Rehearsal: Day 20
2nd September, 2019
Venticelli 1 & 2, and the Venticelli groups 1 & 2
The Venticelli groups and leaders were in tonight, with the Salieris. Still not a full complement when rehearsing which makes the process harder, but that’s the way it goes in community projects! –– particularly one which has been in development over a long period of time.
The warm-up was short again tonight, just a reminder of our fundamental concepts (described in the first day back in the Autumn: The Amadeus Project: Day 17), then into Scene 6.
We have done this a couple of times, so this first piece of work was to gain a sense of memory and familiarity, to propel us all into Scene 1.
Scene 1 didn’t work at all when I tried it before (see The Amadeus Project: Day 9). I just wasn’t ready for it, you’ll recall, and abandoned the attempt … I was even wondering if it was one of those things that you have to do at the very last minute, when you have finally gained the understanding of what it is you wish to achieve.
What is my aim for this opening scene? What am I creating?
For this beginning, I want to achieve flow, energy, intrigue, a sense of a society, darkness (of light and of mood). Our elastic band concept comes into this and the wonder of the Troupe coming together.
The idea of a photo …
It’s something I’ve used a few times –– a showing off of the entire cast at the very beginning of a play.
We used the idea in ‘The Crucible’ with Schull Drama Group in 1997. There was a picture created –– like a photo –– of the cast, and then there was a repeat of that exact picture at the end, where you see the influence of the play on the cast.
The idea is inspired by Brian Friel’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’, where, towards the end of the play, the family take a group photo, you see the impact of the play on them and the Narrator tells you of the story that will unfold after the ending of the story the audience sees.
There is an incredible power to the image created by the group and, combined with the individual stories recounted by the Narrator, it conveys an impression on you, the observer, of a moment caught in time.
In the case of ‘Lughnasa’ the impact is highly poignant and sad, nostalgic.
I think the same idea holds for me in Beckett’s ‘Play’, having directed it for PlayActing Theatre in 2002.
Here, the text of the first half of the play is repeated exactly for the second half, so the lived experience is clarified, maybe … certainly not repeated. But the impact on the actors of reliving the story is intriguing.
But, as always in a live performance, if the combination of elements of the performance is right, the moment can be precious.
It is unique, never to be repeated.
Because the audience shares in that movement of emotion and energy, they too have been part of the live experience.
When I went to Peter Brook’s Thêatre des Bouffes du Nord (http://www.bouffesdunord.com/en) in Paris to see ‘The Suit’, Peter Brook had arranged for the the audience to be slightly lit at the end of the performance and the actors, when accepting the applause, looked directly at the audience.
It seemed to me that the actors were acknowledging the audience in the shared experience. Then the biggish cast moved around the stage, to a different point and, again, looking directly at the audience, seeing them, received their response.
Back to Scene 1 …
So, the working on Scene 1 continued, practically first: sharing the lines, searching for a rhythm and a flow in it, placing it on the set.
The actors within this scene remind me of a Greek chorus: reflecting the mood, a commentary on the play and what the audience will come upon as the story is revealed.
Then a focus on placing and moving the actors; staying apart then coming together; reacting to each other and to their Venticello leader.
And then inviting the Salieris to become part of the scene. The atmosphere changes when words are directed against somebody; or when actors receive words. It has been daunting sometimes to be at the receiving end of the words, I have been told.
As I reflect on what I want, I am aware that the great image moment hasn’t quite been achieved (it is in the plan!) but this work is one of the building blocks. It will be different from ‘The Crucible’ where the image was laid down at the very beginning of the play, created at the very opening; here it will build within Scene 1 to create that Troupe moment, unfolding little step by little step.
Scene 8 and the Salieris
We had just a quick look at this scene where the Venticelli give some gossip to Salieri at a party. I thought the Venticelli might work alone, but it turns out that we can’t let the groups out of this –– they must be in on the gossip!
Re the Salieris …
When the other actors had left, we had a little run through Scenes 1 & 2 … just a line-run really because we were at the end of our time. Separated from each other by the length of the hall, the two Salieris communicated to each other with a small emphasis on getting the emotion.
Once I see this intensity coming through, I know that we are on the right track.
It was nice to have this brief, quieter session together. Rehearsals now are mostly busy with many demands because of the numbers of people involved.
Rehearsal Day 21
4th September, 2019
Scene 12 of Act 1 and Scene 1 of Act 2 with Clair alone –– working through the text.
In one way it’s harder at this point to be working one-on-one as the atmosphere becomes quite intense. When other actors are around, it is easier to access emotion and be supported in that.
Although, again, it is good to have a quieter moment to check in for feedback or any concerns and Clair’s studio space is always a delight to work in, with expansive views across the countryside and the gorgeous autumnal evening light we have at this time of the year.
I was saying to Clair that I was really happy with the way her Salieri was developing –– our work to date, separate to the Troupe, is making this current part of the process much easier and makes our exploration of the text readily understandable.
Again, much of the work is practical: the lines, how to use the set, what will the props be like? … and once I can call on the actors to demonstrate a degree of emotional intensity (as I did at the end of Rehearsal 17 above), then I can relax into this part of the job.