The Rehearsal After the Night Before

Let’s face it. This weekend’s rehearsal was always going to be a bonus one.

Rehearsal #3

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.

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Thinking Big

The Saturday and Sunday just gone marked our second workshop-weekend, this time in Leeds (at Asda HQ, thanks to the support of somewhereto_), and we found ourselves getting carried away with design ideas…

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As a young theatre company just starting out, we are currently faced with the inevitable concern that our ideas are bigger than our purse strings. We write a piece of script, choreograph some movement, add a little music and before we know it we have created a whole world around this fragment of a show with design ideas incorporating everything from zip wires across the lighting rig to onstage bathtubs filled to the brim with water. Whilst these ideas are incredibly exciting and become a catalyst in themselves for further creativity, at what point, as a theatre-maker, do you have to take a step back and think: how are we going to fund all of this?

Our last show, If Walls Could Talk (then going by the company name Tip of the Tongue Theatre), employed a relatively simple design concept in that the set and its props were permanent for the duration of the performance and it was literally a case of picking it all up and putting it back down again in whichever performance space was our next. Props were scattered about the stage, initially appearing as though randomly selected until their significance was revealed at different points throughout the stories. This worked really well for the piece and is something that we want to experiment with and expand upon with our next show. However, only two rehearsals in and it is already becoming something far bigger than imagined!

Of course, there are various different funding streams available for us to tap into and a number of alternative support networks surrounding us too, but none of this is guaranteed when devising a new show for the first time, particularly as a young company with no track record as of yet. Would it be more sensible, therefore, to limit our ideas to ones more feasible, should we not achieve the necessary funding to bring them to life when the time comes?

Absolutely not!

If we allow ourselves to be restricted during the devisal process because of issues like funding, venue size and current company capacity, we are left with the bigger risk that the piece will never reach its full potential. In the same way that when you go for a drastic haircut, the hairdresser will always leave you with more than you asked for (‘you can cut more off but you can’t stick it back on’); when making theatre it only makes sense to think bigger and then adapt it to each individual performance space. Devise as though money is no issue, you have infinite capability at your fingertips and the world is your oyster…and if the ideas are good enough, the funding will follow.

So, keep an eye out for flying pigs, trapdoors and adventure playgrounds in Collision Theory’s next show…or at least a scaled down version of them!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes: we did just use a radical change in hairstyle as an analogy for making great art. And what?