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I Have Never...

Thursday, March 03, 2005

5th Rehearsal Proper 2/3/05

This evening was a toughie. I left it the most exhausted I'd been on the show so far.

It started fine. I knew who was due to come, I'd been able to direct everyone to the right rehearsal room beforehand so we didn't have to traipse down to the Mill first. Back in the Small Hall, this time the space was empty of notice boards, so there was a vast area to play with. We even had security open up on time! What could possibly go wrong?

I'd given Duncan and Carl a lift. Emily was waiting for us outside the hall. Nicki and Chris arrived shortly after. I decided that while we were expecting others to arrive, we'd start a game - a derivation of 'Keeper of the Keys' that Iain plays a lot.

Chris sat cross legged in the centre of the room. I placed my key chain in front of him. The other four took up a position in each corner of the space (Anne joined us shortly after, and just started from the middle of a wall). Chris closed his eyes. I pointed at someone, and they had to approach Chris and try to grab the keys. If he pointed at them, they had to return to the starting point, until they were next gestured to approach by me.

This kept people occupied for quite a while. Emily, after about 15-20 minutes grasped the keys. She took Chris' position. People started to work as a team, approaching simultaneously and coordinating their footsteps so that if one got pointed at, the other was much closer than they would otherwise have been able to get. Chris hatched a plan of making a loud noise, and then moving away from it quickly. No-one chose to run. Everyone moved very slowly.

Emma arrived. Cat arrived. Raf & Sidrah showed. We went to work on the 'dance' scene, even though Amanda (who's section it was) had yet to arrive. I played the song that we were looking to use (The Dears) in, and people paired up. Carl and Emma got involved. Cat was responsible for the tape recorder.

It was remarkable how people had come on in leaps and bounds since the dance workshop with Jo. This was a different level of performance compared to the first faltering footsteps that had been taken a couple of weeks ago. Granted, it was based in Salsa rather than ballroom, but hey, them's the breaks. I was fascinated by the different levels of chemistry between different pairs (we swapped and changed extensively). Equally, we were still nowhere near polished. I quite liked the fact, that there were occasional errors, though. It served the metaphor of 'the first flush of love' well - people still finding their footing, occasionally making errors, but being able to laugh about it. 5 times around the song, and we'd added various things:-

a) People would regularly change partners, and it fitted to points when the song lulled.
b) At the start, during the chorus there is an interchange of male and female lyrics, along the lines of...
FEMALE VOICE:- 'I can't believe the lies you say'
MALE VOICE:- 'I can't believe the lies you say'
BOTH:- 'Tell me, Tell me, Tell me the lies.'
I got the dancers to voice these lyrics. Where for the most of the song I wanted them to maintain eye contact, at this point, I wanted them to break that and look towards the audience alternately before looking at each other for the final line.
c) Towards the end of the song there is a long instrumental section. With their final partner, words were dispensed with. The dancers were to get closer, more intimate, as if they had discovered 'the one'...

I was chuffed. This section was truly progressing.

I decided I'd play the next section after the dance to them on tape. This was Duncan's monologues, first on flying and then swimming with sharks. He had his head in his hands for a while, rather embarrassed, but he laughed it off. The others found it hilarious. Carl mentioned that it sounded a bit like Eddie Izzard - the sort of stream-of-conciousness comedy he is expert at.

Then, it was onto Sidrah's scene. Once again we listened to the story. The cinema assault. I stopped the tape, and asked what characters we needed to represent. We came up with the following list, and who would play them:-

Sidrah - Chris
Sidrah's sister - Sidrah
Sidrah's friend - Emily
Chav mum - Anne
Chav mum's kids - Nicki + Me, Carl or Emma(dependent on the run)
Couple on back row of cinema - Raf & Amanda
Usher - Duncan

So far so good. Chris could pull of the innocence that was depicted in the story, and Sidrah's eyes lit up when I asked her to play her sister. This intrigued me. Was it because part of her wished she'd responded as her sister had in the real event? Still, I was pleased because she was happy with the representation of the story. As a tale of racist abuse, I felt it essential that it came from her, and no/minimal external force was brought to bear on it.

This was where I hit a glitch. My production team (Carl, Emma & Cat) disagreed. We ran the scene a couple of times. I felt we were coming up with some really interesting touches. The couple getting annoyed and complaining to the usher - this being initiated by the female partner, but the male partner having to go and make the complaint. Carl, Emma and Nicki appearing to have great fun pretending to be raucous kids (I enjoyed it, too - nothing like a bit of regression).

Carl & Emma disappeared outside. I continued with the cast. It became clear C&E wanted to chat. We agreed to let the cast take a break next door in the Biko bar. I was tense and worried. Surely the cast would perceive this disagreement. One thing about a cast's confidence is that it is fragile at the best of time. Here they were being sent randomly for a break at short notice. It was clear that the discussion wasn't going to wait, but I had to minimise it's effect on the cast by minimising it's time length.

I expect that this came across as me being bloody minded. I took the position that we had run the scene a couple of times and an abrupt change at this point would throw the cast off balance. I wished that the discussion had been saved until after the rehearsal.

My understanding from Carl was that he wasn't 'feeling' the scene. It didn't work for him. Representing the cinema was spoon feeding the audience something that they were already being told over the tape.

My understanding of Emma and Cat's argument was that the cast were not taking the dilemma that Sidrah found herself in seriously enough. This was a 'racial attack', and as such should be dealt with solemnly.

If my interpretation of these positions was wrong, then I expect this post may have some heated comments attached to it in due course...

I don't think I put my point across very well. I tend not to when I'm pinned into a corner without warning. I dig my heels in. I said we'd continue with it as it is for now. I considered sending out an email the next day, to get all three to pitch me an alternate synopsis to the scene. (I've not yet done this, but still might)

We brought the cast back in. I could see they were confused. What had just happened? I felt we were not going to make any more jumps tonight. To push on would actually prove destructive rather than constructive. We ran the scene one more time. I tried to consider how we could reduce the 'spoonfed' effect. I talked to Anne and Chris about the serious position in which they found themselves.

We played the actual moment of assault back and forth a few times. This bizarre image of a mother trying to hold her baby while simultaneously punching someone. I got them to freeze mid punch, as the story dictates that they must.

For me, here was a moment where we would wrong foot the audience. The story is told by Sidrah in a jokey way (with a sing song vocal delivery). The sight is odd, some might say laughable. Yet, it is someone being attacked. It is a violent moment.

The audience will have to choose whether to laugh, or be silent.
The audience will have to choose whether this does or doesn't work.
It's a big risk.
It scares me.
I believe theatre should push that envelope.

We wrapped for the night. I was still not done.

I checked with Sidrah to see how she felt. She'd liked the chance to be her sister.

I talked with Chris about his scene, a scene we had not yet done. He'd produced 9 lines of text as asked, each line with an extra word (1,2,3, you get the gist). He even had a picture of the girl who he'd written 'I Love You' in flour for. I hope that, in my exhaustion, I wasn't too dismissive.

I talked with Raf. He had called me during work that day, to tell me that his story had had an extra twist of the knife just that day. The girl he'd broken up with was now, only two months later, engaged to be married. I was aware that I would have to treat his story with even more reverence. We'd chatted about how he'd found improvising in French difficult last time we ran the scene. During the day, I'd come up with a new idea. We would still have the three tableaus we'd developed. However, rather than him talking over it in French, his tape recording would play in. He'd sit on stage and write a letter in French, imagining it was to his ex. He'd fold the letter, put it in an envelope, address the envelope (Tu?) and present it to someone in the audience. I think he felt more comfortable with this.

We left the space. Popped into the Biko. I checked a couple of production issues with Emma (posters/flyers etc.). I drove home, dropped off Duncan, then got into a long discussion with Carl.

We sat outside his house, in the car, for about an hour (that's what it felt like). The talk ranged over many things:-

The nature of assault.
Is one kind of assault (racially motivated) any worse than another (fat motivated/glasses motivated/outsider motivated)?
If there is a 'league table' (which I disagreed with) then how can define it?
How can anyone who hasn't experienced assault comment on it?
How could he claim that my weight gain was my fault? (OK, part of me agrees with him, here)
He wanted to know 'What concerns did I have about the show'?
He felt I evaded the question. I told him my greatest concern so far had been this evening's uprising.
He said I was still evading the question.

In the cold light of day, still troubled by last night, I ask myself 'Did he really want me to give him an answer?'
Let's suppose I'd said 'Yes, I don't think we've got enough time to put the show together.'
or 'Yes, I don't think that scene works at all. We haven't got time to change it, though.'
or 'I'm scared that it's all falling apart.'

Would he have been comforted by this? Would he have found the support which he craves?

Tindersticks 'The not knowing is easy, the uncertainty's OK. Just don't tell me, my darling, that your love's gone away.'

I still love. Blindly?

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