Rehearsing Synchron Productions’ Foresight

We are now over halfway into rehearsals for Synchron Productions’ latest play, Foresight, in which I play journalist Charlotte Foster. This is my second play with the company, after appearing in their first play, Chronicargo, back in November. This latest project has given me the opportunity to work with a friend that I trained with on the MA Acting at East 15 last year, but also two East 15ers from previous years.

Unlike Chronicargo, where the script developed from work we devised with the director in the rehearsal room, the script for Foresight was already written when we started the work. However, as the director, Andrew Barton, and producer, Amy Liette Hunter, wrote the script together, there has been some flexibility with tweaking bits here and there in rehearsals, as we discovered what felt right for the characters and story and what might work better phrased in a different way. I am enjoying working in this sort of ‘open’ environment where the actor’s thoughts and process can feed directly back into the script itself.

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In rehearsals

Rehearsals kicked off with some games followed by table work, which was invaluable for us as a group building an understanding of the world of the play and our characters’ place within that world. We discussed some of the character research we’d done in preparation for the first week, and through mining the script we raised several questions to answer through further research.

Week two saw us beginning work on the scenes and making even more discoveries about what makes our characters tick. It has been particularly fascinating to see the relationships between the characters develop as we’ve worked on a scene, and now in week three I can feel how the world and relationship threads have formed around each character as we have really started to embody these people.

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Playing warm-up games before getting down to work!

We are rehearsing at the Young Actors Theatre Islington (YATI), and each time I set off to rehearsals there, script, notebook, water and a multitude of snacks in my bag, I feel that little ball of excitement and pride that I am doing this – I am being an actor. This is what it’s all about – making new work with people you love and respect, and telling stories that just have to be told.

Foresight is on at The Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton, from May 31st to June 4th, 7.30pm. For tickets, please book online on The Courtyard Theatre’s website.

No no no no no no no yes

Thus says Jim Trott in The Vicar of Dibley. While causing much mirth, this phrase also sums up both of my passions and chosen professions. In both the acting and the writing world, getting accustomed to regular rejection is just part of the deal. For every ‘yes’ there has usually been a stream of ‘no’s beforehand. After two such ‘no’s today I was faced with several options: throw my laptop on the floor and start smashing up Costa, sob uncontrollably much to the alarm of everyone in Costa, or get back to work, and write. Thus I chose the latter…

It’s a crazy old thing, being a ‘creative’. You put your heart and soul, and a great deal of time and, often, money into your work, only to have someone tell you it’s not what they’re looking for, it’s not quite up to their standards, it’s too different/not different enough, it’s been seen before, it would never sell, or just… ‘no’. Faced with such criticism many people would sink into a deep mire of self-loathing, or else construct a solid concrete wall around themselves. Actors, however, are required by the very nature of both what we do and the industry itself, to keep going, keep trying and, very importantly, keep feeling. Admittedly, there is a certain degree of self-loathing, self-pity and self-defence that goes on, but it has to be a temporary state. In order to do the work, we have to rise up out of the mud time and time again, learn to take the knocks and still come back for more. And while doing this, we have to stay open, receptive and fully engaged in the world around us. We have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. It’s almost like going in the ring with a heavyweight boxer knowing full well we’re about to be hit in the face, yet not only doing nothing to defend ourselves, but in fact presenting our cheek for his glove.

The ‘no’s I’ve just received are actually for my writing, but the principle is the same. We put ourselves into our work then put it out there to get stamped on, discarded or, even worse, simply ignored. I have indeed just had a moment (or several) of doom and gloom, but as I pack up my things to head over to the theatre the grey clouds are lifting. Tonight I get to be a Russian, a flamingo and a wolf. I get to share a sacred space with my fellow actors and adventurers and tell the people gathered there a magical story. Tonight I get to play.

So I shake off the ‘no’ and remind myself why I’m doing this: for the love of it. For the sheer joy. It’s certainly not for the money! And I remind myself how lucky I am to get to do this every night this week. This is what sustains me through the ‘no’s. This is why it’s worth it.

Synchron Productions’ Chronicargo is on at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington tonight and tomorrow as part of the New Moon Festival.

Animal studies in Chronicargo

Next week is show week – Synchron Productions’ Chronicargo, part of the New Moon Festival at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington, London. Working with this new company has been great fun – we’ve devised the piece as a group but with a director guiding us through the process, providing the initial and overall vision and scripting our work as we go along. Working in this way has proven to be pretty successful in terms of both creative satisfaction and productivity, and is certainly a method I hope to utilise for future projects.

Taking notes in a Chronicargo rehearsal

Taking notes in a Chronicargo rehearsal

Without giving too much away, my favourite scene has called for a spot of animal studies during the rehearsal and devising process. Having spent a few Laban sessions being a komodo dragon during my training at East 15, I was delighted to do more animal work.

The two animals I am working with – the flamingo and the wolf – obviously call for a very different physicality. We’re following the idea that these creatures have evolved to a more human form, kind of like Cat in the Red Dwarf series, so we started playing with embodying the animals in their full animal form, then gradually moved along the scale to human. We wanted to keep certain physical and behavioural characteristics from the animal and exhibit them in a human body.

For example, my flamingo, Fiona (I love a bit of alliteration), has kept the tendency to stand on one leg and ruffles her feathers every now and then when either perturbed or showing off. Thus I spend much of that scene wobbling on one leg (I haven’t done ballet class in a while so am a bit out of practice!), my knuckles on the small of my back and my arms bent out behind me for wings. Thinking about the vocal qualities Fiona the flamingo might have, I decided on having a musicality to her speech, with the tendency to go up and down in waves.

For the wolf, Accalia (from Romulus and Remus fame), I planted her weight more firmly and evenly across both feet, and gave her a touch of a snarl every now and then. The voice is deeper and rooted firmly in the belly, with a more limited vocal range. I still need to do a bit more work on the upper body I think, possibly experimenting with hunching the shoulders forward a little or using the hands and arms more.

Our final rehearsal is on Sunday, then we open on Monday! If you’re in or around London and fancy an evening of new work, take a look at the New Moon Festival event page on Facebook. We are performing at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington, and each of the three pieces in the festival will be performed every night from 9-14th November, so it’s worth getting a triple bill ticket of £18 to see all three!