Saturday 11 January 2014

Life & Loves 3: Stagger Through

The Friday Afternoon 3pm Stagger Through, that inevitably becomes a 4.30pm Stagger Through. For those of you not familiar with the term, 'Stagger Through' is theatre slang for the first time you put it all together, but it would be unrealistically optimistic to call it a 'run' through. I suspect it started as a joke, but it seems to me that it is used fairly normally now.

I always find it tricky running material in rehearsal that has already been in front of an audience. Much as the Lyceum Theatre rehearsal room is a great space - and one in which we've made some work we're really proud of over the years, now I think of it - it's not a particularly technically equipped space. (In fact the daylight, the views of Sheffield and the airiness of the room are what make it so refreshing). Watching the run stagger on Friday afternoon, without lighting, and with only rudimentary sound (as Ivan couldn't be with us), and with a half constructed environment/set, it became clear how important the atmosphere, the world, of this show is. We've dipped back into the video of November's performance at Theatre in the Mill a few times this week, to check on things - how did we do that? - and whilst rough and ready, the feel of the piece is distinctive.

This means making the new material, and weaving it in to the existing sections, we're thinking about, we're imagining to an extent, how they will be influenced/ emphasised/undercut by the environment around them, and how they will affect the balance of the show they become part of. I'm aware, as I write this, that I have a sense of 'no spoilers!', not wanting to give too much away. But; we're balancing the light and dark, joy and tragedy of a normal person's life - the Nobody of the title. We're playing with the tone, feel, voice of the show, of the storytelling, in relation to the emotions and events of the narrative. And we are asking ourselves, (how) does this articulate our thoughts and questions about what we think the work is about? And by 'this', of course, we don't just mean the words, we mean the visuals, the sound, the environment, the atmosphere. 

Writing in the Evening Standard this week, Conor McPherson, who's play The Weir is one of the most compelling things I've seen and heard on a proscenium stage (I was surprised to realise at the time), observes 
No playwright knows what their play is even about until actors start performing it. 
As is often the case, we've found ourselves acting/performing and writing this show at the same time. But McPherson's observation is certainly resonant for me - making (the material that makes up) a show, is a process of us figuring out what it's about, and why we're so intrigued and bothered about that.

So, whilst we missed the atmosphere in our afternoon Stagger Through, we also recognised the strengths of what's there, and confirmed where the gaps are - narratively, physically. So that's our weekend homework. Thinking about a couple of branches for further exploration.

Thanks again to Marcus Sarko and Clive Egginton for the photos in this post.
Booking details for The Life & Loves of a Nobody are here.

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