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Day 55: balancing : workshop week 2

March 1, 2010

Week 2 of our community cast rehearsals…

here’s what happened at last week’s Welcome! workshop…

This Monday’s group was a bit smaller – though still around 40 all in. There wasn’t quite the same electric buzz of last week’s welcome workshop – much more focused though, and a lot of good work got done amid the play.

Ollie did a fun vocal warm-up, lots of tongue-twisters and scales. Pat, one of our facilitators, Malaysian dancer and Sarah’s student at Central, gave us a lively ‘jazz isolation’ physical warm-up.  Then more walking the walk: mimicking the movements of the person in front of you. The mirror game played in pairs, one reflecting the other. And leading a partner ‘by the nose’ – or at least a string tied to their nose. Great icebreaker – not that much ice needed breaking.

And we were off to a flying start.

The Mary Overie singalong: some debate over  several notes in the tune. We refer to the transcribed sheet music in John Crow’s Wark Book*

a version of The Southwark Mysteries for schools with a centrefold map (‘John’s Crow’s Map of The Liberty) – free copies of which  have been distributed to each member of the community cast as background research material.

Some of the strongest singers in the cast – Pamela, Michelle, Irene, Katie – are encouraged to each lead a group. Five groups of six or seven people, each singing a verse then all joining in on verse six, by which time, it sounded very sweet.

Sarah addressed the circle, talking about the elements of the play, its setting within the surrounding area of Bankside, the medieval Liberty of the Clink on the south bank, the Crossbones Graveyard.

Charlie Folorunsho showed up, and was introduced to everyone as the actor who plays John Crow. He straightaway joined in with everyone, characteristically unassuming.

After the break, we divided into 3 groups. A Sisters of Redcross Group worked to develop the text worked on last week. Each took a line, as before, coming together in strong choral moments: ‘Let them see!’

Ollie did an impro exercise with a group of Devils. They took it in turns to upstage one another, each expressing the physicality of their particular Devil, accompanied by infernal insults.

I worked with the group of Jubilee Line Extension Tunnellers, they who dig up Crossbones Graveyard, inadvertently raising the spirit of The Goose. This is their chant:

TUNNELLERS       O deep in the bowels of Borough mud
We dig and we delve eternally.
By the skin of our teeth, by the sweat of our blood,
To build the Extension to Jubilee.

O the earth is fetid and the air is foul.
We’ll be breaking this rock till Judgement Day.
FOREMAN            Yet you never will see a tunneller scowl.
ALL                          Why should we? We’re all on double pay.

TUNNELLER1       Jesus! This place gives me the creeps.
TUNNELLER2       The workers are getting restless, Boss.
ALL                            They say that the Devil himself here sleeps,
In this unhallowed boneyard down under Redcross.

FOREMAN            Come on you boneheads, just one more bash.
Our backs to the task we must bend us.
Let us pile-drive this pit. One! Two! Three and – crash!

(Trumpet blast)

ALL                       What is it? O, Heaven defend us!

The map rips open. Enter, in infernal procession: a ghastly CHERUB blowing a trumpet; a BAND OF DEVILS playing a danse macabre; the SPIRITS of a medieval BISHOP OF WINCHESTER and The GOOSE, a feisty medieval whore.

Which is how it all begins.

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