Didn’t we do well - it was an entire week before everyone’s true colours were revealed. A deep conversation over a cuppa? A probing exploration of character provocation? Or a harrowing game of ‘four square’? If you’ve managed to make it to this blog post without discovering the intricacies of this ‘game’, i’ll spare you the grisly details and merely state that there’s nothing like a bit of healthy competition for certain people to throw caution to politeness and bend the rulebook for their own gratification. Sore loser? Quiet you… Yes, the week kicked off with the introduction of a new warm-up game and further continuation in exploring the scenes; reading each section aloud, discussing the characters wants or objectives, then trying out our ideas. At the close of Monday’s rehearsal the entire cast sat down with director Liz to unearth the homework set to us last week - character biographies and three adjectives to describe our characters’ flaws and virtues. Each actor went about this in different ways; using a combination of facts from the text and imagined circumstances - some of us had compiled a checklist of characteristics, whilst others had written first-hand accounts or diaries of their character’s life experiences. It was interesting to see similarities between characters, like Jay and Len - and even to learn of shared imagined experiences; Sarah and I had separately decided our characters had enjoyed family trips to Blackpool (I do like those doughnuts…) We then returned to our timeline, which Liz had assembled on a more legible sheet of paper (although I had so enjoyed our floor jigsaw) and plotted key dates against events of the play, to provide a clearer sense of the passage of time between scenes - especially important now that we’re doing that walking and talking thing (some call it acting… not I)!
Tuesday saw proceedings kick off with costume fittings helmed by designer Katie; she arrived armed with a boot-load of clothes, comprising of different variations of what our characters could possibly wear. We each donned one manifestation of our character’s costume (as there were plenty of options to mix and match from), before lining up like dapper penguins. This arguably is the best part of the job and to be honest why I got into this business of ‘show’ - to play dress up! (Although Sarah contests that she’s only in this game for the personal shopping element Katie provided…) After a few tweaks (namely me conjuring an ungodly sweat as i rotated a carousel of jumpers) - it seems we have a wonderful base to be working from. The narrative of our story is non-linear and jumps about in time, which presents certain challenges; as we’re following Lisa’s journey - her imagination and memories - her clothing will stay the same throughout (my jacket is sourced from the market naturally), but Sarah’s costume needs a lot of consideration as her character goes through many life changes that need to be suitably reflected or at least hinted at in the clothing design. After all that, it was time for - you guessed it! A tea break! Once we were suitably sated, the rest of the day was spent exploring the remaining scenes within the play; reading and then discussing before finally bringing the scenes into action… having a ‘play’ (calling a show a ‘muckabout’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it)!
Wednesday was our mammoth 12-hour day… no room for a mid-week hump here (and its hard to find a camel in Chorley)! Whilst the rest of the cast got their beauty sleep - Liz, writer Becky and I spent the first couple of hours exploring Lisa’s journey throughout the play. The audience are invited on a journey with Lisa whilst she tries to resolve a particular dilemma - so there’s lots of moments in the play whereby she directly seeks the audience’s advice. We wanted to discover within each of these moments what question she wants them to answer… why is she speaking and how does articulating these thoughts aloud change her? There are two possible solutions to Lisa’s plight and we plotted how each scene in the play sways her more towards either answer. We laid out the scene titles on the floor and placed them on a ‘resolution scale’ - with one decision at the top, whilst the other option was at the bottom - so that we could physically see her emotional journey and discover what her decision is at the end of the play. My blood sugar had definitely plummeted by this point, so I recovered myself with some biscuits and a sit down, before the rest of the cast joined our ranks. With the promise of lunch looming, we ploughed into a full run-through of the play, with suggested music elements from sound designer Rick. This highlighted our characters’ journeys, possible transitions and leaps not only in time but also in character age.
After a hearty lunch at Gjuro’s, we returned refreshed to play ball games! I mean… work very, very hard and conscientiously… Through a process of devising (essentially flying by the seat of your pants and making it up as you go along), we spent some time exploring ‘pop-up characters’; these are moments within the play, whereby a character appears but what they say isn’t necessarily scripted. Liz and Becky gave us certain constraints or ‘rules’ to work with - an age or situation, an item this character had purchased from the market and something they wanted from the audience. This was by far my favourite moment of the day - as I sat back and played the part of the audience for a change! As evening fell, we welcomed back our supporting cast and proceeded to work through the play, as there won’t be many more opportunities for them to practise before we begin public performances! We continued to incorporate the pieces they had been working on, trying them out at different moments in the play to see which worked - before they too, got to play dress up!
My head hit the pillow and bounced into Thursday with all the finesse of a jelly-laced dolphin on a trampette; we returned to the beginning of the play to work on scenes in more detail - adding more layers and digging deeper into the complexities of our characters and the situations in which they find themselves. Utilising the music Rick has been working on, we also began to explore how Lisa transitions between ‘worlds’ - the moments of direct audience address and the reality of scenes from her memory. We came across a few different options and as we continued exploring scenes on Friday, we began to develop a ‘language’ - a device to create a framework to join together these different theatrical styles. What better way to end the week than by gorging on robust pizzas, refreshing beverages and dare I say it… even a bit of dancing at Speakeasy for the Crowdfunding party - a celebration to thank everyone who supported the Kickstarter Campaign. My homework for the weekend? Sourcing an industrial-sized bottle of Gaviscon…