Let’s face it. This weekend’s rehearsal was always going to be a bonus one.
All five of us gathered in Leeds to see one of our best buddies, Ekow Quartey, in Headlong Theatre’s production of Spring Awakening at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. As if this wasn’t excitement enough, we had around 10 other friends in tow and big plans for a big night in Hifi afterwards – just like the good old days. So, when it was suggested that we dedicate six hours to devising the following day, we all had our suspicions that it might not be the most productive of sessions. And, to cut a long story short, the day was essentially spent eating (barely with pause for breath), moulding (horizontally) and writing some questionable dialogue about sex.
What we did manage to accomplish was a strategic plan for the coming months, which – without wanting to give too much away – involves an extended devising period in early May, delivery of scratch performances over the summer, and working on applications to secure a residency with a venue in the Autumn to develop the piece further. In the meantime, we need to drag ourselves into the digital reality of the twenty first century and crack on with some cyber-rehearsals.
Having only two rehearsals, one weekend a month can work, but group preparation is necessary, and can be easily done over Skype / Facetime / a good old fashioned phone call. This way, all the new ideas and possibilities that come with each session can be discussed in advance of entering the rehearsal room, so that once in the space, we can be putting ideas on their feet straight away. In an interesting article about Clout Theatre’s experiences with virtual rehearsals, Director Mine Cerci reveals “You can easily switch from one idea to another. None of them seems precious. This flexibility provokes your imagination, your creativity, your critical potential, and you become more and more detached commentator.”
Skype sessions will allow us the time to thrash out ideas, the opportunity to bounce off each other (metaphorically speaking), and the willingness to throw ideas away; without the feeling of guilt that we should be up on our feet making the best use of rehearsal space while we have it.
Lessons learnt this weekend? Skype sessions are essential; rehearsal space is precious, and a heavy night beforehand is not big or clever*.
*But can generate some highly entertaining stories about break-dancing, fish-flops and McDonalds-related tantrums.