by Wela MbusiIt feels great to be back in Notre Dame this week as this was our first destination at the beginning of the tour. We’re a little under the weather as some of us are plagued with tummy bugs and physical ailments. This week exhaustion has set in as the novelty of hotel hopping has finally ended; but we still manage to find solace in the show and the magnificent reception it’s been receiving here in Notre Dame.
Dominic had not been feeling well all week and immediately put himself on a pharmacopeia of medicines to stave it off for the show in the evenings. The frequent change in beds had finally caught up with my body and suffered from a muscle strain as well. Ben, Anna and Pete also tittering on the edge of throat tickles and feelings of being light headed, but all in all we are still loving the show and the feedback from the audiences has been overwhelming. We’ve had a mixture of Shakespeare aficionados and theatre enthusiasts whose feedback on the clarity and joy we seem to be having on stage, has been very encouraging and great to hear.
Students from the workshops also made up some of the numbers in the audiences and for them to see the show after having explored parts of it in detail, was something they thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated. I especially enjoyed working with some of the Accounting students as they were not familiar with the play but using it to work on basic presentation skills was an eye opener for them and for me as well.
The school itself has also been a a bit of a culture shock as Ben recounted one of his classes starting with the Lord’s prayer; something, coming from a predominantly secular London culture we’re not used to. Certainly a lot of the themes from the play have been points of interest for the students as well as the professors.
The change of weather is slowly but surely creeping in as we’ve had a few wet spells, but we’re all looking forward to our prison performance on the weekend as that’ll be a new experience for most of us but one we’re prepared for as a group.
Week five. Hooray!! The long wait has finally come to an end and the finality of it is solidified by the associate actors sharing their collective notes after our final run in the UK. Our spirits are buoyant but only because we know, that after the seemingly torturous, but necessary, ordeal of receiving notes from them, we will have ascended three thousand feet in two days towards another welcoming collective of practitioners and audiences.
Alas! The notes session proved to be the remedy we needed for the majority of this isolated rehearsal process, as they were very informative coming from an outside perspective. It was also comforting to know that every single one of them had gone through this the same artistic gauntlet as well.
A sense of ownership has been instilled in us having gone through this, and aptly reinforced by Martin, is the idea that what we created can only be understood and given by us with full conviction, as it is a testament of the best of ourselves as artists.
Week three of rehearsals and our actors’ imaginations are being called upon to stretch beyond their known limitations. Whether it’s by choice or not, exhaustion can sometimes be the thing you need to transport you from the dull and austere to the absurd. From the mind-bending task of watching Ben transform from one character to another a dozen times in a single scene, to Peter frantically scratching himself in the hopes of finding some semblance of a character. Anna has also been tirelessly donning multiple outfits for Isabella as I’m spinning in circles also trying to find the internals of my characters. The highlight of the week has been a visit from Siân Williams who is a choreographer, movement specialist, and theatre practitioner. Her invaluable knowledge on how to produce movement from the root of the play and the convention we’re using, has not only been intellectually taxing but very fruitful as we’ve been learning to merge the two languages. This has been a test for all of us this week, but how we’ve managed to overcome our frustrations, has also meant that we are developing a shorthand in how we communicate our idea, and by the time we get to America, we’ll be a well-oiled hive mind.
An epic journey is underway for five actors creating a magical piece of theatre from scratch; using nothing but our skills, imagination, and the love of theatre. Did I also mention without the all seeing eye of a director?
The first two weeks of rehearsals have been about shelling out the play for its meaning, not only for clarity of storytelling, but for us to really grasp such a complex and rich play as Measure for Measure. After the initial shock of being left alone in the room with nothing but the text and our collective training, we managed to slowly, but surely, decipher the scenes one unit at a time. It has been a tremendous learning curve for all of us in the company so far as we’re coming to terms with different ways of working. On top of that, there’s the added responsibility of being all of the other figureheads responsible for the creation of a piece of theatre. However, not having the constant objective eye of a director, it has also meant enjoying the freedom of playing with the text in many ways that a ‘normal’ rehearsal wouldn’t allow us to. We’ve been paraphrasing our lines together and that has helped us not only understand our own lines but the other actors as well.
The breadth and depth of understanding that the process has given us has and hopefully will continue to enrich the play. Foursquare seems to be a regular pre-rehearsal pressure reliever and we are constantly enthused by the epic journey that we’re about to take in the States.