Monday, 24 March 2014

Cadbury's buttons and the Venetian palazzo: James Law on GSL rehearsals

James Law as the Duke of Venice (copyright: GSL)

Ah, blogs.

Always a nice idea I think - I quite enjoy reading other people’s – until, that is, you’re asked to write one yourself and literally can’t think of anything to say. Why don’t I write one in character I thought? So here I am, cup of tea to the left, bag of Cadbury's Giant Buttons to the right, The Great Escape on the telly. Maybe not the right surroundings for the Duke of Venice but the budget doesn’t stretch to a palazzo yet…alright, let’s scrap that idea.

It’s hard to believe that we only officially started rehearsing a little over a week ago. The first official day of rehearsal is intriguing for all sorts of reasons. From a human and acting perspective it’s always fascinating.

Most actors I know have a easy familiarity about them – they’re often being put in challenging situations so it helps to have that. When you actually land a part then that familiarity, by necessity, has to evolve into a slightly deeper relationship with your fellow cast members.

I don’t mean to wax lyrical about the acting process (or in the words of a fellow cast member, ”I don’t wanna get all South Bank Show about it…”) but it’s hard to think of many other professions where your fellow workers are expected to make themselves emotionally available and vulnerable within minutes, hours or days of meeting each other.

Everyone works at his or her own pace. It’s clear on the first day that some  people are quite far advanced.  Unfortunately, I’m not in that group and go home and have a mini crisis. An inevitable part of the process.

Having just ended the week with a rough stagger through of the whole play it might be useful to say something about the rehearsal process so far.

I’m new to the Grassroots way of working. In case you haven’t been reading these blogs (why not?!?) then the company prides itself on a collaborative process that doesn’t involve a director. A recipe for chaos in the rehearsal room one might think but funnily enough, not so far.

People have been respectful, generous and willing to listen to comments and take them on board. Well, it’s only week one, I’m sure that’ll change…

Part of the process involves electing a daily ‘Master of the Play’ to give a rough agenda to the day’s proceedings. I had this dubious pleasure on Thursday afternoon when we looked at Act Five. The experience is as challenging as it is rewarding. And quite a smart move too. It’s nice to feel that you may have a small say in the overall shape of the play as well as contributing with your own part.

It also makes for quite an intense experience as you can and indeed are expected to contribute frequently. Personally, I’ve found it a good lesson in realizing that the less you worry about your own personal contribution and the more you concentrate on the whole, the more rewarding the experience can be. Easy for me to say as I have a relatively small part but I’ve noticed that the actors with the larger roles are equally generous with their time.

And how to deal with the inevitable rising of tensions as opening night approaches? Well, next week we eagerly await the introduction of ‘Manuka moments’.

Manuka moments? You, alone with a jar of honey? Well, if that’s your thing… 

They actually involve giving every member of the company in turn a chance to air their thoughts honestly, whether it be a gripe with somebody or something. A good way to deal with potential flashpoints as they arise. The next blog I’m sure is bound to contain something  about one of these moments…

All in all, so far I think we’ve got to an incredible place. The quality of some of the work so far has been great and it’s wonderful to watch words and scenes you’ve heard and seen multiple times suddenly spring into life due to one person’s suggestion. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but the direction of travel is definitely forward and I’m very excited about next week.

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