Sunday, 14 August 2011

See how the Run, Ran - Week Three

After what seemed like the briefest of blips on the radar, the weekend was over and Monday began. That being said, I managed a recent personal best on Sunday - managing to cram in an epic 4 films into a single sitting... And people think I'm lazy? Sundays are there for rest and it must be said that I am something of a connoisseur in that particular department.

            So, fully refreshed (though my owl eyes are telling a different story) we began our third week of rehearsals in fifth gear, ready and raring to bolt straight on with the remainder of the play. We returned to the 'game and play' style of script reading for the majority - after a couple of days, last week - of wet-cementing the blocking of the first act. As it was the final act of the play in question, I was, enjoyably, used for the large proportion of the day and thrown straight in at the deep end, trying to control a very wily Siobhan as Penelope, with a plastic revolver. 

Our objective: to hide from Arthur's Bishop of Lax and (welcoming him back after a week off) the marvellous Sebastian's Sergeant Major from detecting that anything untoward was afoot. What I was struck with was the unexpected difficulty controlling someone with a firearm. Yes, I was in control and felt it, but at the same time, I felt oddly vulnerable and unsure - ushering Siobhan around the room. It struck me that she was... (and I say this very tentatively) In as powerful a position as I was. The reason for this was that I realised how finite a gun is. There is no grey area. If it is used, someone dies. If it is used, there is the loudest of sounds (drawing attention to those being avoided). If it is used, there is no return. No delete button. No 'undo'. And, I think that Siobhan, as Penelope, knew that too.

Al and Siobhan relax after a scene
            After that - to help me with the isolation that the various characters might have been feeling - Chris got us into a circle and had two people in the middle. This exercise was invented by Anton Chekhov and is quite widely recognised in the theatrical world, but for those of you unfamiliar with his work (in my snobbiest voice), I'll explain;
            The people forming the circle are 'the trees'. If touched by one of the inner members, they have to say, 'trees, trees, trees'. In the centre, one person acts as 'the bat' (blindfolded) and the other, 'the moth'. The bat, can say, 'bat' and, if he does, the moth must respond saying, 'moth'. The bat's objective is to catch the moth. After this exercise, we replaced the standard words, with the words of the play. I'd attempt to explain how we did this, but would confuse myself in doing so.
            In the afternoon, we dealt with the scene in which the Sergeant is trying to determine which 'vicar' is the real vicar. Using a collection of chairs, we had to stand on them to communicate our level of urgency and self-perceived importance to the scene. We then used a 'madness chart' tracking the character's sanity. Before delivering a line, one would have to give a number between 1 and 10, (1 being completely sedate, 10 being totally potty) and deliver said line. Before long, we'd abandoned the parameters of normality and descended into 75's and 80's of lunacy.

David takes control as Clive
            In the evening, David, Rachel and I tested one another on lines. They're pretty much faultless already.
            Tuesday was an early start for me, to walk on and off of a scene. I wasn't needed again till four in the afternoon. Imagine my grumpiness: perhaps a number from our scale?
            When I did return, the team was in a very peculiar mood. Everyone was talking about the London riots and were discussing the prospect of the problems radiating outward toward other towns and cities. I must admit my own concerns over friends that are still in the capital as well as my sister, but, I never cease to be amazed how the theatrical universe continues to turn, sparkle, pulsate and whirl no matter what. I have certainly been in situations before when the immortal phrase, 'The Show must go on' is trumped by reality barging in, but - by and large, it is a staggering achievement of both actors and the audience to continue to offer and enjoy a part of life that is indispensable. 

Theatre can provide, inspire, hide, provoke and shelter. It can give us love, laughter, tears and nursing. At times, it is what makes life worth living. It is the completely useless scrap of paper at the back of a shoebox, offering nothing but the memory of a time gone by - a first date at the cinema, a bill from an unforgettable evening with the family, a drawing from a child - which is, completely useless, but, unequivocally priceless. Precious. Beauty.
            So, we hoisted our proverbial moods and did what we do. We ran the second act and I must say that I was gobsmacked at the insatiable talent that I was surrounded by. With a week to go until opening night, I am very happy with where we are.
            Wednesday is a blur to me. I can neither remember what I did, or what happened in the rehearsal room. Even consulting my notes, Wednesday is not even written down. I have therefore concluded that Wednesday did not happen this week.
            Thursday, I do remember. We delved into act 3 and began to let our 'wet cement' blocking, harden into, well, cement.

           We ironed out the creases that we had previously found and addressed the problems that we didn't have time to sort earlier on. I flailed around my plastic prop revolver and everyone else did their best to look terrified of the strange, gurning, weaselly man before them. Luckily for me, I happen to be working with some of the finest actors about, so they make up for my faults! Unluckily for me, the photographer was in for the day, getting some further shots for the programme (I am un-photogenic at the best of times). In the end, we wrestled our way through the act a further two times and wound up the day feeling thoroughly chuffed with our work.
            After we left rehearsals we (predictably) went to the pub and enjoyed a wind-down drink. Midway through conversation, we spied from the window, the pup-idol hopefuls making their way into the studio. One by one, they went in and gave their best audition. I am pleased to announce that our scurrilous panel have come to an agreement and now HAVE our first four-legged friend of the tour. I'll get a picture to promote the pooch in next week's tech where she'll be put through her paces with the cast. But in the meantime, a huge congratulations to Martha and 'Hazel', from us all and we look forward to having you with us.
            On another 'shout-out', I've promised to mention our very own Rachel Donovan's beautiful mother, who has been following the blog since it began and "can't wait" to see the shows. We look forward to having you with us, Lorraine and get to see your amazing daughter in action!

'Coffee Break'
            Thursday was another tough day with lots of productivity on display. We went back to Act 2 and rechecked our work previously done and continued in the same vain with Act 3. Alison, our fight director was with us too, adding to her brilliant choreography and analysing the moves that she'd given us on her last visit. The 'Private Lives' fight was a highlight, as we all watched David and Siobhan thrash it out with real panache. After the day's rehearsal, we went out for an impromptu meal, making the most of an evening with Lucy (looking great with her new Miss. Skillon hair do I might add) who chose to cancel her normal commute, for a knees-up with the team. Good decision Miss. Speed and we're preparing ourselves for Sid...
            Saturday was a day of reckoning - our first run of the play. We braced ourselves as the technical team arrived. We tightened the cogs of timing that make a farce a farce. 

We began. We came. We saw. We conquered. There were moments of hilarity (intended and not), on one occasion, the phone's receiver was torn accidently from the dock and thrown across the room, but on the whole we were enormously pleased with our joint achievement. We leave the third week in a very good place, with work still to go, but moral very high indeed. After the run, Chris congratulated us all and reiterated his continuous thanks for the hard work done by the entire team. He then implored us to take it easy. "We've got a big week ahead of us. And, as much as I'm sure you all want to go get 'larruped', please REST."...
            Well we didn't get larruped, but did enjoy a bevvy or too. And a curry. And match of the day.
            Norwich drew.
            Another reason to be happy. 

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