It's Monday morning again. We're in week three all of a sudden.
Now, let it be known that last Monday was a tough one. We all felt it and we all got to the end of it. We'd started on at least five new sections in the last days of week one and unsurprisingly goldfish-worthy displays of memory from us all got everything off to a bit of a flop. Joni our DSM is thankfully a demon with the rehearsal room camcorder, fast filling it up with clips that save our better-toned-than-when-we-started asses a number of times that day. But we were still flagging. We needed an inspired idea to propel us back towards creative productivity. Those were desperate times so it had to be our best idea yet....
So far we've been working on simple tasks which are gradually built up and developed into more complicated sections. These sections are given a name. Then we can talk about what we are doing coherently (as is ever the challenge) and as the show develops there's a set or tracklisting for everyone to work with. The structure and rhythm of the show can be laid out, tweaked and put into action with the creative and technical teams.
Good news. Steven's just come up with the idea we need. It's to be our first scene involving props. It's called Sugar. I really did astound myself that day with how quickly I developed a stealth-like diligence in looking after the props involved in Sugar. Let's just call it another string to my associate director's bow. I make a pledge with myself “I will always make sure the props for Sugar are very safe and right where I can get to them first and quickly.” I'm keeping a close eye on them as Steven's talking to the cast “Guys, everyone's doing great. It's going to get harder though so we need to try and keep up energy levels and make sure we're switched on as much as possible”.
Go. Bring on rows upon rows of isotonic wonder drinks dressed in bright colours. Cue surge of entire ensemble towards the boxes upon boxes of granola bars stacked up next to me. (Nature Valley, could we possibly encourage you to sponsor?) It works. Sorted.
We started to split the room up a lot more in the afternoons last week so there's often many seemingly incongruous things happening at the same time. Even if the actors aren't involved with one of the new tasks happening, everyone now has lots to practice, work on and new text to learn. Even I do some work from time to time in between my Sugar prop stock control duties
Another new thing into the mix – the cast had their costume fittings last week. Sian our costume designer is without doubt the grooviest lady in Wales. She nonchalantly styles out the golfing brogues and casually references Alexander McQueen. I have no doubt she will be making all our little dogs look the dogs-you-know-whats.
The warm ups in week two include more strength exercises focusing on different muscle groups each day, more yoga and pilates-based work, more cardio (rounding off with circuit training Friday, ouch) and more daily stretching. But we also start to introduce other things like release and floor work. The daily warm up lasts an hour and gives the chance to work on lots of different aspects of physical work like co-ordination, moving to counts, falling, using the body economically and dynamically through space, etc. This focus on training can extend into the day too - we have a contact improvisation session one day dedicated to experimentation so the pressure is not always on our cast to create all the time. The preparation feeds well into creating some duets later on in the day. We also do a fair amount of massage. This proved particularly popular at the tail end of last week when everyone was over the Sugar thing and back to the less sweet familiarity of tired muscles.
After lunch on Friday, the cast are told The Plan. We're going to stagger through an initial structure for the show based on what we have so far. Scott and Steven thank the cast for their trust and commitment to the process to get to this point. “This'll be a mess, it'll be terrible.” Reassured, everyone gets into opening positions. The sweat cloud subsides giving way to palpable anticipation as we begin piecing things together. A lot of the text is written by the cast themselves and some of it is being shared in front of everyone else for the very first time. You can hear a pin drop as everyone listens in. Scott jumps up regularly to talk through what may or may not happen at this or that point and as we get to the end, Steven talks everyone through the idea for the final sequence which we'll start to work on when we get into the space. Everyone visibly relaxes, letting out a deep breath. “Oh yeah guys we really do need to keep remembering to breathe during all that. It'll probably make it easier”. There is still so much to do but we can all feel we're starting to get somewhere. The way this process is unfolding is engendering some remarkable trust in the room. And some kick ass attitude and confidence in all the right places. End of week two and it's knee pads off and up to the pub.
But back to this week. I really shouldn't be avoiding the reality that it is already week three. The ensemble has been completed today as our final cast member has joined us in rehearsals. We'll be moving down another new road to start exploring the ideas concerning generations, time and experience. I'm interested to see what new material will be thrown up and also what light will be shed on what we have so far. How it will challenge and illuminate the work of the last two weeks.
Talking of illumination, our lighting designer Andy has joined us now, shortly to be followed by Carolyn who is designing sound. They've got a healthier challenge than our daily warm ups on this show as it's not happening in a theatre. The Patti Pavilion has to be rigged up from scratch for light and sound and to work with Tim's set. It's all being fitted up as I type. The chandeliers have now been taken out for us (this should give you a clue on the scale of things) and we'll be moving the cast into the transformed Patti on Wednesday. I'll report back then on how we're all getting on.