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!)