is also finding certain physical motifs that can be seeded throughout to bring the production together as a whole.
One thing that struck me as we pass the month mark of working on People, Places and Things, is how much material is generated that is discarded whilst the production is honed. Parts of the text are rewritten or cut, production elements are abandoned when a more economical or exciting solution is found, and ideas about the play or ways of doing it are thrown out in order to refine the work. The process of distilling the show as we revisit what we have made is a process of loss, or paths not taken that the audience will never know were there. In this week’s production meeting a glitter drop from the ceiling is on the firing line. You will have to come and see the show to find out if it makes the cut.