| Rehearsing The Bacchae @ Jayne West, 2012 |
It's been an exhilarating six weeks. Actually, no, it all started with that first audition three months ago. Then came a recall, and the news I'd got the parts, a week later. There was another meeting, with the composer; a photoshoot session (for press and media shots) and the first day of rehearsals six weeks ago. And last friday's run of The Bacchae made it suddenly real...
Until then, it had felt like a dream to me. From day one I was struck by the precision of our director's (Laurie Samsom) organisation. Our calls have been scheduled a week, sometimes two weeks, in advance and he has rarely had to change them. Every day starts with an hour of physical work led by movement director Neil Bettles. Then you either work a scene with Laurie, a movement routine with Neil (there's plenty of them) or you find a space in the theatre and work on your own. The theatre is a public building, yet it's so spacious you can always find a private space to learn lines and not look like you've been possessed.
There's a food and drink bar so you could even spend the whole day in there, which I have done quite often, due to the appalling weather. I could count on one hand the days it hasn't rained since I've come to Northampton. In fact, I'm yet to discover the wonders this midland town has to offer... It's not actually just because of the weather, let's be honest, this is my first time working on two plays simultaneously, with two substantial parts, so I don't have like an established method of working different parts from different plays at the same time. Is there one anyway? So my free time has gone into exploring Dionysius and Leonardo and their worlds, instead of Northampton and her wonders. In both The Bacchae and Blood Wedding the speech is often stylised and poetic and requires an exceptionally precise diction from the actors. You could argue that actors should always have an exceptionally precise diction but it is more the case with a Greek tragedy (The Bacchae) and a Lorca play (Blood Wedding). And when English isn't your first language, you'd better put in the extra work, so I put in the extra work. And Laurie is quick to tell me when my choice of emphasis is wrong or when a word is not sounding quite right.
I'm thoroughly enjoying the creative process. Laurie is very good at laying out his vision and at the same time giving us space to create. And always we meet somewhere in the middle, where your interpretation ends up being what he probably envisaged and yet you feel total ownership over it (thankfully. Imagine if you didn't?). Often there will be a physical aspect to the scene and that's when Neil comes in. He's in every day and so has seen the scenes develop and know as much as we do about them. Which is key. Because he always has the right exercise to put you in the right place and the right routine to enhance the scene, emotionally and esthetically. In the past I have had experiences where a movement 'pattern' worked against my actual motivation, and have had to adjust to make it work. With Neil, it's never happened. All works, as if by magic.
As a future theatre director I'm learning a lot from Laurie's direction. A good example is the way we are creating the big set ups, like the wedding and the forest in Blood Wedding: Neil takes the reins and directs (sometimes Laurie's not even in). Neil leads us into a movement improvisation and creates routines out of what we came up with (which gives us ownership, again). Neil will then convene with Laurie before tweaking the routine if necessary. Same with the music. The composer (Dougal Irvine) comes up with the score or the song (that he created without actors - let's not push this ownership thing too much), layers it on top and within the scene; convenes with Laurie before tweaking if necessary. In other words, every creative is given, well, creative space.
Last Friday was when everything came together when we did a run of The Bacchae. We, actors, saw scenes we hadn't seen. We saw how all the scenes fitted together. I had my first taste of what will be my performance mode for The Bacchae: I have this long between this and that scene, I'll have to change into another costume now, I'm exiting that way and directly re-entering this way - will I make it? etc.
Suddenly from the creative bliss I'd been accustomed to, it all became real...