a personal rehearsal diary
by Scott Graham
from the making of pool (no water) by Mark Ravenhill
Day 15 (Monday)
By the time I make it into rehearsals they are just finishing the warm-up. Childcare issues in the mornings mean that I am not getting there until 10.20 a.m. at best on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays but today was a bit of a nightmare and I get there just before 11 a.m.
When they start recapping the extended (drug-fuelled but they don’t know that yet) physical scene they are very sluggish despite being warm and seemingly fresh. This takes both myself and Steven aback. Brilliant as this cast are they are also an enigma at times. We realise eventually that they are struggling with the jump from warming your own body up to being able to manipulate and work with someone else’s body. We have either taken this for granted or miscalculated the difficulty in this. They are not dancers. This is not what they do every day. They have not even been doing it every day with us. We decide to take more care with that jump from warm-up into the work itself but specifically look at the cast doing a bit of contact work with each other as part of the warm-up.
There were times this morning that felt like wading through treacle. It was as if the cast could not break from a walk to a trot or a cantor, never mind to a run. You can put every stage in place to make the rehearsals as conducive as possible but sometimes tired bodies or tired minds just do not want to exert themselves. We had to put our foot down a little otherwise the day would have carried on at this interminable pace. We were sure this was just a case of getting over the hurdle of getting started. Once over that we were sure that they would feel more relaxed and energetic. So it turned out. After a terrible run of the scene we took it apart, cleaned it up and then put it back together but insisted that we start to move forward with it. We had been very gentle with them when we felt that they were out of their comfort zone but here we felt there was no excuse. The effect was the next run showed genuine glimpses of promise. The first thing I did was ask the cast if they had noticed this too. They said they did and as they did so they looked charged and ‘alive’ for the first time that day. Heartened by this we tidied it up some more, told the cast this was the last time they would be doing this for a while and that we had to nail it, and we ran it again. The result was great. Very exciting!
We think it is important to put a bit of stress on a scene from time to time. It is good to know that we have to move on, that we cannot spend all day on this. I am sure that this would not suit all directors or performers but I think it may also be reassuring to performers that the directors also have a schedule to stick to and an eye on the bigger picture.
With this in mind we both note that the time has come to be telling people what to do more. We have been through the confidence-building and exploration stages and need to be setting stuff and this is where the performers are looking towards us. That is not to say that they are not offering up material. They are doing this more than ever now they have an understanding of what we are aiming for but they are also very appreciative of being told what to do.
I have a quiet chat with one of the actors about some detail in her performance. It is thrilling to know that despite all the headwrecking physical stuff we are throwing at them they are still finding the time and inclination to think about their performance and their usual personal process. It has always been a fear of mine that this approach of ours could swamp those new to it but it was lovely to just sit and chat constructively within the simplest director/performer relationship. It is great that this approach can still sustain that detail to. I also fear sometimes that this physical theatre of ours will only offer broad brushstrokes even though we stand by its potential to do so much more. The work of the cast so far makes me very hopeful that this is not the case.