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.