The Rehearsal After the Night Before

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

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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?

Return to the Rehearsal Room

One room, five twenty-somethings, six years on, one hundred and ninety six miles between us, and a million and one ideas. It’s not always easy starting from scratch, but it’s exhilarating to say the least.

Rehearsal

Using Theatre Delicatessen’s base, Marylebone Gardens, as our home for the day, it’s hard to contain our excitement at being back in the same room together, in central London, with a new project at our fingertips. It’s now two and a half years since we graduated from the University of Leeds’ School of Performance and Cultural Industries, and since then we have collectively:

So, it’s been a crazy-busy two year separation – but it feels great to be back working together again. With shared interests and specialities in storytelling, physical theatre, music and design, we know immediately the disciplines and elements that will define our next piece of work…and when it comes to deciding on a subject matter for the piece that is relevant, contemporary and open to interpretation, a common factor quickly becomes apparent: the trials and tribulations of ‘Generation Y’ (yes, it may sound like a Sugababes song right now, but bear with us…).

The internet is not short of articles and blogs about ‘Generation Y’ and the issues surrounding it. Why is it so easy to fall into a state of utter dissatisfaction? Why, no matter how significant our achievements, do we always want more? Why do we constantly compare ourselves to our peers? The theory that Happiness = Reality – Expectations seems to be overwhelmingly accurate, if only we could put it into practice. In researching and analysing this idea, we constantly find ourselves referring back to, and laying blame on, social networking – despite the mutual resistance towards giving this topic too much prominence within our concept. However, in a society where a large proportion of the population lives virtual lives through social networking personas, it is impossible to avoid acknowledging its significance when it comes to looking at reality and expectations, and the difference between them.

This leads us to question: what if our virtual existence was a physical, tangible one? What if you actually had hundreds of people following you everywhere you went; if you had to formally request to be someone’s friend and validate that request by listing the books you have read and films you have seen, exhibiting photographs and videos of yourself; and gushing witty, self-exposing statements in no more than 140 characters? All of this conjures up some really interesting workshop ideas, not to mention design possibilities.

You can’t create a show in a day but you can make a bloody good start. The research and development period is one of the most important parts of making great theatre and it’s vital to give this phase the time and commitment it deserves. Start with what you know and be open to new ideas and possibilities, even if it’s not the route you expected to go down. Talk, debate, experiment, play, make work and at the same time, be willing to throw it away.

Collision Theory is a collective of five practitioners working between Leeds and London. Keep an eye out for monthly blog posts which will give you an insight into our research, development and rehearsal process and will aim to articulate the creative challenges and unexpected discoveries that come from devising theatre. Oh, and don’t forget to keep up to date with us via our social networks…

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