So Friday brought about another day of physical realisation, having worked hard all week and Felt the burn and the pain and cramps setting in in the evenings, the body was getting used the the demands being put upon it. Now it was the turn of the mind. We worked very quickly with Simon this morning and having seen BeautfulBurnout, watched it in parts and even broken down some of the movement with Scott earlier on through the week and looked at how they tackled the process of creating the physicality of the boxer it was our turn to put that into some choreography. We worked swiftly following the routine that Simon had put together, using the music, starting and a reasonable bpm while just linking each move together and then bringing the speed up.
It I was tough, programming the mind, working at such speed. In essence however we as a group worked impressively hard. I don’t think this would have been achievable in twice the time, if we had tackled this say at the beginning of the week. Had there been a moment where Simon had decided to do this with us early on even to give us an idea of where they were coming from and what you might expect from a piece of frantic choreography, I think the engagement part would have been lost on us. We may have got up to speed, we may have committed to the idea, maybe. However I think it is important to recognise that as group we had now got behind the process and ideas of where movement can start.
I still made mistakes and I had to check myself with what came next, this was the mind that needed more training, I know if we had spent another 10/20 minutes then I would have nailed it completely and the group would have had the complete unison that we were looking for. What was important in this was how quickly and succinctly we were able to work with the movement. It wasn’t just a dance routine.
Simon Stephens was our guest speaker and it was interesting to get his perspective as a writer from a collaborative point of view. He spoke about how the position of the writer can be problematic when he is in the room with the actors. It can cause a paralysis that means the actors are unable to interrogate and investigate the text. Which is a key part when working collaboratively.
It was very interesting to see how he, even as successful as he maybe has doubts and has to try things out. He clearly defined the essential tool with any partnerships when working together was trust. I got from this that it was vital ingredient and certainly worked in two ways. The idea of the playwright handing his work over to the actors and directors etc and they in turn listening to each other and how they approach the work.simon really went a length not to describe himself as writer but a wright, like a shipwrights, some one of craft who builds something. He just happens to use words but he embarks on something that is solid and needs trying out. A ship has to have voyage I suppose and there needs to a moment to see if she is seaworthy and not sink to use that analogy further.
There always has to be a spark, this can be an idea from a director and taking to a playwright or vice versa. What was apparent and at the essential heart of beginning work was how much of the self is invested. There needs to be a question asked of what ever topic is the starting point. The offer and the response to use some of the frantic vocabulary: what frightens me? What gives me hope? What makes me angry? What makes me feel shame?
To create interesting characters, those with empathy or those who can’t empathise for example.
Another thing that stood out to me was that outward eye, that even a writer who has set out with these ideas and characters in place and can create or write about a situation, to give Simons example a story he thought was about a young girls yearning to leave home and that had a euphoric sense of adventure to him, when he came to a read through with the director, she pointed out to him that he mentions the word death 53 times and so the director has a completely different perspective. So in terms of how they approach this could be completely different and that it was good for that other eye to challenge what is written and find the space to show the things that are not being spoken and told to the audience but to look for the subversive ideas that breathe life into the characters..
Over the weekend I got a chance to practise on my youth theatre some of the tools that we had been looking at. It is something we have looked at before and it was really good to come back to this week as last week we had started to play around with an improvisation set in a cafe. I had given them number and asked them to play status rather than situation. It all a bit chaotic at points but interesting to see how they used their status when I imposed a situation on them. It was busy with people speaking and getting ‘coffee’from the harassed waiters behind the counter, there was no attempt at real relationships or conversation. We spotlighted a few moment and tried to give them the opportunity to have the lens on them and then see what happened when they we no longer in focus. We played at it for over 30 minutes and it was good fun but certainly nothing but really substantial came from it in terms of story or characters. This week I revisited it after explaining to them the principals of two of the devising blocks, hymn hands and round,by,through. They were given a fair amount of time to get them to memory and then we watched them back playing around with the focus and the speed of each one.
They made really lovely observations of the work when performed for each other. They saw a narrative in the movement despite the fact that they were told not to play any narrative. It came from the music and the outside direction that was added to the movement, they could see the events and ideas and relationships forming. They struggled when first asked to look at them straight and then see what was added by a change in music or speed or focus. It was one of my youngest members that was the first to engage with what was his interpretation from the moves and my assistant commented on that it was some of the most interesting work they had done. She had never seen them so focused. The music really helped too. Having found my old iPod I put it to good use, it was something I used to do and use all the time but had gotten lazy within the rehearsals space unless we were using a particular song or sound for rehearsals but it made such a difference to the way, whether they were aware of it or not of how they engaged with the tasks…