First read through of revision six – that is: the playscript. I’m always amazed at Alan and Andrew’s efforts. From what at first blush seems to be disparate story-lines and random characters, a perfectly crafted novel appears. I don’t know if they are conscious or accidental geniuses, but they keep pulling it out of the hat on every production, so I have to assume (with a shrivelling ego) that they really ARE that good. winter guests are like Fagin’s family, without the crime and violence. There’s a lot of laughter. It’s as I imagine a happy family would be. I brought homemade brownies in (homemade by Harald at home), and they all got eaten.
We’ve put two scenes ‘on the floor’, reminding ourselves that we’ll be joined by a number of other company members tomorrow, so the blocking is a rough sketch for now. The other company members are Åsmund’s ‘L” shaped blocks. When you work so physically with a set, transforming scenes by twists and pulls, building and pulling down walls then playing in the (instantly) new – confined or open spaces – the set itself takes on a personality. That’s why it feels like the flats are company members. We’re limited without them, imagining what they will do when they arrive.
So we concentrated on the rhythm of the text on the floor today. It’s good to be allowed, encouraged and guided to tease out the optimal tempo and rhythm of a scene. Sometimes an exchange between two characters simply doesn’t work unless you bounce the lines in just. the-right. way. Often we will discuss something like a simple ellipses (winter guests favourite punctuation mark) for a few minutes, testing out whether the line might be better served by a hyphen instead. This is Andrew’s feral instinct for dialogue coming into play. Coupled with Alan’s æsthetic precision, it makes for solid staging. I’m a lazy and sloppy actress, so it’s always a shock and a joy to be pulled up by the bootstraps.
In the break Yvonne and I do John Wayne and Clint Eastwood impressions – curiously reminded of Coelacanth when we played a lesbian couple, Nancy and Holly. (Nancy and Holly: Surely John and Clint’s drag artist names, back in the day? Nobody can be that butch … )
When we run the scenes Gunnar plays (as if by magic) a perfect contentum from his sound set up at the side of the stage space. Torkil (light) is watching, absorbing, and I always know a line works if he laughs. We’re also joined for the rehearsals by Yvonne and Alan’s pop Ingvar; he sits in the corner, quietly reading, and it’s very calming to have him there. Sometimes I notice he is intently watching us. He’s worked in the business for half a century, and I feel quite awed that someone who’s seen such a span of theatre is in the room. I like the feeling of being in a modest historical context.
The rest of the cast arrives! Walking into the rehearsal room the sense of déjà vu is powerful when we see the eight monolithic wooden ‘L’s’ that comprised the set for America – Visions Of Love in the space. We have a short working day today and use the time to try out possibilities with the constructions. As in 2010, the L’s are unyielding at first, like big unconscious drunks, or toddlers, who refuse to cooperate. Of course this is more about us than them. I marvel at Alan’s fluidity with them, he sees things and possibilities that my brain simply can’t grasp. It’s easy to feel dwarfed by the structures, both physically and acting-wise. However, we keep going back again and again, trying out what will be ultimately be a choreography, often requiring the full strength and agility of three (human) performers to move one L. When the ideas don’t work it feels awfully clunky and hopeless. When the ideas do work it’s simply magical. Breath-taking. To move structures so dangerously heavy and make them look so light, because angles, balance and cooperation are in place … well that’s basically the essence of theatre.
We went through text in the sets, and for a moment the feeling of an opening long-shot in a big movie is in the room. It’s damn hard work, and it pays off.
Even so, we may not stay with the solutions we found today. Time is short, but we have to make the most of every hour we have in rehearsals, both to rehearse the thing but also to allow ourselves to discover – reveal – the possibilities of the play. Three of us are over fifty, and our eyesight and line-learning capacities are not what they once were. We’re still damn funny though.
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