Reading Between The Lines

Christmas is in a week and in another week and a bit rehearsals for Vile Bodies begin, and I’m bricking it because for the first time I’m in charge of a big group of actors leading them through exercises I’ve been coming up with, and Chloe won’t be there until a bit later in the process; so it’s just me.

One of the things about directing, I always notice, is that your life literally becomes obsessed with your project. So over the last few weeks everything I do and see becomes a chance to think of something new for Vile Bodies.

A group of my friends did a very interesting project at Warwick recently; ‘The Ensemble Project’, in which a start-up team plus a group of auditioned actors formed an ensemble who put on three productions of The Lover with three different couples. One of the most interesting things was their focus on free writing, which they described as a process of seeing how people think about different things and using these to see how that translated into characters (I think. Obviously I’m not any of them, and I wasn’t involved so I can’t actually say it’s real purpose but this was the general gist I got.)

This sounded interesting and, obviously, as a partially devised and otherwise student written piece it makes sense to bring in other student’s writing in a way. So as well as exploring how people think in relation to a theme and given the chance to free write, I also want to try a slightly-less-free-write (we’ll think of a better name. Perhaps) in which we look at how characters would free write on key themes.

Going one up on that, one of the things I find most useful as a character is an ability to think as the person you’re playing. As a result, I want to take that free writing and try people listening to a scene and writing how their character is thinking throughout it. For example, take Adam and Nina’s first phone call; what is it Nina thinks whilst she jokes and banters and finally puts the phone down to almost cry at the idea that, once again, the marriage won’t be happening. What is it she thinks when all is silent, and she’s on her own, and she leaves the stage? Or what does Simon think when he sees her put up with this? What does Miles think when, once again, he sees the man of his dreams kissing the fiancee he’ll never have? During these moments, as other actors read out the scene, I’d like to know what the person is thinking. What does Nina think every second of this scene?

When we’ve done that, I’d then like to try either line feeding these thoughts whilst we do the scene, or, alternatively, recording the thoughts of the character and playing them through headphones whilst they perform the scene. Or even abstracting it, and just recording strong and intense desires whilst having to do something basic like have a cup of tea, and see how this effects people.

Vile Bodies is all about subtext and when that subtext stops being clandestine. It’s all about what people are hiding, when people stop performing, and why do people make these choices. It’s why, in the recalls we looked at Laban, to see how one internalises a state of feeling and performs another on top. It’s why we, in the first round, looked for people who didn’t express the obvious emotions in Nina’s monologue, or people who knew how to mix candour and performativity with Agatha.

This is obviously not the only thing we’re doing; but the week is jam-packed with ideas to do with power struggles, subtlety, emotional shifts, physicality v naturalism and then Chloe will be arriving so we can add in even more crazy before the scenes even begin being explored. I’m also looking forward to delving into the characters at hand, that’s going to be exciting.



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