Sunday, October 4, 2009

The final curtain

So here I am, Sunday afternoon, the day after the night before. Feeling slightly hazy and numb. One of the worst parts of the theatrical journey; the end. We have created a little community, a world and a web of shared references, jokes, thoughts and experiences. And then it is gone. Although the rational part of my mind reminds me that there is no such thing as an 'end' as such, but rather different chapter along the way.

I have come away from the final performances of 'Orestes' feeling like this has been a rich and valuable experience for all involved. From chatting with the company at our after show gathering last night, I have been touched by how moved everyone has been, how much the project has stimulated personal thought and discovery, and been a chance for us all to be enriched in various ways. For me, this has been a really important leap. The opportunity to form an ensemble of such talent and diversity, has allowed me to work harder, deeper and faster than usual. As a teacher/practitioner, I think it is so vital to keep your own professional practice going, to challenge yourself, and be reminded of the different pace and depth of the professional rehearsal room. I have been through so many different phases of thought throughout this process; during rehearsals I felt passionate about the gathering and telling of truths, and felt as if I had arrived at my most satisfying form of directing: stimulating the cast, generating material through a deep immersion into the content and substance, then shaping and facilitating the subsequent units of action. The rebel chorus only claimed text if it resonated with them, and they connected to it. This felt really honest and organic in rehearsal, and audience later commented on how clear it was that this process had reached into actors' bones.

Reflecting back, the most affirming and positive feedback from audience includes:
  • The clarity of the story - felt 'guided' through the piece
  • Being fully engaged and captivated throughout
  • Feeling stimulated, angry/passionate and responsive throughout
  • Feeling the weight/burden of responsibility when asked to vote
  • The commitment and investment of the cast
  • The aptness of the space/site
  • The unity and cohesion of the ensemble
  • The pertinence of this re-telling to today
Much of these responses describe my aims for the project. More and more, I am keen to explore ways for audience to shift from passive spectator to active engagement. But this is such a finely tuned craft. In one post show 'Q&A' I was asked whether audience really reacted freely throughout, or whether we they were still well behaved and only 'acted' when asked. Mostly our audiences followed the rules, and often then felt that they were colluding when they did nothing at the end, as the rebels are led out to their certain fate.

It is indeed tough to swallow negative reviews, particularly if they are non-constructive ranting. Watching a piece of art is of course so subjective, and I had to often remind myself that every opinion and reading is valid - and that I was assured that the work we had made was honest, heartfelt and achieved exactly what we had set out to do. Interesting that reinventions of classical work such as this divides opinion so extremely.

Watching the show last night, I felt that all strands of the work came together at its best. I was struck almost afresh by the mis-en-scene; the beautiful layering of the stage pictures, the wealth of stories alive onstage, the strength of feelings, and that magic that exists amongst a truly cohesive, synthesised ensemble. The chorus knew of each others' movement, breath, impulse from moment to moment. This felt so powerful and precious to watch. I wonder why human creatures delight so in watching synchronisation; a choir singing in harmony, a flock of birds flying in perfect formation. There is something so harmonious and pleasing, perhaps it chimes with our yearning for how we secretly want the world to work.

It was wonderful to have an opportunity to appreciate all the company members in the form of a 'ceremony' in between the last two shows. Typically thoughtful, generous and totally without ego, each company member sang, read their poem, presented their gift for one other. Lullabies were sung, games were offered, honest feelings shared...and I was struck by how privileged we are as artists to be able to fuse, play and be together in this way.

Where next? The dream - to form a more permanent ensemble with whom I could continue to explore and play and create. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a space to make and create? I also have a yearning now to do something very small, very concentrated perhaps. I come away feeling tremendously nourished, inspired and excited to keen creating.

Thank you to everyone who made this possible. Amazing really when you have a vision and a plan in your mind, and then slowly a creative and production team form, and the project comes to life. The production team have been ace; totally supportive and committed to perfection. The cast have been a true delight; constantly open, playful, brave, investing, honest and so much fun to get to know.

Until the next time...Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Raving Review for Orestes!

A truly vibrant and atmospheric production of a challenging play is on show at the Southwark Playhouse near, appropriately as it turns out, the London Dungeon. The play tells a story, ancient and modern, of murder and revenge, resistance and retribution, and of the arrival of law, order and democracy. But the arrival of 'civilisation' comes at a price, one that undermines the justice that it seems to bring about.

The play reworks Aeschylus's telling of the story of Orestes, of his murder of his mother, the avenging Furies, and the final reckoning of trial by jury and judicial settlement . It is called Orestes: Re-examined but the story is not just re-examined, it is also re-charged with amazing energy, insight and passion by Full Tilt Theatre Company under the direction of Emma Gersch.The Furies have become outcast Rebels. With these Rebels the young company succeeds where almost all modern productions fail in making a chorus that speaks, moves and sings with collective solidarity and yet also displays individuality. There is also room for the audience to act as individuals as they vote on whether a murderer can be allowed to run the state, and then to consider the actual outcome of their collective decision.

The characterisation of the other side, Authority, is weak. But this is a small shortcoming when compared with the achievement of the chorus of Rebels, victorious and victimised, disturbing and appealing. This is theatre at its best. Intellectually and emotionally this is a play and a performance that are not to be missed.

Bob Catterall
CITY: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Only Connect (working with ex-prisoners)
this is a really interesting company/ organisation; might be worth trying to reach their admin team... Chloe x

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Production Images

All images by Tom Jewett

Monday, September 21, 2009


An appreciative review on London's SE1 website! Click here to read.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Open for Business

Well and truly open for business, Orestes: Re-Examined has opened it's doors to our audience, last Wednesday 16th September. As ever, a mad rush towards opening night - but the company really pulled together, rooted themselves and gave a great first performance. It is always terrifying as a director watching an audience watching your show, and particularly with 'Orestes', as our audience is seated in traverse, in clear view of each other throughout! So I hid in the shadows, and tried not to mouth words, beat rhythms or nod appreciatively during the show.

On the opening of the show, it is always really important to give the show to the cast, so that they have total ownership over it. There was a real sense of buzz and excitement in the air, and it was clear that the cast were ready for an audience, ready to share and tell their stories. The first show was really tight, full of energy and purpose - I was extremely proud. We had a larger than expected house, and Orestes was acquitted. In fact - we are now at show 5 and he has been let off each time. We are left to wonder whether any audience might find him guilty. Thrilling that the cast are genuinely unaware of the outcome, and that they can experience the real feeling of anticipation and uncertainty.

And then we were storming ahead towards the heightened states of press night. Not before a cheeky birthday prank for Filip (our Deputy), who was lured into a believing that I wanted to change the pre-show speech into a jazzier, cabaret version. He took it brilliantly - a real sport!

After a warm up aimed to level everyone, I discovered queues of audience at the box office, the show had somehow been oversold, and there was a bit of a 'fraccas' regarding tickets, but we wedged, pushed and shoved, and there were quite a few folk standing at the back. But I'm pleased to say there was a real buzz in the air, and a truly engaged (albeit hot) audience. Talking to audience after the show, they reported on how immersive, clear and dynamic the show was. The show really lifted onto the performance plateau, and it was wonderful to watch the cast really starting to play, connect and try out new things. They weren't at all thrown by the size (and familiarity) of the house. In the bar after the show, lots of positive responses, questions and points for discussion.

And then the tough bit - where I have to slip away and leave the cast to do their thing. My least favourite part of the process, but really necessary. Back on Monday though - and from reports, the show has been going from strength the strength.

More soon...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's Begun - The TECH!

I type from the tech desk at the Southwark Playhouse on day two of the big tech experience. All going well, slowly - but that is to be expected when you have a bunch of perfectionists creating a show!
We had a 12 hour day yesterday, the set looks fantastic, and Alex has done a grand job with the lighting conjuring just the right atmosphere and impact to frame and reinforce the play. The cast displayed amazing patience yesterday as they were required to stand still for hours on end as we plotted lights and sound around them. It's always difficult from where I am sitting to grasp the whole picture at this stage in production, when the show is spliced up into cues and technical chunks. Of course the artistic anxiety kicks in that all the beautiful rehearsal detail is lost in the melais of dry ice and parcans. But - deep down I trust that once we join up all the dots, it will fit back together again.

Adam Griffiths has very kindly joined the team and created the AV and film work for the pre-show, looking great - and we are most grateful to him. Our long day was concluded by a burst of song from our team of authorities who had put their long hours of sitting around to good use, and written a spoof song about 'Argos' - which was then performed in the style of a frog chorus to the rest of the company. A perfect way to end the day.

More soon....