Although the majority of the rehearsals involved working closely as a whole group, there were occasional times where two or three members worked separately to focus on a particular element. One example of this was me, Dan, Josh, Sam and Nicole ensuring we were communicating the same facial expressions and gestures at the appropriate moments in the Positive Hour scenes. Our characters were desperately trying to make Hannah’s character (Miranda) realise that her husband (Nick) was homosexual, and so we had to react at exactly the same moments to illustrate this “his yeast isn’t rising”.
Our eyebrows would rise at moments of high sexual innuendo, and we would sigh in frustration when Miranda remained in denial. By designating specific movements to specific lines, the emphasis was stronger and the audience’s understanding of the scene heightened. Watching this particular part back with the use of video definitely helped; it enabled us to see from an audience’s perspective what was working, and what wasn’t. Outside of group rehearsal time, we continued to research ideas as individuals, which often had a very positive effect.
Having just two members in a more relaxed environment talking about certain scenes meant far higher levels of concentration and ensured the other person was always listening. If there was a time where the group grew frustrated at a lack of progress, or at a lack of inspiration, working individually often helped. We would come to the next rehearsal with more ideas which we would then explain to the group, therefore making better use of rehearsal time.
Ele, Sam, Nicole and I noticed a connection between some poetry by William Blake we were studying in English Literature, and so talked about this outside of rehearsal time, then presented our ideas to the group, giving us something constructive to work on immediately. We used a lot of physical theatre within our production, and with particularly complex movements, constructive rehearsal was vital. The scenes which were derived from Midsummer Night’s Dream involved picking up and carrying group members, falling backwards and running, and so needed to be perfectly choreographed, and trust was integral within our group.
This was not only to avoid possible injuries, but to ensure everyone knew where they were meant to be, and therefore created a smoother, more visually powerful scene for the final performance. We obviously could not practise such physical movements without the use of the whole group, and in this respect, rehearsals proved particularly useful. For this reason, a large proportion of our rehearsal time was used on refining and reshaping old material rather than just creating new.
One particular problem we encountered early on as a group was an unwillingness to physically try out ideas. We tended to become pessimistic and analyse the possible success of a way of staging a scene, without trying it out. This led to a great deal of frustration at times, yet as our piece progressed, we saw the benefit more and more, and group members became less cynical. It was often difficult to fully explain how an idea would realistically work without working practically, and we often worked much slower when taking only a theoretical approach.
One example of this was with the final scene with the “Babble'” poem. We had rearranged it so that each line (up to three words) were broken up and given to a different group member. Because it involved fluidity between all of us, we needed to practise it to ensure everyone knew their cues. We only realised how difficult this was when we actually acted it out, and so we saw the need for working this practically for a number of rehearsals.
Similarly, when we re-ran a scene or blocked a transition, some members didn’t take it seriously, and mocked certain elements such as the formation of the Beast. This was not only counter-productive as it did not represent how well a scene would actually work, but also led to something becoming comic within the group, and therefore limiting the impact of the scene, and wasting valuable rehearsal time. The Beauty and the Beast scenes had to be performed with complete commitment otherwise we would not believe in the emotion, and neither would the audience.
In the final stages of rehearsal when we were really polishing each scene, particularly when performing to in-house audiences, this became evident, and all members involved put everything into it physically, with definitely improved dramatic results. Aside from actually creating our production, rehearsals proved important for building relationships within the group, and learning from each other. This was the first time many of us had worked with each other, and so there were inevitable positive and negative surprises.
The ability to listen soon became the most crucial skill that we could possess as a group, and was secondary to talent. Because rehearsals took up a lot of our free time, support and understanding was needed, and rehearsal times had to be planned carefully. If we worked for too long on a particular aspect, people were at risk of becoming irritable, and irritating! We organised our time effectively as a group, working out the most appropriate times to meet, and because of this, attendance was never a real problem. In the final week before our performance, transitions between scenes became the main focus.
We seemed to be switching characters suddenly with no indication, which would have been confusing for the audience. There were a number of scene changes in our piece, and we had to remember what scene followed the previous one, and had to communicate this to the audience. One of the most important things we changed in terms of transitions in the final week was taking more time over the changes, reshaping and refining them. Before we had rushed them, and everyone had begun at different times, yet now we were taking much longer, developing every aspect of our characters physically before speaking.
This meant there were now moments of silence in our relatively high-energy, fast-moving piece which really helped to focus and communicate our intentions effectively, as well as really ensuring the audience saw the difference between the scenes and characters. Being able to watch back the videos of our work in progress was definitely an asset, and one that we readily used. Seeing our piece from an audience’s perspective was incredibly important, and we could easily evaluate the effectiveness of certain elements. Similarly, if one group member did not play a major part in a scene, we would occasionally have them watch it as an audience member.
Steph, and others did this at several points, checking our projection and that the staging was effective, ensuring no-one was being blocked. It was often hard to view our piece objectively after working on it for so long, and so moments like these were really beneficial. In the last few days before the exam, we worked in full costume and with sound and lighting, which helped dramatically. It allowed us to fully immerse ourselves in our characters, and working with technical elements meant the atmosphere was exactly how it would be in the exam.