Facts and Questions
It has been a busy weekend between weeks one and two; Anya has written up a new draft of the script based on the discoveries of week one, Ben has consolidated the facts and questions and the cast have been ‘googling’ specific research topics.
This work is shared on Monday with the whole company. We read through the changes in the script so that they can be heard out loud. It makes such a difference to actually hear them and whether they sound as Anya intended them to. We also go through our list of questions and see if we can now agree an answer. If a question is answered, it transfers onto the ‘fact’ sheet. For example:
Question - Are they all in the same year at school?
Fact - They are all in the same year at school. It is year 10.
We also had lots of questions about Time: How long has passed between scenes? What time of year is it? Ben spreads out sheets of paper of all the happenings in the play. They stretch the length of the rehearsal room. We then begin the complex task of putting them in order, starting with the periods of time we know to be in the play. We know there has to be a week between scene three and scene six, and that for morning sickness to begin, there has to be at least six weeks between scenes nine and sixteen. From there, everything else begins to fit into place. The best thing about doing this is that it’s a group exercise where everyone can see how their stories fit into place with everyone else’s.
Once we have Time, we then need Place. For Ben, it is important that the cast have a shared understanding of the place where the characters live, so introduces a map of a town and asks them to place their homes. We know that Melchior can see the park from his bedroom window, so places his house first. Others place their houses in relation to this considering who they meet on their way to the park, the school, the shops , etc. The audience will never know this information when watching the show, but it will enrich the specificity of the actors choices and, hopefully, that is something the audience will notice.
These details provide a strong base for the next phase of scene work. Ben works through the architecture of each scene with the actors by highlighting ‘events’. An ‘event’ is a moment in a scene where something happens that causes a change for everyone in that scene. Marking these moments in a scene creates a structure strong enough to allow the actors to test its physical life in a space. This doesn’t mean that we are ‘blocking’ the scenes yet, though. Ben’s work with the actors is still very much about finding the core emotions and reality of the play; what is actually going on between these people?
This has also been evident in the continued improvisation work. The eight actors are going to be on stage for the majority of the play, not just coming on to do ‘their scenes’. The improvisations therefore help to build the personalities of these characters and the things they might be doing. There was an awareness this week of making sure that these improvisations remained alive and fresh. You can tell when something has died; when an action has lost its originality. The actors are encouraged to find new things and so, for instance, instead of a character running on with a bag full of beers that he’s nicked (which was exciting last week), the actor gets another character to be chased on with him, and then announces that he was only joking about them being pursued. We still have the energy of the rush into the space, but we now also get the embarrassment of the other character realizing it was a practical joke. The aim is to not be generic and keep actions accurate, insightful and truthful.
On Friday, there was a clear acceleration in the work as we prepared for the remaining weeks of rehearsal at West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. Ben began putting a shape to the first five scenes which demanded a very sharp focus from everyone in the rehearsal room. We’ve had so much stimuli to respond to up to this point, so it’s very satisfying to zoom in on one thing at a time.
The whole company leave our final week in London prepared for and excited by the nature of our next phase of rehearsals. Less ‘googling’ and more packing this weekend methinks!