As part of the creation process, it’s always a good idea to keep a journal of some description. Usually I keep mine scrawled on napkins and across a thousand notes that I constantly use, so from here on in I’m going to blog about it. Who knows, it may even make a useful resource for someone one day.
This was our first day in workshops with Elena, our Russian director of our first big assessment piece; Anton Chekhov‘s “Three Sisters”.
I’ve been looking forward to sitting in on the workshops as Elena had described her process as being rather different from anything else that I’ve worked with. She’s right too.
Most productions begin by dealing with and analysis the text to be performed. So rehearsals are in fact read-throughs for the first week or so. Once the actors have gained some proficiency with the text we move onto blocking, introducing other elements, exploring relationships and gradually it starts looking more like a production.
With Elena we began by exploring motion and emotion.
Every movement has some form of emotive quality driving it. This emotion aids communication, driving the physicality that allows the subtext to be read by the audience. As well as the literal text of course.
Elena pointed out that “communication happens on a variety of levels. Emotional. Psychological”, which was a real light bulb moment for several of the actors. You could see it in their slightly puzzled expressions followed by the classic “derp, why hadn’t I thought of that” frown.
At least they took it on board.
Then we moved onto movement as a way of expressing emotional status.
Which sounds like it’s a waste of time but you try expressing that you’re heartbroken but happier for it. Or furious and terrified simultaneously. It’s not easy to realistically synthesise these sorts of emotion. It was really interesting to watch and to see the changes that she was pushing on people’s way of exploring the emotions they’re presenting. It was also interesting to note the changes in the rooms energy as she ran them through various emotional states. Which lead really nicely to her next exercise; atmosphere.
Atmosphere is exactly what it sounds like. It’s that almost intangible feeling of shared emotion that comes from groups of humans. Films create it by framing their shots just so and with their choice of music. We don’t have that luxury in theatre. Instead our atmosphere comes from the actors. The reality of their emotion, the tension in their bodies, the tone of their voices… helped along by costuming choices and lighting design but the realism that keeps you riveted is from the raw human form.
“Without atmosphere, nothing will be communicated to the audience… It’s like tuning a radio into different frequencies.”
After atmosphere we ran through what it is to embody the text while embracing the subtext. How physicality is just as important as your tone. How to read, analyse and feel the text and your character. An integral part of Chekhov is the subtext to his writing, more so than Shakespeare’s innuendo! It does mean, however, that Chekhov’s texts are rendered untranslatable as a lot of the subtext is lost. Here is where we are exceptionally fortunate to be working with a talented director who is a native Russian speaker.
All up I’m really excited about where this production is going to go during the workshop and rehearsal process.
It’s going to be like nothing I’ve worked with before. Which makes it a little terrifying but an amazing opportunity at the same time.