…Into a rehearsal room.
Not quite Eliot, but we’ll cope.
So the rehearsal process has finally begun. This is the week before term starts at Warwick (aka ‘Week 0’) and so a great week for messing about; it’s a week of exercises to have fun with the play, to generate a feeling of openness and confidence, to grow into the characters in the script, and adapt to our way of doing things here in the Vile Bodies team.
The first day was a slow, talkative day between the cast and myself.
Day 1 Log
The usual favourites- ‘Evolution’ or ‘Ameba’, Kung-Fu Ninja, and the utterly brilliant new version of assassins called ‘Vile Body’, in which everyone is a Body, one person is Vile, and they seek to kill the other blind, crawling cast members. Hilarity with an office ensues. We also played ‘Bash Says Concentrate’, a game passed down from the lovely Bathsheba, in which the cast must try and perform simple tapping and naming tasks quicker and quicker until people begin to drop like flies. It’s great fun, works a treat.
Themes, Context, Timeline
As a cast we sat and talked themes; the ones emerging being excess, war and love amongst others. We talked about the era, about what it meant for our casts, referencing a very useful list of etiquette details compiled for the cast. Then we created a timeline of important dates for characters- birth dates, children, marriages, cotillion, etc.
With the dates decided we started chatting about characters in depth; some fascinating new details emerged about the hilarity of the characters- about times in Edinburgh, about Miles and Adam going on the grand tour before uni, about Agatha sleeping with everyone, about Martha’s characteristics. It was superb.
Day 2 Log
The usual- Vile Body, Kung Fu Ninja, Amoeba
The actors all had to remember moments from their lives equating to all-encompassing emotions in the play; we had Desperation, Excitement, Bitterness and Hope. Talking about those non-raw moments and how one moved, we then played scenes with the characters using new pragmatic displays of emotion; we saw Miles learn that Agatha was in Bedlam and have to call Nina and Adam whilst Archie asked him if he really liked him or not, a scene in which Simon tried to tell Nina he loved her but it was interrupted by a long anticipated call from Adam, revealing they wouldn’t be getting married. The moment Adam and Nina agreed to marry, and Adam telling Miles and Nina telling Simon over the phone. Melrose Ape and Prudence meeting Tiger at a Ferry port and trying to convert him, only to discover he’s gay. And Mary talking to her family at breakfast about going to her first divine party that evening.
What we got from this not only were ideas of ways to express the emotions these characters feel, but an overarching theme of the play; the theme of change, so present in the play, is balanced with a theme of hope; a theme of austerity and optimism that things will be better, and also people’s attempts at security (Nina’s marriage, Chastity’s new job, Tiger sleeping with Miles etc. etc.)
Another two rounds of Kung Fu Ninja; one excellent round being performed to a ska medley of Tetris and Ghostbusters.
The actors walked about thinking of five words their character would use to describe themselves. They then walked about embodying one, trying to embody a multitude, seeing how their physicality felt in a natural sense.
Then we broke down their emotional and characteristic words, and performed improvs in which the actors took on pantomime versions of these states; the elements of Tiger (salt-of-the-earth, ambitious and cautious) had a financial and sexual discussion on a submarine. Lottie’s hostess, manipulate and warm elements talked on a railway platform. And Nina’s spoilt, fickle and sad nature coped with a plane crash in the desert.
After each, we asked the actors what these words provided for their characters as well as what it provided for the actor who chose the words, and if they changed these words.
For a quick break, we took a look at a few spaces in the play and, in groups, drew some floor plans; Miles, Nina and Adam’s rooms and homes (Miles’ townhouse, Nina’s flat and Adam’s hotel room) and also the breakfast room of 10 Downing Street.
Finally, we did a quick wind down with everyone lying on the floor. We played Glenn Miller’s version of Rhapsody in Blue (originally a 16 minute orchestral piece by Gershwin) and watched as the characters all woke up in the morning, and how they functioned first thing.
As I said to the cast at the time, these exercises are all a bit eclectic and testing the waters to see what people enjoy and don’t; it gives us a chance to test things out with the text and begin to develop things before even touching the script.
I’m sat here tonight beaming, and very excited for tomorrow. Yay for theatre!