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Show must go on Day 34 stuff

March 22, 2010

Thrice last week, I stood in the yard of  Southwark Cathedral telling groups of children from three local schools how they’d be performing in there, playing Cromwell’s soldiers and angels and stuff, and how William Shakespeare’s brother is buried there, buried in the morning because they had a show in the afternoon. “And the show?”  “Must go on”…

Today more stuff out of left field to keep your producer from thinking he might for one moment relax. No, you don’t need to know about stuff like that. Nothing malicious – just people not stopping to think about how overstretched we are already and making demands of us that they haven’t really thought through.

The Monday community cast rehearsal was harder work than on previous weeks. I wasn’t the only one who came in looking a bit beat. Director sarah wasn’t in today and her absence was felt. Even so, Pat got us off to a flying start with an aerobic work-out!

Then Ollie got the male Tunnellers and female Devils (apart from Dom) into two groups moving around the room whilst each staying closely connected with their own group. Fascinating: the Devils were cat and bee-swarm like, playful, curious, predatory, daring; the Tunnellers initial macho swagger rapidly modulated into something more subtle, more tremulous and vulnerable.

Pat and I went next door to work with the Tunnellers. I told them to punctuate their chant with a freeze at the end of a verse or a completed action. Otherwise everything tends to run into everything else.

There was a spell when all the Tunnellers started asking very technical questions and even making directorial suggestions. I sought to focus them on the task at hand, reminding them that until they had mastery of their own song and dance routine they didn’t need to worry too much about the bigger picture. When Andy starting asking about what was happening with the cart, I grinned and said: ‘The cart knows what it’s doing! It’s the Tunnellers we have to work on.’ By the end of the session they had made some real progress, working much more in unison.

Having rejoined the other group, we worked once again on setting the opening, the entrances and exits and the singing of The Ballad. A lot of it is asking people to remember where they come in and go out – and reminding them that, even when they think they’re offstage, they’re not.

The feedback at the end was quite telling, reflecting a new realism and getting to grips with the task at hand.

The topic was: ‘One thing I’ve learned so far.’

‘That I quite enjoy acting!’
‘Use of quieter levels.’
‘It’s a lot harder than you think.’
‘Learned some history of Southwark.’
‘To relax into new things…’
‘Learned to forget personal space and get cosy.’
‘Acting is actually work!’
‘Trust your instincts and you’ll get there.’
‘It’s great to be brave and come out of the woodwork.’
‘Work with the rhythm, work with the rhythm, work with the rhythm…’

‘There should be only one director.’  (Leslie)

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