This has been a great week. Getting on our feet has been an opportunity to begin throwing all sorts of ideas around. Greg has been as open and encouraging as always and has demonstrated great diplomacy by using what I think must be his favourite 'get out word' when a terrible idea is offered: 'Or...
we could....(fill in the blank)'.
My two partners in crime, Joe Dixon (Caliban) and Tony Jayawardena (Stephano), have been incredibly inventive. I am not entirely sure that we are supposed to laugh this much in rehearsal.
Having all but retired from theatre four years ago after nearly 12 years of back to back stage work, I am having to gently reintegrate back into the culture. I have done three TV series in the last two years and am not used to the collaborative element that theatre affords. There was a time when I lived and breathed it and now find myself whispering to my cast mates "do you think it's OK if I try this?". They look at me slightly dumbfounded, probably thinking 'just get on with it, you idiot'.
The scenes are coming together very nicely. The round the table work that we did for the first two weeks has really done it's job. We are standing on a bedrock of knowledge about the plot and relationships that allows us to play more freely.
One of the trickiest bits for our little trio of characters (Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo ) is the sequence with the Gabardine (kind of a cloak), where Caliban hides and we get wrapped up in it. It's a fairly well known physical sequence but presents all sorts of issues with logic as you negotiate three people either not hearing each other or suddenly becoming aware of someone who has blatantly been there all along. These are some of my favourite parts of rehearsal because it presents a problem to solve and that's often where the joy is for us.
We have tried various approaches to the scene so far, from the acrobatic to the incredibly simple. We have to remember of course that we have to do this 8 times a week for two months in Stratford. We can't settle into anything that will put undue strain on our bodies, it will be unsustainable (at 38, I'm not able to fling myself around like I used to).
We are not yet decided on how it will go but have some very promising variations. I have to say, one of my major reasons for wanting drama to stay on the curriculum is because nothing develops your communication and negotiation skills like devising a piece of theatre. You truly learn the art of diplomacy as you let go of your own ideas and follow another's lead. I have seen this countless times with young people in workshops, It's beautiful to watch.
We are passing other cast members in the corridors as we enter and exit the rehearsal room, never quite sure of what is happening in each others scenes yet which is really nice. It means you are part of something that will keep offering surprises.
The biggest surprise is the technology which is still a fairly hush-hush element of our show. We have had a short demonstration where Mark Quartley (a FANTASTIC Ariel) has donned the motion capture suit and we watched his 'Avatar' on a screen being puppeteered by him. Apart from that we have seen nothing and keep reminding ourselves of what will be happening above and around us in the actual performance. It's a bit like being in Star Wars, acting with characters and creatures who aren't actually there.
All in all, this is a treasure trove of exciting performances and visual technology. There will be something for everyone and most importantly, it is being underpinned with solid exploration of the text being played by some world class artists. We can't wait to have you with us!