I will update this after (probably during) the tour, but for the time being here is the rehearsal week blog of the Blackout schools tour 2008 ! It's very exciting to be part of this tour, for many reasons, not least of all that this is my first tour (ever) and also the fact that it's such an exciting play. We do cram a lot into twenty minutes, and I've never been involved in such an intense production before, in that all five of us have to be on it for the whole twenty minutes, so as we don't miss our cues not just for lines but for choreography and scene setting, set striking, etc... It has been a challenge, but a hundred and twenty per cent worth it - I have to say I'm completely in love with this play. I've learned loads this week too, and it's been great working with Davey and the other cast members.
Just for a bit of background info, Blackout is based on a true story, and was performed earlier this year at the Royal National Theatre in London. We've got two of the original cast members for this tour - but the other three of us are new. I first saw Blackout at the Citz during the summer and was of course very impressed ,and so being given the chance to do the schools tour is a fantastic opportunity. Naturally after the last night of Reflections we were all gutted it was over, which is why the following Monday it was amazing to get the call regarding Blackout and now that the rehearsals are all done and dusted I can't believe it's all happening.
Right, I'll get to it! When we arrived on Monday we did a quick read-through of the play, some changes have been made and as we took a scene each we were able to rediscover the play on a new level. One of the positives about the new casting is that we can recreate the story and make it our own and I have to say I'm sooo pleased I'm not the only newbie! The lines hadn't been assigned on our first day, which made the process even more interesting, and also quite scary! So the first day was mostly improvisations, some to build our characterization skills and others - fascinatingly - to discover and explore the many individual characters we portray throughout the play. What we also did was to read the first few scenes, experimenting with different forms of staging and a wee bit of choreography (we've now decided to have the audience on three sides). The great thing is that us actors could contribute ideas, while Davey gave us suggestions and thoughts to inspire the characters we'd already started to create even by day one. I tend to find improvisations really scary and the first one we did on Monday definitely was, but after that the fear just subsided and we all made it work. I definitely think it's easier to improvise as a character you know or have met rather than one you've just been given and know nothing about. Davey has quite a knack of making up a specific character there and then that it would be good to see in the play, and then he'll say "Try this..." and you'll find yourself pulling it off. I'm sure Davey being a successful playwright must come into that! I think it's really important to see a wide range of characters in this play because there is so much narration, and I'm loving the fact that there's almost a character for every line, or another side to a character you meet. Once the lines were assigned it was a bit of a panic, worrying about learning them all in under a week - especially coz it wasn't fully decided yet - but James and Fraser had both told me how easy it is to pick it up and they were right. With it having such a great rhythm, in a way it's been like learning a dance - but it's so much more than that. We got through a lot on Tuesday, the lines were given out and we began to work the play on its feet. I was struggling with scene five which was how far we'd got that morning, simply because we hadn't decided whether my scene five character (one of many ! =]) should be pally with the main character James, or sarcastic and bitchy, and I was finding it really hard to be so sugary. (Found it easier to be nasty !) But eventually we decided on a bit of both, which was perfect, because I do like a challenge - and apart from that, it works a lot better. It provides a contrast between narration and characterisation.
I was away on Wednesday at a family funeral, but it was great to be back into the swing of things on Thursday. I was so worried about missing important stuff - on the upside though, the ferry there and back (at four in the morning the first time) gave me plenty opportunity for a bit of line-learning! Thursday was a very productive day, thankfully, and by then I'd just about caught up on all the missed sleep so tiredness wasn't a factor. We ran through the first two quarters and it went well, with the exception of a few missed cues and my completely random addition of "Dead to the world" after the "lying on the ground curled up into a wee ball" bit. That's never happened before. The only explanation I can think of is that the lines are really easy to pick up because of the pace of the play, and it's just a case of remembering - and retelling - the next part of the story, and "dead to the world" just seemed like the right thing to say, for some reason. It just came into my head at that moment - totally out the blue - but now every time I do that scene, I hesitate before "You'd remember that" because I always want to say "Dead to the world" even though it makes no sense whatsoever. The other thing I do is say "black converses" instead of "black combats". I've done that twice now. These are my two biggest sections of narration and these mistakes both near the end of each one, so I reckon it's a nervous thing. Just hope I don't do that "on the night" as it were. I found I was at an advantage coming in a day behind because the scenes had already been set up and the guys kept me right, so I picked it up easy enough. And as for this morning, we did our first full run through just after nine, and have done two since. They all went well - different obviously - and I really feel like we've come on leaps and bounds even just from this morning. We've also set up the structure of the discussion for after each performance and I think we're more or less ready. Sorry, let's try that again, we are as ready as we will ever be and as for next week - Bring It On.
See you next week. Should have some pictures from the tour as well. Can't actually wait !