Monthly Archives: January 2013

Fen Blog 2

As I entered this next rehearsal, I feel intrusive as the cast are in discussion with Tim discussion the plan for today. They have made charts and graphs about their character’s process through the play – a very interesting rehearsal technique, a good way for the cast to get into character. I sit next to Gina as I watch; she is inputting everyone’s measurements for costume.
The scene they start with is ‘exactly slap bang in the middle’ Gina tells me, one including all the female cast. The atmospheric music I mentioned last time assists their transition as they all walk very slowly to new positions, it seems very ghost like.
There are only two girls talking in this scene whilst all the others stand at the back staring at Becca, can’t wait to see it in context.
‘Waa’, Gina supplies the sound effects to prompt Amy as she goes to nurse a baby that looks a lot like a towel. Amy has a lot to do in this scene, Tim and Gina remind her of where she has to be on each line – acting isn’t as easy as it may look. ‘That’s alright don’t worry, it’s not easy’, reassures Tim. Now Jonny has entered the scene and poor Amy now has to tend to him with overlapping dialogue and numerous tasks to continue the scene. The other girls are still staring forward, except Kirsty who has her eyes fixed on Becca. I wonder what she’s done.
‘I must say Amy, you handle eating soup and holding a baby incredibly well’ Gina compliments her. The way Becca is miming ironing, I wouldn’t trust her with mine.

With 7 weeks left to go, Tim reminds Rebecca to be off script as soon as possible. Hopefully the chart she was making earlier will help her remember her lines. Tim now advises the cast that punctuation is important, he is very thorough with his direction, always giving explanations as to why he is saying what he is saying; ‘we really have to understand the depth of the story’.
The cast now all sit round Tim as they read through the same scene, I think Tim felt they needed to get to know their lines better before they could run through it again.
‘We’ll do this scene, then we have a nice romantic scene, then we’ll go to church. What a strange play this is!’ Tim explains as they get up to put the scene in action again.
As they finish this scene, Hannah and Sarah, who play mother and daughter Angela and Becky, cross paths with Alex (playing Frank), staring at him as he passes. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry to stop you again, I’ve just had a genius idea’ Tim inserts. ‘Bing’ Becca adds. I won’t say what it was though because I don’t want to ruin the surprise.
Everyone has a giggle at Gina’s expense as she flop-runs out of the room telling Tim something on the way out. He gives a good impression of her as he imitates her run, telling everyone that he couldn’t hear what she said. They all let her know of his mimicking when she re-enters the room.
Now they practice the Church scene but after a few lines they can’t continue as Becca has the giggles; ‘the highs and lows of a Fen rehearsal’ Tim observes. I think she was laughing at Rebecca’s accent to which Tim tells them, ‘don’t worry the accent man will be here in two weeks time’, I like the term ‘accent man’. Kirsty’s accent however is very good, she has practiced her speech well and I am involved in her story as she delivers.
As they practice this scene I can see that some of the cast have multi-roles. This mirrors last years Laramie Project as all cast members had at least 3 characters each. Playing more than one character in a play is a very hard task to determine as a young actor, a challenge of which I’m sure Tim will direct them through during the rest of the process. As I type this though he jokes, ‘tonight’s problem, what is a Jesus hug?’
‘Tight’ answers Gina.
As Becca and Sarah leave their scene, Tim tells him what he has thought for Val (Becca’s character). ‘Tim makes this play sadder’, Gina says. It is true, what he directs Becca to do is very heart-wrenching and I find myself even more intrigued. Becca’s giggles ruin the scene again though as she laughs her way through that serious exit. Tim makes her go back and do it again. The scene is beautiful once she carries it through correctly.
As they approach the next scene, Tim tells everyone that the great grandmother’s speech, played by Rebecca, is a verbatim one. The knowledge that these are words that Churchill collected from a real old lady from the Fens makes the sadness of this scene even more poignant.
Finally, Tim sits everyone down at the end to reflect on today’s session, congratulating them on their progress and describing how they are now beginning to properly understand the words of the play, portraying them convincingly.

Follow @Fenfm on twitter to hear from the cast members themselves. (According to Rebecca, Caryl Churchill follows!)

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Curve and De Montfort University collaboration

 

Sitting in the Curve café, sipping a hot chocolate that comes with a free biscuit, I await my first visit to the Fen rehearsals. As I sit here, Becca, who is playing Val, is practicing her lines, her West Country accent already authentic. This year, the cast have had one 3-4 hour rehearsal a week where all cast are required to attend. I’ve been told that Fen is about a varied community who live in the Cambridgeshire Fens, and it seems as though this weekly group rehearsal helps gain a sense of community in the group.

Today is a small rehearsal however as people have gone home for Christmas. As I sit to talk to Tim their director, they all get involved in a ball game to warm up, trying not to let the ball touch the floor. As they warm up, Tim puts ‘Call me maybe’ on through the speakers. While they wait for Jonny to get the ball the girls do a goofy dance. ‘This is the kind of mad stuff we get up to you see,’ says Tim as he joins in. Next thing I know I’m being plummeted with tennis balls.

Something new to this year’s production is their student stage manager Gina, who is also a DMU Drama student. She seems very much part of the cast which will ease them all when it comes to tech and dress rehearsals, having a friendly face rather than the scary techie men with beards, wearing all black.

After they decide which scenes to rehearse, they start to set up. Their set consists of randomly placed buckets and tennis balls all over the floor. I’m intrigued to see how this will transform in production. Tim is deciding some staging; ‘Jonny may have to drag you for a minute’ he decides, to which Becca replies, ‘I’m so sorry.’ These two have had many an awkward scene together, Becca playing Jonny’s mother and lover in Greek in the DMU/Curve’s first collaboration. If you know the story of Oedipus, then you’ll know what I’m referring to! I think Jonny is filling in for Alex though, who plays Frank. The task that Tim has set seems harder for Becca though, as she tries to stay limp and keep a straight face. Tim tells Gina, ‘Google how to move a dead body’ to which she replies, ‘I don’t know if that’s a joke’. Today they have a music man, Tom. He has a green guitar with a cool piece of equiptment that makes his guitar make atmospheric music. It works really well and adds an understanding to the strange place that the characters are situated. ‘It’s a very sinister play’ Tim tells me as they think about one of Val’s lines after she has awoken from the dead. I told him that I thought the play was about potatoes – ‘So did we’. As they all explore this eerie scene, Gina suddenly pops up with, ‘I typed in how to move a body across the stage and it came up with AA Breakdown cover’; looks like this will have to come down to pure acting skills. Even in rehearsal with no costume or effects, it is an eerie scene. Tim gives Becca notes to make her lines ‘make sense’, and she takes them well, I am fully involved in her story as I listen.

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