At the end of our second week of rehearsals, the promotional activity for SOLD is now kicking up a gear and our flyers have been completed. I’m so proud to be part of this production and have to keep pinching myself when I look at the publicity material and remind myself that I’m a part of this. After so many years of working on a shoe-string and getting by with whatever we could cobble together, it’s amazing to be involved with a production that looks so slick!
While the publicity machine has been gearing up, the cast has been going through its paces. Our work on developing our characters has been put to some stern tests through the course of the week and we’ve been asked to do some things that would probably seem pretty bizzare to the casual observer or even the actor who hasn’t experienced Theatre of the Oppressed methods. While we’re making sure that we’re staying on top of the lines that we’ve been given to say, the vast majority of our rehearsals are spent improvising in character. The process gives us an incredible amount of creative freedom and as a result we’ve built up some well-rounded personalities and characters for the people we portray. I think of it this way – when I meet someone for the first time and chat with them about something relatively neutral, they won’t have a clue that I went to university in Leicester or that I lived in Stoke on Trent or that I had an enormous collection of soft toys when I lived at home with my parents. However, all of that background makes me part of who I am and it makes me the whole person that a stranger strikes up conversation with on a bus stop. By the same token, while some of the improvisation we do will contribute to the final performance in terms of what people see, what’s more important is our audience seeing a group of real, fully developed people rather than two-dimensional caracatures saying someone else’s words. I strongly believe that the process will speak for itself when people come to see it on the 12 October.
That said, some of the things we have been doing seem bizzare and the link to our characters and the performance doesn’t seem obvious at first or even second or third glance. Sunday’s rehearsal was a case in point. In the spirit of keeping up with the lines and the flow of the play, we went through the script and how it would be performed from beginning to end. However, at set points each of us had the chance to mould the other actors into an exaggerated posture based on how that one person’s character saw the other ones in the play. Once positioned, we had to hold that pose while trying to act. Sometimes this meant trying to speak with our mouths firmly closed or wide open with no chance to bring our lips together to make sounds. It often meant holding extremely uncomfortable and sometimes painful positions for a considerable period of time. However, while at first glance it’s hard to see how this exercise relates to the characters and the performance, after a while you start to see the connections. The physical discomfort tells you things about the pain that the character experiences. The way you are enabled to or prevented from speaking speaks volumes about the ability of your character to have their voice heard in their lives and in the play. Altogether it makes for a very powerful way of showing just how perceptions impact on these people and their interactions with each other.
As we enter the final stretch of rehearsals before our first performance, I can hardly believe how much I’ve personally learned and how much I’ve developed a character with just a few hundred words to say through the process that we’ve been through. I’m looking forward to taking Maria out onto the stage and letting people judge for themselves just how real she seems to them.
Just as a reminder, the dates of the tour are:
12-13 October – Chapter, Cardiff 029 2030 4400
15-16 October – Volcano @229 High Street,Swansea (Tickets through Theatre Versus Oppression – 07946 398006 or on the door)
18 October - Catrin Finch Theatre, Wrexham
21 October – Cardiff and Vale College
22 October – Sherman Theatre, Cardiff 029 2064 6900
23-24 October Studio, The Ffwnes, Llanelli 0845 226 3510
7 November – Theatr Soar, Merthyr Tydfil 01685 722176
9 November - Aberystwyth University