How to work as Director / Dramaturg with an artist who has been developing a show on his own for over a year and already performed it a number of times in front of an audience? How to be most useful and strike the right balance between pushing him artistically and working on things that are achievable within this two week residency?
I began the process by watching the film of Steve’s performance in Canada last summer. The script was still a work in progress, but he already had a full length show. His characters were real but as is to be expected when someone has largely been working on their own – albeit with maximum energy and dedication – there were various different directions all of the team involved in this residency, could push the show creatively.
I created a list of things we could think about, talk about and play with:
The character of TES: What’s his narrative arc? When does he find his poet’s voice? What does poetry represent to him?
The character of the teacher: What is her background? How does she view her pupils? What sticks out about TES? What impact does this all have on the way she moves physically?
The narrator: What is his role? Are there moments when he describes action that are unnecessary? When does he cross from his world in to the play world?
Blocking: How can we use the space and any furniture more inventively, to convey the world of the play at the same time as maintaining a simple show that can be performed by one performer without any stage hands?
And how can the lighting support and convey all these different worlds?
Luckily many of these thoughts were converging with Steve’s thoughts about the things he’d like to explore further.
We are now on day five of the residency. After spending a fair amount of time developing the characters this week, we began last night by locating the various locations within the play in different parts of the stage. After mapping these different sites the best method seemed to be running through as much as we could of the play and finding different physical routes between these sites. The possibility of longer journeys across the stage breathed new life in to the piece as well as new ways of delivering the text. A journey circling the stage whilst describing the sights and sounds of half time at a football pitch, fitted serendipitously.
There is still time to play, a bit. To explore new ideas about the Mother – her emotional reaction to the news of her son’s friends being involved in a joy riding accident. How to walk and hold your shoulders whilst playing two very different women, as a man!
Fortunately Steve has such a well-developed script that he is able to accomplish all the various things needed over this period – he is working extensively with sound designer, Chris Full and the show will be quite audio heavy so a big chunk of the time will be spent on this, something that he would not have been able to achieve without the associated bursary.
Whichever show and group of artists had been awarded the residency, there would have been a different way of organising the time. This is the joy of having this space set aside for whoever needed it. But as is always the way with a creative project, it is difficult to predict and plan for something that also needs to remain fluid. Only two days of my time had been budgeted for in this project in case the resident company already had their own director. It was surprising that the majority of people who applied to the residency were solo artists (maybe that says something about who needs these opportunities the most). I am inevitably drawn to spending more time in the rehearsal room than originally envisaged. So much can happen in a short space of time. However time away also enables me to continue to be the outside eye which is perhaps what Steve needs most at the moment – bringing ideas and working together to make small tweaks which can have a significant impact.