Monday 22nd November (Morning Session)
Shristy Das Roy
Today I got to see the montage sequence of Orlando and Marmaduke’s first day together. Happily, this left me in a fit of laughter! (Spoiler alert: There are floating ducks, a coconut shy, and a tiger called Bernard!)
Gareth led a discussion about where we were up to in the process, and the work that was left to do during our final week of rehearsals. He spoke about the need to rekindle the joy and the sense of play between one another that seems to have got lost a little whilst we had spent time focussing on the huge logistics of the play. Over the next week we’d spend time getting back to a place where we felt empowered to make bold and playful offers to each other, and respond to those offers in the moment.
This reminded me of our first week of rehearsals when none of us was trying to act; we were merely playing with each other and having much fun doing so. I think over the past week I’ve been so caught up in my own head trying to act it right that I was not responding to the offers being made to me. Instead, I was focusing solely on remembering my lines.
Monday 22nd November (Afternoon Session)
Monday afternoon was rather a treat as far as our rehearsals go! We were called in for four o’clock – I know what you’re thinking: “slackers!” – but this was to continue working on the creation of the long-awaited ‘montage scene’! We began with the usual warm-ups, Chaos Tag and Quad. The theatre is much colder than the studio, especially at this time of the year. So when we arrive, we’re always extra specially unmotivated to get going! And so warm-ups are even more important than usual.
Once we’re sweating and ready to go, we listen to the music that the montage is going to be set to. Once we have an idea as to the layout of the music, we start gathering more ideas as to what one would find in a fairground. We start out by creating tableaux in three groups of three, competing to see who could make the best version of particular fairground rides, i.e. a merry-go-round, a house of mirrors, hook-a-duck, a haunted house, candyfloss etc. And our DSMs judged the competition… Much to my dismay, my group came second… *insert teary eyes*.
Once we had come up with some utterly fantastic ideas, we put them together as a whole group. After an hour or so of hysterical laughter and clumsiness, we had managed to create the basis for our montage! We then put it to the music and began to work out the timing of it all. And my goodness, is it a barrel of laughs… I’m not going to go into too much detail, because that would spoil the surprise, but let’s just say, there is a cuddly tiger involved, and I was, and am still, heartbroken that I am not the one that gets to play with him on stage. I feel it was my calling, but it seems, I was not worthy of such a job… *insert more teary eyes* (what can I say? It’s been an emotional week for us all…) I just have to get my cuddly tiger fix offstage. There has been many a cuddle.
Either way, this montage is probably one of the best montages to have ever hit the Birmingham DTA… Watch out West End. Us and our plastic ducks are coming for ya’!
Wednesday 23rd November
Satya Baskaran Iyer
Today we got the opportunity to run the show in front of an audience – again! Having spent the past week working out some more kinks in rehearsal as well as fully creating the montage of Orlando and Marmaduke’s first day together, we were ready to show off a more polished version of our masterpiece!
This time, both the first and second year students working on the production would be watching. However, this was not the biggest addition to today’s run – we had lighting! This changed the dynamic of the space to an incredible degree. It meant that we were on a different level of performance, as opposed to just doing a cold run, in plain clothes, in front of some students. Certainly to me, it was a huge change in pace, and allowed me to make far bolder offers than before, since I felt much closer to a show-night context.
This was followed by a very helpful and eye-opening notes session with Gareth and Phil, which was a good reminder not to drop the ball at this stage, to make sure we made the boldest offers we could and to remember our job to be engaging and exciting story-tellers.
With production week only days away, now is the time to get your tickets booked and build up your excitement for a show that will be a great evening’s entertainment!
Thursday 24th November (Afternoon Session)
How do you eat an elephant? You start with the tail!
After being given the luxury of rehearsing in George Cadbury Hall with the set, boxes and props, we have returned to the studio space for the last few days before production week. I was expecting this to be a bit of a pain, going back into a smaller space without any of the real set to work with. However, it turned out to be a very exciting and lively session.
Gareth asked us to run the first half of the play, but without any of the original staging, props, shelving or anything logistical. Just three smaller boxes and a circle of chairs, to be used if we so wished. This suddenly gave us the complete freedom to explore the play in entirely new ways, making fresh and genuine offers to each other which would never otherwise be discovered. Once liberated from all the logistics, some truly golden moments were discovered which have added more texture and depth to each moment.
This session really highlighted to me how no line in the play is written without a purpose. Every word is intentional. The daunting part of this is realising how big and epic this play is – it is easy to become scared and to switch to auto pilot, thus making the play very bland and generalised. But actually, when only paying complete attention to each moment as it happens, it’s no longer scary but enjoyable throughout to play with and explore. Problems arise when looking at the elephant as a whole and thinking, “How on earth am I going to eat that thing?” Start with the tail; take each little moment at a time with energy and purpose, and the rest looks after itself.
Thursday 24th November (Evening Session)
And so we continued trying to eat the elephant. By this point we were all in the full swing of bringing every line to life, and it was already proving successful in being much more enjoyable. This was because we were all focused on each line as it came, making it seem like we were really saying and reacting to everything for the first time, thus making it increasingly textured and three-dimensional.
The best part for me would be finding new offers to make with each line, for example, putting emphasis on a different word in each sentence to do so. I did this on my Biographer line “he wanted to match the shade of green precisely” (the italics being my original emphasis) – this I changed to “he wanted to match the shade of green precisely”. This broke the mould of familiarity and I was able to explore more possibilities of how to perform certain bits such as this. Some were successful; some not so much. Either way, it has opened my eyes to the option of performing it differently each time so that I don’t get stuck in a boring rut and I keep making interesting offers to the others to enhance both my own and their performances.
As with every late night Thursday, we were all battling the urge to snooze in between lines as the evening progressed; however, the task of eating the elephant kept us more lively than usual and we managed to whizz through the second half of the play and were rewarded with a well-earned early night!
Friday 25th November (Afternoon Session)
Friday afternoon’s session marked the end of Week 4! This afternoon we traded Gareth (who was next door in the lighting plot) for Phil, which in itself was sure to shake up rehearsals. After a quick round of Quad, and demonstrating the now infamous game of My Love, Your Love to Phil (who wanted to see the hilarity for himself), it was time to get down to work.
This afternoon, we really focused on the pace of the show. To start things off, Phil led us in a speed run. The aim of this exercise was to see how quickly we could say our lines, whilst ensuring that intention and articulation remained clear. This was both fun and a bit of a challenge for me – I naturally speak about a ‘million miles a minute’ as my family like to remind me, but I am also a champion mumbler, so the articulation was something I really had to focus on! We did this exercise for the opening of both halves of the show, and then it was time to move on to the pace.
The focus of the pace run was picking up cues, and making sure that we did not drop the ball in any of the scenes, so that the audience would remain engaged in the action at all times. This, paired with the exercise of offers that we worked on in yesterday’s rehearsals, really meant that we had to focus and keep our energy up so that no line was thrown away or cues missed. We did this all stood in a circle looking at each other, with Phil sat on a chair as our representational audience member. If he felt bored, he would start to stand up, and our challenge was to ensure that he remained glued to his chair by making what we were saying as entertaining as possible. I found this to be really helpful, as it drove the offers and focus even more. It also highlighted to me the moments that I need to work on, in order to make them as engaging as possible. As a team we really appreciated today’s rehearsal as an exercise in making the show as entertaining as we can – plus the extra confidence gained by doing the line run didn’t go unnoticed! Then, after a promise to look after ourselves and get lots of rest, it was time to break for the weekend.
It’s hard to believe how quickly the time has gone, and I for one am going to be incredibly sad when the production comes to an end – and considering how many times I’ve cried at the closing moments in rehearsal so far, I don’t want to think what I’m going to be like when it’s all over! Now to see what challenges and fun production week brings…