Time Out!

Posted: January 30, 2014 in A Bit of Everything

White Rabbit, Princess Therapy, Operation: Love Story, PNPA Festival, Forget Me Not, Etcetera Theatre, Fringe Theatre London, Alexandra Bergeron, Zara Swanton, Lars Van Riesen, Olivia Negrean, Rosemary Tross, Siena Dexter, New Theatre London, Scratch NIghts London, Things To Do In London, One Festival, The Space Arts Centre, The Dogstar BrixtonIt’s been a while since the last Scrawny post, but then it’s been quite a month, full of rehearsals and shows and designing and doing, with not really enough time for sleep, let alone blogging.

But what a month.  We’ve had a lot of fun, we’ve done a lot of stuff and now, as the wind down begins, it’s time to recap and try to remember some of the experiences.

2014 began with a resuming of rehearsals for Forget Me Not.  Since last August we’ve been devising and developing the show and testing it at our monthly scratch night, Scrawl.  I’d read an article about Arts Funding Cuts, gotten a bee in my bonnet about art being important, grabbed a few actors I found wandering around without purpose and started a conversation.

White Rabbit, Princess Therapy, Operation: Love Story, PNPA Festival, Forget Me Not, Etcetera Theatre, Fringe Theatre London, Alexandra Bergeron, Zara Swanton, Lars Van Riesen, Olivia Negrean, Rosemary Tross, Siena Dexter, New Theatre London, Scratch NIghts London, Things To Do In London, One Festival, The Space Arts Centre, The Dogstar BrixtonActually the actors in question were a great bunch of people we’d either worked with before or met and knew we wanted to work with and they all found the time to come together and have a good chinwag with us.  From the initial debate we played, we tested, we gained some people, we lost some people, but slowly, slowly, we put together an idea for a show. And we used our Scrawl night as a place to try that idea in front of an audience, get some feedback, get the experience of how the idea actually performed and then make more, or less, or something else, whatever was needed.

Then, gloriously, The Etcetera Theatre in Camden opened their doors to submissions for their Pay Nothing Play Anything festival, a great initiative where theatre companies can submit any idea and it could potentially be chosen based on the afore mentioned ideas merits, rather than the companies financial ability to hire the space.

We applied, we were chosen, fantastic.  But frightening also, what was a clever little thought about a play we wanted to make, something that had only existed in 15 minute sections for the scratches; now needed to be a proper show, with important things like a narrative and, you know, a point.  And we had just over a month to do it.

White Rabbit, Princess Therapy, Operation: Love Story, PNPA Festival, Forget Me Not, Etcetera Theatre, Fringe Theatre London, Alexandra Bergeron, Zara Swanton, Lars Van Riesen, Olivia Negrean, Rosemary Tross, Siena Dexter, New Theatre London, Scratch NIghts London, Things To Do In London, One Festival, The Space Arts Centre, The Dogstar Brixton

Rosemary Tross and Zara Swanton

Luckily, the months of play stood us in good stead.  I can honestly say that the company for Forget Me Not is one of the loveliest, most talented, hardworking and imaginative that I have ever worked with.  Comprised of Alex Bergeron, Olivia Negrean, Zara Swanton, Rosemary Tross and Lars Van Riesen (I have to name check them because they deserve the credit so very much), they all give so much and so generously and each in their own specific way. As a team I think we work fabulously well together.  Anyway, having spent a good four months working with each other, it meant the bond and the trust was already there.  As was much of the world we were wanting to make and the story we wanted to tell.  Even though I’m directing, I think it is essential that I feel as able to be vulnerable around the people I’m working with as they do around each other and me.  I script what they come up with through workshopping and improvisation and construct what becomes the story, so the stakes are high for me as well, as that always leaves you feeling incredibly exposed.  But there is such a level of trust now that I think, as we faced the question of what on earth were we planning to perform in a month’s time, the trust was the thing that let us know, whatever it was, we could do it.

And we did.  It was not a final product but rather a first outing as something approaching full scale.  It allowed us to see and feel what works and what doesn’t and to play with how we want to tell things.  It was a fantastic way to explore how the narrative we made sat.  We’d moved towards using certain styles of theatre more than others but only really cemented them late on in the process.  Performing the show let us see these in action and showed us how we could apply them more.

On top of that, the whole experience was fluid and fun.  The Etcetera took exceptional care of us and made It very easy to do what we wanted to do.  They were really warm and welcoming and I think we all enjoyed performing there enormously.  We had good houses and a school group studying Dystopia (the setting for Forget Me Not) came to see us, and we in return went out to them and ran some workshops for them to practically explore the subject matter.

White Rabbit, Princess Therapy, Operation: Love Story, PNPA Festival, Forget Me Not, Etcetera Theatre, Fringe Theatre London, Alexandra Bergeron, Zara Swanton, Lars Van Riesen, Olivia Negrean, Rosemary Tross, Siena Dexter, New Theatre London, Scratch NIghts London, Things To Do In London, One Festival, The Space Arts Centre, The Dogstar BrixtonAnd, again, we did it.  That in itself is enough.  But having done it, we have much to learn from it.  Each time we do something, whether that’s small or large, a little ten minutes for one for the scratches, creating and curating the idea of Scrawl itself, or devising, writing and staging a show, gives us insight into our process.  Each time we’re learning new things about how we work, how we want to work and what were are capable of.

And we’ve learnt new things about the show itself.  What it is and how we intend for it to exist again.  Because of the time scale, there were things we found that we weren’t able to explore or apply as deeply or fluently as we wanted them to be.  And now we are in a position where we can take stock, go through our feedback, go through our experiences and decide what we lose and what we keep and what else we need to find.

Zara Swanton, Olivia Negrean, Rosemary Tross, Lars Van Riesen and Alexandra Bergeron

Zara Swanton, Olivia Negrean, Rosemary Tross, Lars Van Riesen and Alexandra Bergeron

And finally, for me, there are things to learn about the people I am working with.  Over the course of making the production, I’ve been able to explore the skills my actors have, both as actors and as contributors to the production and the company as well. And now I personally, as a director and as the Artistic Director of this company, am in a wonderful position where I have a team of talented people who are so very eager to work together and keep creating, and between us, together, we are in such a good place to do that.

So that’s a little bit of what we got up to in January, but that’s not all.  Still to come is us getting involved with the hilarious Princess Therapy, the poignant Operation: Love Story and a little bit of monologue fun at The Space Arts Centre’s One Festival.

And the gloriousness of having a little bit of time to write and record some of these things, January has been so busy, it’s lovely being able to sit and reflect. . .more reflections are on their way.

White Rabbit, Princess Therapy, Operation: Love Story, PNPA Festival, Forget Me Not, Etcetera Theatre, Fringe Theatre London, Alexandra Bergeron, Zara Swanton, Lars Van Riesen, Olivia Negrean, Rosemary Tross, Siena Dexter, New Theatre London, Scratch NIghts London, Things To Do In London, One Festival, The Space Arts Centre, The Dogstar BrixtonBut for now, back to the grind stone, we’ve got another Scrawl coming up on Tueday 4th, and we’ve moved, we’ve gone to the dog, well The Dogstar Brixton, new year, new space, new cats to draw, even more new ideas.

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