Today we started the day with a warm up - some games (themed spat has become a favourite) and discussed what work we wanted to revisit with greater detail for the sharing. Suzy also suggested a new approach to her spoken word piece, asking us to consider as a group 'What is it to be British'. We asked each other what it meant to be our experience of British, Nigerian, Italian, Arab, Welsh, White English and included British 'norms', is that British? Marmite? Stiff Upper Lip? Henry the eighths six wives? To leave?
We invited some arts professionals/ colleagues and the creative team from the Lowry attended the sharing of work. It was very informal and we whittled down 8 scenes/ ideas/ vignettes we particularity wanted feedback on. We wanted to know if the ideas are engaging, moving, funny, worthwhile?
The feedback element was really useful and we hope to take the work to the next level. The concept and the point of the show have become more defined and very different from where we started! Here is to the next time!
Although this was the penultimate day of the Research and Development week (R&D), we
decided at the beginning of the day that we weren’t going to think too much about the
finished product - it was still a devising week after all.
Suze and I started the day by working on some spoken word together (I realised later that
evening that, by happy coincidence, the 21st March is actually World Poetry Day!) One of the
beautiful things about an R&D is that there isn’t an expectation or pressure to come up with
a full length piece by the end of the week, which meant that we had the freedom to explore
most of the ideas that came up during our time together. Before starting on some poetry
exercises, Suze and I had a chance to talk about cultural identity; coming from immigrant
families, Britishness, and the merging of different cultures. Chats like this really influenced
the work, but also helped us to understand each of our unique perspectives on Britishness,
Britain, and the current state of politics. We both wrote spoken word pieces on what it meant
to be British. I started a “break up letter to Britain” poem and Suze’s poem delved into what
it meant to be British and Italian.
Later that morning, the group reunited to share what we’d come up with. Leila’s more
physical theatre based piece contrasted really well with the poetry. While Leila expressed her
cultural identity through movement and drawing on her mirror image, an interview with
Leila’s father (a Leave voter) with an Arabian version of God Save the Queen played eerily
Throughout the week, we played around a lot with mirror images, mimicking, and repetition,
to explore the fact that many people feel like they are in an echo chamber when it comes to
Brexit. We are bombarded with facts and opinions, and it can be difficult to know what to
listen to. Inspired by the interviews we had gathered about Brexit, we staged our own
interview, but with numerous people answering at once; sometimes saying the same thing,
sometimes repeating each other, sometimes looking at each other in confusion. Exercises like
this allowed us to explore differing opinions on Brexit, but it also allowed us to laugh at
ourselves and how we have all (at times) fallen into the trap of blindly following our friends.
At the end of the day, we put together a list of all the scenes/sketches/pieces we had come up
with during the week. It was longer than we expected. We had a varied and exciting amount
of content to share the next day, and we then had the challenge of sorting it into some kind of
order. I left the studio that day feeling ready to share what we had created.
Also the fantastic Rachelle Strange came it to take pictures of our process! Here is some more info all about her work - go have a look! https://www.facebook.com/rachellemooseUK/
Wednesday was day three into the rehearsal and development week, by this point we had acquired a substantial quantity of material. As a group we had decided to develop individual material further, this saw the group splitting in two, one half working on a particular piece of spoken word and another working on a particular scene. This time for valuable for me to be able to develop some musical material. Although I thoroughly enjoy the physical side of theatre, taking part in the warm up’s and exercises but in relation to my work it isn’t massively beneficial. Whilst the two groups developed their scene I worked on creating a workable Ableton project both for scene we had already done and for scene coming up. Much of this material was eventually used in the final performance. Having that time to work on the music meant that later that day and subsequently throughout the week I was freer to participate in group discussions. I felt that I personally gained a huge amount of social incite from there discussion on Brexit and what it means to be British. Being the only white British person and also being the only male gave me my unique perspective, I don’t think prior to this week of discussion I wouldn’t have event thought of my point of view on britishness to be in anyway unique. However, through this process I was exposed to a variety of opinions that I would not have had the chance to discuss had I not taken part. Practical this was also the first time I had ever been in a situation where I was having to create material instantly for the performers to use. For the project I purchased a new MIDI controller to have a greater control over Ableton, a huge amount of time went into programming this controller to work in a live setting, I found this to be massively beneficial in the end as I was about to play the live sound in real time. This would mean I that I could move the with the performers giving them the freedom have control over their lines and to improvise when needed. On my part all it took was an understanding of the text, therefor, being part of discussion and taking an active role outside of the music is not just essential but a necessity
After spending the previous sessions before the R&D on text and scripts I was beginning to feel the need to do something physical. Physical comedy and physicality is an interest of mine, so when Ellie offered any suggestions for the day I offered: “lets do something physical”. I told the group that I found out the result of Brexit at Glastonbury in 2016, and so wanted to create something that encompassed that feeling being “so far away” from the everyday; with the emotional suffocation of finding out we were withdrawing from a union or having a break up. The day of the result changed my entire Glastonbury experience and the festival felt very heavy and intense.
We began the day with games and moved onto dancing.
Ellie led some really useful exercises to connect eyes and body, body to music and music to moves, and to devise movement. This then transitioned into working in pairs. Following your partner, copying them, hiding a dance move from them. After we had more complicité with our partners, we then chose 5 dance moves to show the group, then combined them to make a full dance as an ensemble.
With these dance moves and connecting through eyes and body I offered an outside eye (pending back injury). I was directing movements: big/small, slow/fast, clearing the space/“like you’re on the tube” etc.
After a short period of time I asked Ella to introduce some text from a monologue Ellie had written about her friend. This monologue was about how someone on the tube called her mixed race friend a “cockroach”.
Whilst directing Ella; stop/text/stop/text/scream/dance/clear the space, and the ensemble working with Ella, they were keeping the text alive with unpredictability and creating a resonating contrast between Glastonbury and this quite deadly text of the cockroach. This, for the rest of the R&D, was called Cockroach Rave.
I really enjoyed being the outside eye. I’m fascinated with opposites and contrast, because I think this has reverberation affect on the audience. This also stops the actor from underlining the text and finding more freedom in the messy than the ubiquitous.
We first spent some time listening to the final interviews that had been recorded prior to the R&D week. We then looked over the ‘Emma and Emma’ text between Suze and Ella, first looking at staging it in a kitchen setting, then exploring the idea of using a large box to act as a kitchen counter and an extra performer to manipulate the objects around them. We also had a read through the ‘9-5’ text, exploring different ways of delivering it and the varying interpretations which came with them.
After lunch, I read the lyrics I’d written for the ‘Sexy Brexit Song’ to the group and Will then improvised something on the guitar whilst I sang the song and found the tune that worked with the lyrics and music. We then set up the microphone and started to choreograph an entrance for the song, as well as some movement for Ella and Ellie who were setting the microphone up and acting as feline-style backing dancers/singers.
Before Suze and Ellie left, we looked over the ‘Charity Swimmer’ scene we’d made the following weekend. Adding in Will who was playing the concertina, and Ella and Ellie as backing dancers/synchronised swimmers, I stepped out to watch and direct the scene.
Ella and I finished by reading over the “I voted leave the day I was born” text, and trying to figure out a way of condensing down the text and making it more concise. Will, who was going over a few pieces of music/sound we’d played with earlier on, also joined the conversation and we all picked out a few elements of the text we liked the most to look at the next day.
Monday - Leila