The last three weeks have been intense, rehearsing Finger Trigger Bullet Gun and then performing it in London and Birmingham. We are still picking over the results.
As originally conceived, a two week rehearsal period for a 40 minute piece didn’t seem too ambitious and it allowed us to keep within our tight budget. However the idea expanded and bracketing scenes pushed towards doubling the anticipated length. Suddenly the rehearsal timetable was looking very tight.
It was challenging to be staging someone else’s script for the first time (I don’t count The Carrier Frequency). Suddenly cuts and tweaks were not ours to execute with impunity, we had to pass such proposals back to the playwright. It was also challenging to be working with a piece translated from a foreign language, we needed to check original intentions against the translation and check we were delivering what was intended. This was especially demanding given the great density of Nenad’s text.
Time pressure meant that actors were learning lines throughout the rehearsal process. Where normally we would get the show to a good position before anyone attempts to go ‘off book’ here I was juggling giving notes with recognizing the actor’s weren’t necessarily in full control of their lines.
In parallel with line-learning we learning how to wrangle our dominoes. Here Graeme’s great fondness of maps came to the fore. Where I had anticipated the figures in the show performing on a giant domino map of Europe I had also anticipated this map would be fairly abstracted. Graeme’s solution was much stronger. We twisted the dominoes so the fell coloured side down and manipulated the route so that the majority of dominoes fell towards the end-on audience. We learned to double up ‘the spine’ of the topple and minimize the topple’s ambitions in order to guarantee the majority of dominoes would always fall.
We showed a scrappy version of the show to our helpers from Washwood Heath Academy on the Thursday. We showed a dress/tech rehearsal to Nenad who had arrived the previous day from Belgrade.
The show premiered for LIFT at BAC, London on 28th June
100 years since the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Though this performance garnered what we are told is a fantastic review in Serbia’s Politica newspaper more generally we didn’t feel the piece worked particularly well in that context.
Back in Birmingham on Wednesday I was surprised and relieved to discover how much having the piece ‘end on’ helped (in London the audience was on three sides). In London the audience had bought tickets to see a day or weekend of events, in Birmingham the audience had come just for the double bill of us and Out of Balanz and being first on our audience came in fresh. This seemed to help and the cast having had extra time with the text gave them greater assurance. The performances seemed to be received better.
The piece, with its density of language, history, politics and philosophy remainded challenging for some but we have also been getting a lot of great feedback. It is a rare and startling treat to hear a voice from an Eastern European perspective about history we thought we knew and politics we still think we know. The tension and release of the dominoes and their power as a metaphor got a lot of positive comments too.
We’d turned down interest in the show from a Japanese film crew. Nenad appears talking about the show at the end of this article in the LA Times. So it was certainly doing something interesting.
What is the show’s future? Who knows. We staged it as an experiment without any plan other than to do it. We were happy to embrace whatever it turned out to be and hoped we could take our audience with us. Now, if there is demand, we will do it again. If not, then it has been a fun ride. Whatever happens we’ve got an enormous number of dominoes available for toppling parties and charitable enterprises should there be the call for them.