The Lazarus Post...

Edward II
in rehearsal...

Over the next few weeks actors Luke Ward-Wilkinson (Edward II) and John Slade (Warwick), David Clayton (Canterbury) along with assistant director Dinos Psychogios shall keep you up to date with the Lazarus Post - Rehearsal Room Blog.



The Finale

Day Who Knows - Final performance


Tonight was electric. We came together for the last time in warm up and the mutual feeling of respect and love for everyone involved was pretty evident. It's humbling to work with a group of actors who constantly have each other's back on and off the stage and who never fail to bring it every time the show starts. This experience has filled me with excitement for the possibilities ahead...it has been no easy feat getting into Edward II's character each night nor should it be, the complexity of his character can feel mind boggling. But each day and every show, the support and trust has enabled me to fully immerse and lose myself in this play and for that I thank you! This part has been a gift, a challenge and fulfilling beyond measure! Seriously gonna miss it! Thanks for all that came to see the show and supported us! 

LWW

60 Seconds with..

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
Stephen Emery, Lancaster.

Where in the world are you from?
Hertfordshire, England.

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
Miss Saigon when I was 4!

What was your first experience of Marlowe?
Performing in Tamburlaine the Great with Lazarus in 2015.

What’s the event in the play that you’re most excited about discovering?
The Death of Edward.

Who’s your favourite character, other than your own?
Mortimer.

Tell us the title of your favourite play.
No Exit.

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
Stephen Sondheim.
If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
Rory Kineer.

What’s your favourite game show?
Krypton Factor.

We are open...

The first week of performance is over and it is absolutely flying by. The journey from hectic tech and dress runs, through the previews and press night into the run proper is an absolute rollercoaster. The end result however has been totally worth it.

The rush of adrenaline from performing in Edward II is huge; being on stage for the whole production means that you can never let your foot off the pedal. We all come off at the end absolutely buzzing and absolutely exhausted.

I can't wait to get back in tomorrow!
DC

Opening Night...

Press night - a slightly different crowd from the night before...A feeling of generosity oozed from the audience on the last preview night, genuinely laughing and responding to moments in the play that sometimes surprised us. If I'm honest, I feel a little disappointed in my performance tonight. The cast were incredible in pace, intention and genuine connection throughout! Somehow however, I came off feeling somewhat deflated. It's hard to explain...I was thrilled with the show, everyone felt elated and excited and it was a genuine success! However, you can be a bit too hard on yourself when you feel there's always room for improvement in your part...But that's the beauty of theatre...if your lucky, you get to do it all again tomorrow! Taking all this on board, It's galvanised me. You have to challenge and push yourself, but also remember your telling a story and (hopefully) captivating an audience whilst doing what you love. Not enough people get to do that. 

LWW

2nd preview...

The second preview was exhilarating! It's taken me a while to fully engage with the audience during speeches in the play...it's slightly daunting staring and directly addressing the audience whilst staying present in a scene (which is a common theme in classical plays) but tonight we fully owned the space. The audience were thrilled at the curtain call and we each felt very proud. Previews are now complete, bring on press night! 
LWW

1st preview...

Our first preview was a success! A few minor hiccups but other than that we gave each other huge pats on the backs coming off stage, it can be very nerve racking putting a show in front of an audience for the first time. I find it bizarre how pennies drop during a performance about how to portray your character, some would say it's too late by then but that's the beauty of theatre, you never really know what to make of it until an audience goes on that journey with you. Bring on the rest of the run! 

LWW

Day Sixteen...

Technical rehearsal in the Tristan Bates, I am honestly so impressed after seeing it all. The commitment and dedication from all of the creatives fully dawned on us after seeing the space and props for the first time. Tech days can be a complete nightmare and once again I tip my hat to Mr Dukes and the team, it couldn't have been further from a stressful and manic day. First preview tomorrow, we are feeling ready! 

LWW

60 Seconds with...

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
Lakesha Cammock – Queen Isabella

Where in the world are you from?
West London

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
Pantomime

What was your first experience of Marlowe?
This play!

What’s the event in the play that you’re most excited about discovering?
Excited to unveil more about Mortimer and Isabella’s relationship

Who’s your favourite character, other than your own?
I do love Lancaster

Tell us the title of your favourite play.
The importance of being Earnest

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
Many actors, many people and many things!
If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
Good Ol’ Leonardo DiCaprio

What’s your favourite game show?
Takeshi’s Castle. Hilarious.

Day Fifteen... 

We have finished rehearsals! After a second run through I think we're generally very happy with what we have created...The first run was charged with adrenaline and energy having never ran the whole play as one before, after the second run today I'm left with a few more questions. It's natural to feel this after competing the rehearsal process, a sense of content but more questions to be discovered...a weekend of delving deeper into the text to find the peaks and troughs, but after a drink with the cast as a whole, we are more than just excited to get this show on the stage! Bring on day one of tech in the theatre! 
LWW

Day Fourteen...

Can't believe we've almost finished our rehearsal process, its absolutely flown by. Today was spent fine tuning the production. We've also began getting to grips with our props, the soundtrack etc. Really feeling all the various aspects of the show coming together. 


I can't wait to open next week!
DC

Day Thirteen... 

After a full run through the elation was pretty evident with every one involved. The journey is now clear in my mind, the blocking is almost there completely and the energy never dropped through out. As Ricky said, we should be pretty chuffed after we performed the whole play with the action in front of all of the creative team. But my mum always says never get ahead of yourself; complacency is one of the biggest dangers at this point...even though we all felt very proud walking out of rehearsals today, there is always more work to be done. Saying that, I'm pretty damn chuffed myself! 

LWW

60 Seconds with... 

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
My name is Bradley Frith and I am playing Gaveston

Where in the world are you from?
I live in a small village called Harrietsham, just outside Maidstone

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
Watching Doctor Dolittle. I can’t remember much about it other than the two headed llama and the doctor floating through the auditorium in a hot air balloon. It was amazing!

What was your first experience of Marlowe?
Doctor Faustus was my first Marlowe. I remember getting caught in class by the teacher reading it instead of doing revision. He rudely wouldn’t let me finish it. Is it any good?

What’s the event in the play that you’re most excited about discovering?
Getting murdered is always fun.

Who’s your favourite character, other than your own?
I love the Earl of Lancaster, he’s got such juicy dialogue! Great character!

Tell us the title of your favourite play.
Amadeus by Peter Shaffer. It’s a masterpiece.

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
Mark Rylance was one of the reasons I wanted to become an actor. Always teaches me how to play and find the truth.
If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
Tom Hollander and Nick Holder always seem like they could do anything. I love watching those guys play

What’s your favourite game show?
100% Decimate with Shane Richie! It’s gold!

Day Twelve...

We have finished blocking the play! Ready to walk in and run the whole thing for the first time...I'm not going to lie, I am pretty damn excited to do it! It can be tricky to fully comprehend your character's journey through the play until you run the whole thing but after consolidating the final sequence, we are feeling more than ready to smash it...let's not get ahead of ourselves, we shall see by the end of tomorrow! 

LWW

60 Seconds with...

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
Hi, I’m Alex Zur and I’m playing The Earl of Kent (Edmund).

Where in the world are you from?
I was born in Leeds, but grew up in North London.

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
Think it was a production of Charlie and the Chocolate factory when I was about 6. I was on for about 10 minutes, then spent the rest of the play backstage eating the chocolate I was supposed to use as a prop.

What was your first experience of Marlowe?
I briefly studied Doctor Faustus while on a course with the National Youth Theatre in 2016.

What’s the event in the play that you’re most excited about discovering?
The big battle between Edward and the Lords.

Who’s your favourite character, other than your own?
I’d say Gaveston.

Tell us the title of your favourite play.
Tis Pity She’s A Whore by John Ford

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
Acting wise, Kate Fleetwood. The pure commitment, focus and dedication she gives to every moment she’s on stage never fails to astonish me.
If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?

Probably Ian McKellen. The Trevor Nunn production of King Lear with him in the lead was, I think, the performance that made me want to fully pursue acting, and especially classical theatre, as a career.

What’s your favourite game show?
Gotta be Deal or No Deal.

Day Eleven... 

We are ahead of schedule and have almost blocked the entire play. The energy needed to maintain your focus is unrelenting as you stop start through scenes to ensure all the movement and action is locked down and precise. It's exhausting both physically and mentally, but it's that good type of tiredness, not just a "oh I'm a bit tired today" but more you walk out of the rehearsal room for your break and feel some one has flash banged your brain. As cliche as it sounds, it's what we live for! 
LWW

The last Monday in the rehearsal rooms as well as my 25th birthday, the second birthday of the rehearsal process! Can't believe we open next week, the play is shaping up really well. Very impressed and surprised with how quickly we're going, we've somehow managed to be ahead of schedule.

A big shout out to the rest of the cast who bought me a fantastic cake and sang the most beautiful happy birthday I've ever heard. This cast is full of supportive generous actors and you're going to see this fantastic ensemble work in action during the show.

DC

Today marked the final week in the studio. Where has the time gone? We had no choice but to hit the ground running this morning and I was certainly feeling the Monday blues. This was short-lived though as Ricky's warm-up pulled my head and body into the right space and we dived into continuing with our staging. There is so much to remember! The play feels very much like a game of chess and we all have to know exactly where we are and what we are doing at every moment. I definitely dropped the ball several times today so tonight has been all about going back over everything that we have covered during our staging period. It doesn't matter how often you go over things at home, the first time you work without your script can really throw you as scenes and characters move and respond in ways you had no idea they might! 

Yet again another cast birthday today and this time David is turning 25! Another tuneful rendition of 'Happy Birthday' and delicious birthday cake gave us enough sugar to plough through this afternoon. A high-point of the day for me was finally getting to Gaveston's death (spoiler alert, sorry!!). To me, Warwick is a very pragmatic and direct man so his lines are often no more than one liners, often indicating that the only way to solve the problem is to have a war! However, I have a nice run of text in Gaveston's death scene so it was great to finally get to do that too. I can't believe that in one week we'll be at The Tristan Bates doing our technical rehearsal! 
JS

60 Seconds with... 

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
Jamie Anthony O’Neill – Young Mortimer.

Where in the world are you from?
Wimbledon

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
Seeing the pantomime with my grandmother, and the first time I ever acted was in Oliver at a local drama club.

What was your first experience of Marlowe?
I studied Doctor Faustus for a term back at secondary school, however most of it went over my head, sadly I didn’t fully appreciate the language and themes back then but I still remember the images the play conjured up when I first read it.

What’s the event in the play that you’re most excited about discovering?
Wouldn’t want to give it away!

Who’s your favourite character, other than your own?
Edward II, I admire how he fights for what he loves.

Tell us the title of your favourite play.
Sweet Bird Of Youth.

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
I saw Kevin Spacey play Clarence Darrow front row at The Old Vic, it was in the round and he captivated the entire audience for two hours completely on his own, hugely inspiring. He also shook my hand mid performance…
If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
Stellan Skarsgård – his performance in River is mind blowing.

What’s your favourite game show?
Took longer than 60 seconds to even get close to one I like so guess I have to leave it blank, sorry!


Day Ten...

The trust in your fellow cast members isn't necessarily essential...some actors find they can do it without. I can whole heartedly say the trust I have for the cast in this production is sublime! Not only are they genuine people, but their commitment and trust in each other's ability frees up so much space in your mind to just get on and play the scenes without holding back. We've blocked almost a third of the play and already we're beginning to really feel the epicness of this production. 

LWW

60 Seconds with... 

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
John Slade – Warwick.

Where in the world are you from?
Essex!

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
I directed and acted in my own version of ‘The Life of Henry VIII’ when I was in Year 5 at primary school. We even had Jane Seymour give birth. God knows what the teacher must have thought!

What was your first experience of Marlowe?
Seeing Edward II performed at the National Theatre several years ago.

What’s the event in the play that you’re most excited about discovering?
The battle. I can’t wait to see what Ricky has in store for this part of the play. I have a feeling it’s going to be epic and not what you might expect!

Who’s your favourite character, other than your own?
It has to be Gaveston. He’s a proper rock’n’roll hipster.

Tell us the title of your favourite play.
Titus Andronicus by Shakespeare. I love the gore!

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
Cheek by Jowl. What a fantastic theatre company.
If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
Cate Blanchett, every time. I saw her play ‘Blanche’ in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and I’m still talking about it 6 years later.

What’s your favourite game show?
It’s not on the TV anymore but I used to love ‘Supermarket Sweep’. When you’re next at the checkout and you hear the beep, think of the fun you could be having on ‘Supermarket Sweep’.


Day Nine... 

The staging of the opening was consolidated and we begin to block the play...it's a real test as you are jumping backwards and forwards within a scene so as to finalise the precise movement. I oddly find it quite fun as it gives you the opportunity to say lines over and over again whilst moving or being stationary in the scene so you can properly feel when your either hitting it or not. On another note, my hat goes off to Bradley playing Gaveston; we play each other's lovers and there's nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable doing an intimate scene with another actor, but he just goes for it! 

LWW

Day Eight...

The blocking of a play can be one of the most tiresome parts of rehearsals...every single movement and action has to be precisely detailed from which foot to step first on to which arm starts first in a costume change; it ensures the flow and desired effect is captured and no one is bumping into each other. It can feel repetitive and frustrating, but when it comes together, you can't help but look on in awe at all of this anarchic action taking place knowing the hard work that goes into nailing it. 

LWW

The day after Ricky tells us to stop getting tan lines and it spends the whole day raining? Coincidence? I think not.


In all seriousness another great day of rehearsals. We've choreographed an absolutely fantastic opening, worth coming to see the show just for the first two minutes! We also got a hint at what some of our costumes might be like. Certainly one of my favourite parts of the rehearsal process. Really helps you get a sense of what the show is going to look like. 

Tomorrow we move onto the parts of the play we analysed last week, lets see how much stuck!
DC

60 Seconds with...

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
David Clayton, The Archbishop of Canterbury

Where in the world are you from?

Germany

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?

A GCSE production of the Bacchae at Dauntsey’s School.

What was your first experience of Marlowe?
This Production!

What’s the event in the play that you’re most excited about discovering?
The Murder of Gaveston

Who’s your favourite character, other than your own?
Gaveston, a rogue I love to hate.

Tell us the title of your favourite play.
I’m a huge Philip Ridley fan but if I had to pick I’d choose Mercury Fur.

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
Ian Mckellen
If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
At the moment Lena Headey, but that might be Season 7 of Game of Thrones talking.

What’s your favourite game show?
Pointless

Day Seven...

What has amazed me at the start of the today's rehearsals are how far we've come as a company and ensemble. Considering we've only spent seven days together our ability to listen to each other and work as an ensemble is already at an incredible place. This progress is most obvious in games such as Chaos which, as its name suggests, should have been a complete chaotic disaster but we managed to make it work. 

This sense of ensemble is invaluable to the work. Knowing that the rest of the actors you're sharing the stage with are in tune with you and have your back gives you so much more confidence to experiment, play and find new things. Forming these sorts of connections and really being able to trust the people you're working with is one of my favourite parts of working in the Theatre.

Its only going to get better as the process continues!
DC

We had our first cast birthday on Monday as our Edward, Luke, celebrated another year of life. A rousing and tuneful rendition of 'Happy Birthday' was followed by copious amounts of birthday cake. Luke blew out as many candles as we could fit on the cake as we prayed we wouldn't set the fire alarms off in the rehearsal studio! 

Today finally saw us bring our detailed text work to an end. There was some fantastic revelations today (within the context of the play!) as we continued to play and I am starting to get really excited hearing Ricky talk about possible ideas for staging. This section of the rehearsal process will begin tomorrow and I can't wait to get stuck in!
JMS

The collaboration within the rehearsal room is invaluable. Every person has something to offer up in terms of dissecting what this play is all about and instead of walking in having made assumptions about where your character's journey goes, having the incredible support and freedom to explore it in huge depth is both liberating and assuring; your perception is always evolving. Can not wait to run it through in one go with no books in hand! 

LWW

Day Six...

Following on the 'French sceening' from Friday (it's an invaluable process that involves the cast not currently in the scene to shout and reaffirm from the side only when you have successfully communicated the thought in the text, if they don't get it, you must continue to convey the line until it is absolutely clear what you are communicating) we continue to dissect the play and then run it on our feet. 

I find it hard to call this work - yes there is a massive amount of work to be done if you wish to do a play or character justice, but from all the sort of 'normal jobs' nearly every actor has in order to pay the bills (including myself) it makes the sense of struggle all the sweeter when you are a part of an ensemble like this...tip of the hat you lot, the harmonies were on point when you sang me happy birthday this morning! Another birthday doing what I love, you can't put a price on it. 

LWW

Last Friday, the end of our first week together, was a cracker. For myself and some other members of the cast, it was our first experience of 'French Scening' and what an experience it was. An exercise designed to delve deep into the themes and motifs within the play, to an outsider entering the rehearsal room I am sure it would have looked like utter chaos but we were engaging directly with the text in a way that I can only describe as immediate, impulsive and raw. I won't go into the details of what we did but the findings, which we examined this morning, were revelatory. For example, we were able to chart the journey of body parts referred to in the the text, locations and time references (which are surprisingly included in almost every french scene!) and the journey of individual characters. Being a visual person, this helped me massively to view the play as a whole and using a variety of different colours, the language of the play suddenly jumped to life even more. In some weird way, I almost feel that we are able to what might have been going inside Marlowe's head when he was writing, his thoughts brightly laid out on the studio floor for us to piece together. 

Monday began with a solid warm-up and we are certainly looking and feeling stronger. Our Zeus squats (designed to warm and ground the legs) are definitely deeper than they were this time last week! The more we work with Ricky on the detail within the text, little by little each episode within the play is beginning to spring to life and characters are starting to develop nuances that will certainly develop along with the rehearsal process. All in all, a great end to our first week and a solid start to our second one! 
JMS

Day Five...

The first time running through the whole play as a cast is one of the most enlightening and satisfying yet slightly terrifying moments within a rehearsal space - without definitive blocking, a complete understanding of your character's journey and even full knowledge of each thought and intention in the text can feel a bit daunting...but coming together as a whole and feeling the energy we are transmitting through the run puts all doubts to rest; Every day I'm feeling prouder to be a part of this.

LWW

Day Four... 

Intense warm up in an understatement...puddles of sweat covered the rehearsal space as we followed and mirrored who ever the chosen leader was at that given point, effectively moving and screaming/whistling/laughing/growling in the most extreme ways. If you walked past the room you'd think mass murder was being committed! Perfect for getting us into the state needed to keep ploughing through this play. Each of us are really making ground with our parts! Some moments of genuinely being a little awe struck by some of the other actors choices and ideas they are all bringing to the table. Loving it. 

LWW

The first week of rehearsals have almost come to an end and with only Friday left, we are ploughing ahead. Like every play, the deeper we delve, the more questions we are forced to ask and Edward II is certainly no exception. Thursday afternoon was particularly interesting as we presented some research we have been working on to help each other connect with the play on many different levels. Four different groups presented work around the following four topics - 

  • Christopher Marlowe, his life and works with a back ground to the period of writing and his contemporaries. 
  • The history and politics of the reign of Edward II including religious events, wars in England and Europe.
  • LGBT and civil rights in 20th and 21st Century, with particular focus on the major events and movements over this period in UK, Europe and the wider world. 
  • Culture, arts and architecture of the 14th Century England and Europe.

Extending our knowledge to encompass the above topics has allowed everyone to gain a more holistic understanding of the play and uncover some of the deeper layers within it. Dinos, our assistant director, also created a mammoth timeline, which helped us all to contextualise the play from Edward II's birth in 1284 until after Marlowe's death in 1593 and even beyond. 

Ricky has certainly put us through our paces so far this week and we have been bounding around the studio for hours most mornings exploring different techniques such as slow-motion that may be used to help us tell Marlowe's story. We've all walked into our lunch break feeling like we've totally earned it and somehow, we've found the energy and enthusiasm to painstakingly pick the text apart each afternoon. Working with the text at such a detailed level is fascinating and really helping to uncover the nature of the relationships within it. Furthermore, we are really starting to gel as a company, largely due to the great atmosphere Ricky is creating in the rehearsal room. Everyone in the company is certainly looking forward to our first 'Friday Night Drinks' tomorrow and I hope it's a raucous one! Friday's rehearsal will also see us embark on some 'French Scening' which I am really intrigued about and looking forward to what that uncovers about the play too!
JMS

Day Three...

You'd be surprised how knackering it is to maintain slow motion as a unit, moving in synchronicity around the space manipulating objects that can either symbolise a theme or moment in the play. If your core isn't engaged and your not completely focused, the illusion is shattered! Getting a real taste of the physical aspect involved in bringing this text to life.  Delving deeper into the minds and intentions of each character as we progress further through Marlowe's writing and discovering more about myself through this work; its not for the faint hearted! 

LWW

Day Two...

Day Two- First physical warm up led by Mr Dukes and practise of breath control in a in different states, reinforcing the importance of the punctuation given in the text that indicates different thoughts and intentions. Loving the concentration games that help us explore the vital nature of connectivity with the other cast members within the scenes preceded by finding themes within the play and text work. Very excited for day three! 

LWW

Day One...

First day of rehearsals complete, any sense of apprehension and nervousness instantly dissipates after a full read through on our feet! Every cast member bringing immense energy and insight to their parts and the text, Ricky Dukes' vision, passion and ridiculously on point sense of humour has rocked my own conception of this process; the trust is already there. Bring on day two! 

LWW

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The Taming
of the Shrew

in rehearsal...

Over the next few weeks follow our Taming of the Shrew journey through workshops to rehearsals, tech to performance. Actors CJ de Mooi (CdM), Dawn Bush (DB) and Mat Foster (MF) along with Assistant Director Adam Haigh (AH) will keep you up to date...

"I see a woman may be made a fool / If she had not a spirit to resist."

Day Ten....

Friday was a nerve wracking day. Our last time in the rehearsal space before moving into the theatre so our last chance to iron out any wrinkles (not counting the ones under my eyes)

It’s all coming together and the addition of the music, movement and singing helps so much with the linear story. The main problem most of the actors have is an inevitable one. Within such narrow time frames, we all learn our lines with little regard for who else is speaking and our cues. This only comes together in rehearsals but even then, it’s sometimes difficult to remember which scene comes next and whether we’re actually in it!

Even though they can be terrifying, full run throughs are essential to help with this. They’re less for others to see the state of the play and more so those on stage can get a full idea of the story arc. Today’s was no different and for the first time we could follow the characters and plot in a smooth line. That’s one of the true joys of watching a piece evolve from disparate staggered scenes to a complete play. I’ll never stop being amazed by this process and if I ever do, that’s the time to hang up my acting ambitions!

CdM

Today I was caught unawares by a couple of things, like the fact we were having a movement session. Happily, I had my shorts on under my sundress: but alas, the sports bra was languishing in the linen basket. A big deal? No, but it meant there was some unrestrained wobbling going on. It wasn't pretty. Then I realised -well after the fact- that a chunk of my lines had sort of disappeared somehow, during rehearsal. I only caught on this evening, halfway through a serious line-learning session, as I was declaiming away to Gin, the ever-attentive cat. In fact it was she who pointed it out, wisely placing her paw over the now defunct text. These are small things when seen on the world stage, but they pass me by because I often inhabit a place in the clouds -let's call it Planet Dawn- where life drifts by and things just happen around you without your participation. It's amazing I ever get anything done. I'm a walking miracle. Bow when you see me.

DB

Day Nine...

After our first full run through yesterday, we were all feeling a lot more confident about the state of the show. Actors and creatives exist in a perpetual state of worry which has nothing to do with the abilities of either. We're just born worriers!
A few things needed tweaking so today we looked at all 3 movement sequence and made cuts as the run was about 10 minutes too long. We concentrated on the second act and final scene as they're the most complicated and tend to involve the entire ensemble. The logistics of this play are considerable but they're matched by our passion and that will win through.
But above all, let me put your minds at rest. None of my lines have been cut... so far.

CDM

It's always fascinated me to see the first run of a play in development. Today, we did our first stagger-through; so called because the result tends to resemble the route home of a drunk on Saturday at 3 am. We drop lines, lose props, end up in totally the wrong place (see? Drunk.) and generally mess up. The excitement comes because, although the shape is blurred at the edges (and sometimes in the middle) the essence of the thing is there; we see the arc of the story taking shape. We can even see that it's going to be something a bit special, when it's finally sobered up & got its running shoes on. Yes, I'm definitely excited. Bring on the Prairie Oyster, I'm going cold turkey.

DB

Day Eight...

Today we were joined by our musical supervisor, Katrina who ran through one of our live songs that will be sung by our wonderful company members. We dissected it down vocally, ironed out a few rhythms, and made sure it sounded perfect for our run starting next week. We always think it’s so easy to sing and to make it sound beautiful but it takes lots of accuracy, precision and energy to make something performance worthy. As we work though our afternoon session we are joined by our designer Rachel who is looking over the costumes, trying on for size, colour patterns and to observe closely that everything is in keeping with the production. It’s all getting exciting now the next week is creeping up on us, things are getting planted now, characters are really beginning to blossom and it’s an incredibly liberating feeling to see the text being lifted off the page and come alive..even after 400 years!

AH


So this morning I had the opportunity to unleash my inner bossiness as we rehearsed our song. I only hope that, if the choir makes the cut, there are no actual conductors in the audience; they'd see through my blagging in a heartbeat. Whether Sara our director has a sudden attack of common sense & ousts our beautiful chorale or not remains to be seen; but whatever, I had a fab time having a go at being choir mistress, despite it being a bit like rubbing your tummy & patting your head. I confess, the bum notes were all mine, but I promise I'll practise! On a more personal note, I have paused my sofa surfing & am ensconced in a lovely flat a short distance from the theatre, looking after a delightful cat. The only trouble is, she is of a somewhat jealous persuasion, wh*ch mak£s it di££icult to blog. She's walk1ng %over t$e keyb0rd as * wr1t£.

DB

Today I lost a few hours of rehearsal due to a prior commitment. I arrived at the crest of lunchtime, entering the room mid-antics, to discover the rest of the cast (minus CJ, stuck at an airport in Vienna) working on the opening of the play. I hear that's quite important.

I made up for lost time in the afternoon by hitting virtually every single scene I have in the second half. This includes one twelve-line speech containing around two dozen instructions issued in varying ways to multiple people.

Needless to say I retired to the Brockley Jack Pub for a steadying drink afterwards - and also to run lines with Charlotte (playing Kate). We're well aware of how much the 'wooing scene' exists in a theatre audience's consciousness, so we're preparing as fully as we can....
MF

60 Seconds with... 

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
My full name is Evangeline Mary Dickson and I am playing Tranio!

Where in the world are you from?
I am from Somerset in the South West of England.

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
My first theatrical experience was The Nutcracker ballet in London at Christmas.

What was your first experience of Shakespeare?
My first experience of Shakespeare was in Cardiff – I went with school to see Twelfth Night and they handed out Dominoes!

What’s the event in the play that you’re most excited about discovering?
I am most excited about discovering the gender politics of the whole piece – I can’t wait to play a character that is traditionally a man and bring the obvious issues of the play right into the spotlight.

Who’s your favourite character, other than your own?
My favourite character is Lucentio – their relationship is awesome and so fun.

Tell us the title of your favourite play.
Love and Information by Caryl Churchill

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
My theatrical inspiration (this week) is An Octoroon at The Orange Tree – everything theatre should be.

If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
Ruth Wilson – every time!

What’s your favourite festival experience?
Glastonbury Festival in my mums tummy! And I have been almost every year since.

Day Seven... 

Today we formally re-named Julia the Pretzel, mainly because as she lay on the floor warming up before class, she looked like one. I'm sure her legs aren't meant to go where she put them. Yes, it was movement class today, in meltingly hot temperatures, with fans whirring and doors and windows wide open. I love movement class. I have a particular skill in watching other people move, which I am doing my best to hone carefully. We had frisson of excitement, too, when team member Dora vandalised the ceiling in her enthusiasm. Dora is round and jolly, and spends most of her time in the air, being the bouncy ball we use during warm-up. Anyway, the demise of the flourescent light was all her fault; and she's been banned from the rehearsal room. I will miss her cheerful demeanour.

DB

60 Seconds with... 

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
Rachel Igrainne Smart playing Grumio and Biondello

Where in the world are you from?
 England- South London.

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
I played the Violet fairy in pre-school, which lured me into a false sense of security that I would play an angel when the nativity came around… alas I was the only girl to be cast as a Shepard. Now I love cross-gender casting!

What was your first experience of Shakespeare?
I Played Juliet in year 7 and from then on, I was hooked on Shakespeare… and boys! (My Romeo was a real looker)

What’s the event in the play that you’re most excited about discovering?
Kate’s ‘Turning point’. I’m excited to see how Sara, Charlotte and the rest of the cast explore when/how/why Kate’s attitude to Petruchio changes. I think we are all fascinated by Kate’s motivations in relation to bending to Petruchio’s will, and this will be particularly interesting since we are setting the show in the present day.

Who’s your favourite character, other than your own?
Kate!

Tell us the title of your favourite play.
The Glass Menagerie.

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
David Tennant – He brings an abundance of thoughtfulness, play and dynamism to the stage. I’m also inspired by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and all her work with Dry Write.

If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
Pippa Haywood – She is so funny in Green Wing, and can also depict real vulnerability and strength on screen.


What’s your favourite festival experience?
I’ve only been to one festival, Latitude, when I performed there last summer. I had an amazing time, and camping with my best friend in the sauna that was our tiny tent, is one of my favourite memories. That and our Egeus tripping over a tent string and falling over in slow motion!

Day Six...

The temperature rises and so does the excitement.
Staging a modern adaptation of a well loved play with a large cast was always going to be a challenge. Fortunately, we're in the safe hands of our director Sara and thanks to her careful characterisation and textual analysis, we almost have a second sense of what we should be doing. Inevitably we get it wrong but how often do hear a director say "That was perfect darling. Exactly what I wanted! Now let's do it another 20 times."?
The contact of how we're presenting the play is brilliantly unique but that raises so many problems. Some of the props are quite large and in a body filled small space, we have to be inventive. The end result should be spectacular though!
On a final note, tomorrow promises heat exceeding 30° and we have Julia in all morning for movement. I only mention this as we'll all be dead by lunchtime. I was being terrifyingly literal when I said the space would be body filled.

CFM

60 Seconds with... 

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
I’m Charlotte Dowding and I’m playing the part of Katharina

Where in the UK are you from?
I was born in England, but I’m also part Jamaican, so England and Jamaica.

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
I guess it was playing the donkey in the nativity in nursery and reception, but if we are talking a full scale production then when I was in year 8 we did Oliver where I was an ophan/in Fagin’s gang and I absolutely loved it!

What was your first experience of Shakespeare?
Macbeth! – another school production which we also studied in English, performing the play definitely helped me with that!

What’s the event in the play that you’re most excited about discovering?
The ending for sure! Katharina says a very controversial speech so I’m excited to discover how it will play out.

Who’s your favourite character, other than your own?
Definitely Grumio because he’s funny and cheeky.

Tell us the title of your favourite play.
It’s a tough one but I’ll have to say Bitch Boxer by Charlotte Josephine.

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
Well after seeing People, places and things, and Angels in America I’d have to say Denise Gough, the way she commands the stage and takes on those difficult characters is incredible to watch

If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
There are so many but I do love Johnny Depp, I think the diversity of his characters have been amazing and I would love to be as versatile as him.


What’s your favourite festival experience?
Although I’ve been to loads of gig I haven’t actually been to a festival before, but it would definitely be all the dancing I’d do!



Day Five...

Who would have thought it could take so long to read a play? After 6 days of painstaking work, we have finished reading through, teasing every possible nuance of meaning from every word; observing every comma, dash, full stop and anything of a colonic persuasion. Except for the ones where a beetle walked across the page. We ignore those. I have mush for brains, but it's a sort of healthy lentil stew sort of mush, rather than a stodgy chip butty. Our presentations of gender stereotypes both ancient & modern provoked passionate discussion that spilled over into the pub garden. Inevitable, really. No actor I know can resist debate, alcohol & sunshine. World, consider yourself put to rights. 

DB

Today was a good day.
We completed our text work and, split into groups, made presentations on femininity and masculinity through history.
Unfortunately it was very warm and someone, let's call him CJ, began nodding off while we were discussing the play's final and longest speech.
However, going meticulously through all the lines, discovering intentions and meanings, has proved invaluable. The days seem to pass much faster when you're working hard but loving every moment... barely qualifies as working at all!
The only low point was our miserable inability to keep a large ball in the air for even twenty passes.
Shakespeare? We succeed!
Bouncy ball? We just suck.

CDM

60 Seconds with...

Baptista - Dawn Bush

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
My name is Dawn Bush, and I’m playing Baptista.

Where in the UK are you from?
I’m from a small market town in Warwickshire, called Southam.

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
My first theatrical experience was playing the Angel in the primary school nativity.

What was your first experience of Shakespeare?
My first experience of reading Shakespeare was Henry IV part one. I did it at O level; but the teacher booked the wrong play, so my first experience of seeing it was Henry V in Manchester, with Timothy Dalton. I fell in love.

What’s the event in the play that you’re most excited about discovering?
The event I’m most excited about discovering is how the play itself is going to be performed, when the subject matter is so difficult.

Who’s your favourite character, other than your own?
My favourite character is Katherine. I’d love to have played her, but I’m too old now.

Tell us the title of your favourite play.
My favourite play….that’s a tricky question! Ummm, I guess The Importance of Being Earnest is up there, and lots of Shakespeare plays.

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
My husband and grown-up daughters are my theatrical inspiration.

If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
Judi Dench is my all-time favourite actor. I met her once….!

What’s your favourite festival experience?
I can’t tell you my best festival experience. I don’t really go to festivals. I know I played the Edinburgh festival years ago, but I can’t remember a thing about it! Except I think we got great reviews.

Day Four... 

Today’s morning was spent with Julia, our lovely movement director who put our actors through their paces again, some cardio to get the energy up and a few exercises to get our tired brains working at 10am this humid Tuesday morning.

It is so great to see how committed everyone is and hanging on her every word about her ideas and creations. Sara and I enjoyed seeing the progression and how each character responded to the movement that was given and how they played their part in the sequence. Some topics that were brought up were how is the story progressing, why is their movement in this section and how are we telling the story through movement? Want to see more? Come see us at the Jack Studio Theatre!

AH

Julia revisited us today but was strangely forgiving. We worked on two movement pieces and seeing me strut my stuff (hasn't been funky for many years unfortunately) has to be worth the price of admission alone.
Our text work is nearly done but it's so enlightening (and utterly bewildering) to dissect the language for the hidden messages.
I'm sure all these scholars print all these books having studiously discovered (just made up out of the blue while pissed) deep new textual meanings to just to feel clever and avoid an inevitable decline involving rocking to and fro on park benches mumbling incoherently to passers by how they really once met Shakespeare... along with his mate Zarg from the planet Deludo.

CDM

I thought I was on the wrong platform. I ran down the 3 flights of stairs,  across the concourse & back up 3 flights, all with backpack, handbag (weighs a ton. What do I put in there?) & suitcase hanging about my person like a turbo-charged snail: only to realise I hadn't been on the wrong platform,-but I was now. Back I go, (3 flights each side, people,) & continue a fraught journey bumping into people I half know who want to talk (how can I know people here?? This is LONDON! I don't even live here!) with my brain screaming I'M LATE, while I smile sweetly & nod, exuding calm and control. Sometimes, the universe gets one on himself & has a right tantrum. But on the positive side, it made the morning with the Torturer seem like relaxation.
DB

60 Seconds with...

Gremio/Pedant - CJ de Mooi

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
CJ de Mooi. I’m playing Gremio and the Pedant

Where in the UK are you from?
I’m originally from the north of England but have lived in south Wales for many years.

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
My first proper theatre experience was as part of the Crucible Youth Theatre in Sheffield. I was in a production of Our Day Out by Willy Russell, actually performed at the Crucible itself.

What was your first experience of Shakespeare?
I remember watching a video of Jonathan Miller’s The Taming of the Shrew at school. I really enjoyed the stellar cast and comedy but found the language and plot impenetrable. My first experience of performing Shakespeare was actually with Lazarus two years ago!

What’s the event in the play that you’re most excited about discovering?
Gremio is such a great character, almost the comic relief in what is already a very funny play. I’m looking forward to seeing his journey from deluded hope to reluctant acceptance over his doomed courtship of Bianca.

Who’s your favourite character, other than your own?
This is difficult as Katharina is one of the greatest Shakespearean characters ever. Even though it’s a small role, I really do like Vincentio as he arrives in the middle of a farce with no idea what’s going on.

Tell us the title of your favourite play.
. I think it would be Torch Song Trilogy by Harvey Fierstein. It takes me on such a rollercoaster of emotions every time I read it and I even have a signed first edition!

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
Harvey Fierstein would certainly be up there but as bizarre as it sounds, I always admired Roger Moore. Not because I thought he was a great actor (with the exception of his left eyebrow) but because he was honest. He stepped back from Aspects of Love admitting he simply wasn’t good enough and played James Bond with a wink to the audience. He realised and embraced the irony that if you can’t laugh at yourself, nobody will take you seriously.


If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
Oh this is impossible! How do you choose? I loved River Phoenix and James Mason but Patrick Stewart and Carey Mulligan stand out for me. 


What’s your favourite festival experience?
In 2015 I performed in The International Stud (the first part of Torch Song Trilogy) at the Edinburgh Fringe. That was probably the hardest but most enjoyable time I’ve ever had on stage.

Day Three...

Today, I was crowned winner of the inaugural Shrew game of 'Shit / Crap'. I may have had a somewhat unfair advantage, as a veteran of two previous Lazarus productions, but that didn't make it any less sweet.


We hit the ground running today, revisiting the movement work we did last week which will help create the world of Padua for our audience. Mercifully, we've all managed to retain Julia's choreography rather well! This then led to continuing script work, putting the action onto its' feet and picking apart Shakespeare's language to make sure we actually know what we're saying.

All this, under the watchful eye of Lazarus Theatre's resident photographer Adam Trigg! It's always slightly odd having a photographer in the room - it's something I've taken up in recent years, so I speak from both sides of the lens - but always interesting to see what he picks up on in the room. Sometimes small moments, minuscule facial expression and unconscious gestures are the really memorable things that travel all the way from rehearsals and onto the stage...
MF

There was a distinct Monday morning feeling about the rehearsal room today. We were about our serious business, because we are grown-ups who take the seriousness of Shakespeare seriously. No, seriously, guys. It's no laughing matter when there are four tennis balls flying around the circle of actors, any one of which may be heading your way, accompanied by random words such as "Dog," "Scotland," "Chess" or "turquoise." On the odd occasion,  you may get all four balls thrown at you at once, in which case you end up with a turquoise scottie dog playing Chess. Like I said. Serious stuff.
DB

We really got to grips with the text, and each other, today. We ran through the opening episode movement sequence, frequently and "accidentally" bumping into fellow cast mates... well, there have to be some perks don't there?
Then it was running through the text with our director Sara 'punctuation pedant' Reimers rubbing her hands in glee as we agonised over the exactness of each split second pause.
The character I play in Act II is The Pedant but do I feel, our esteemed director was born for the role. Oh no, that comma was in the wrong place. Please Sara, no! I can't bear another beating...

CDM

60 Seconds with...

Sabrina Laurison

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
Sabrina Laurison – Bianca

Where in the UK are you from?
Hayes, Middlesex

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
Performing a dance recital at The Questors Theatre aged 3.

What was your first experience of Shakespeare?
Studying ‘Twelfth Night’ in English class at school.

What’s the event in the play that you’re most excited about discovering?
Katharina’s wedding day.

Who’s your favourite character, other than your own?
Petruchio-I never fail to be amazed by his outrageous behaviour.

Tell us the title of your favourite play.
‘Good People’ by David Lindsay-Abaire

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
Peter Brook-his body of work is extraordinary.

If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
Julianne Moore…too many to mention them all.

What’s your favourite festival experience?
I’ve never been to a big music festival like Glastonbury so I’m probably not the best person to ask!

Day two...

Julia (The Torturer) returned to take us through the movement sequences for the opening scenes today. She is talented, friendly but most importantly and necessary, considering the number of collisions and tantrums, ever so patient.
The afternoon was back to script work which reached the heights of finding six different definitions for a single word by Petruchio to the depths of Lucentio trying everything to avoid saying the line "Sir, give him head."
This may give the impression that we're all immature children rather than professional classical actors. I'd like to suggest though, that we very much can be both.

CDM

We began today's rehearsal with movement, hosted by the lovely Julia (also affectionately known as The Torturer). I've never known someone with such a gentle, kind demeanour who can be the author of such extreme pain. However,  to my surprise I coped reasonably well, only falling A over  once, and carefully judging the jumping section so I didn't pee my pants; or worse, end up with my womb around my ankles. I will inspect the bruises later; at the moment I feel no pain, mostly due to the pint of Crabbies dutifully imbibed at the pub. Friday night drinkies is a tradition, apparently, & I've always been a traditional sort of girl. Excuse me, I just need to weave my way on to the homeward train!

DB

Day One... Our first day at The Jack

So I lost my script. There I was, gingerly holding the AD's copy (thanks Adam!) unable to scribble on, dog-ear or otherwise deface it to make it uniquely mine. It was painful: but the full horror only hit when mine could not be found back at the hostel. Nooooo!!!! Days of work gone, just like that! Words such as dippy, unprofessional, etc. rattled around my head; until divine inspiration struck. Like a toddler, with food in one hand I'd dropped what was in the other... yes, it was at Sainsbury's. Reputation salvaged. Almost.

DB

Today we descended on the Brockley Jack Theatre like a swarm of locusts in leg warmers.

We read through the entire play and for me, that was when things clicked. Even having watched a film version, the various stories and intrigues were still muddled in my head. Seeing everyone talking and knowing who they were was illuminating. Never one to keep things simple in his comedies, Shakespeare gives us plots upon plots and a play with a play… a lot to keep up with. A productive and enjoyable day!
CDM

Today we started our work with some actory basics - we played ball games, we played word games, and we stood in many different circles. We also found time to answer the critical question, "so how exactly do you pronounce [X character's] name?"

However, most importantly, we also enjoyed the early highlight of any rehearsal process - our first look at the model box!

Our designer Rachel has devised a unique design, intended to welcome our audiences to a festival unlike any other. This Lazarus production will be a little different - we're doing it in the round. This means the audience will be all around us, and in some cases perhaps intermingled with members of the cast. The aim is to create a more immersive, site-specific feel for the play than can be achieved with a proscenium arch.

Our production of Shrew - like others before it - borrows text from 'Taming of A Shrew', a similar but subtly different text from around the same period. This allows us to use a framing device wherein Christopher Sly, the rude lewd drunk who opens the play, is bought back into the action again and again - reminding us that the story unfolding is indeed a play; a piece of entertainment. Today, we began to piece together how we make sure to physically do this. To find out how this unfolds... come back tomorrow!

Lastly, we have discovered a number of Life's Big Questions among the cast.

So, Life Question #1: Do you keep your ketchup in the fridge, or in the cupboard?

We won't judge. Much.
MF

Workshops - The journey so far...

We don't make eye contact. His shoulder rolls around my cleavage, then his back & buttocks press hard against mine. Where are we? A steamy sex movie? The tube during rush hour?  Neither: it's the movement workshop for Shrew. Names learned, eye contact finally achieved,  barriers down. Day one, job done.
DB

Click here to edit title.

Brecht's Caucasian Chalk Circle in Rehearsal...

Over the next few weeks, Assistant Director, Hannah Boland Moore (HBM) along with guest blogs from cast and creative shall take you through the Chalk Circle rehearsal process. 

#ChalkCircle #Brecht

'Art is not a mirror with which to reflect reality but a hammer
with which to shape it.' -
Bertolt Brecht

Day Fifteen... 

"Week 3 is done! That's it for rehearsals, but the work is far from done. Tech week begins Sunday, then we'll see you at our first performance on Tuesday!
HBM

Day Fourteen...

Now that we're staging the play a lot of things have become clearer - many questions raised earlier in the rehearsal process are naturally answered through the staging process. One thing that's quite refreshing about rehearsing a play is that it demands that you do rather than think about. Once you do, all of those questions that have been preoccupying you are answered. The choices you make either work or they don't work, and if they don't work, you make a new choice. With one more day of rehearsals to go, we're about ready to see if all the choices we've made over the last three weeks work as a whole... 
HBM

60 Seconds with...

Aniko / Old Peasant / Woman – Lakesha Cammock 

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.

Lakesha Cammock
Tractor Woman, Young lady, Merchant Woman, Aniko, Old Peasant Woman

Where in the UK are you from?
Hayes and Harlington, Greater London

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
Pantomime

What was your first experience of Brecht?
A Level Theatre Studies

What was your first experience of The Caucasian Chalk Circle?
Researching the play during the audition process.

What was your first thought when you heard about a production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle?
Interested- I wasn’t too familiar with this work

Tell us the title of your favourite play?
The Importance Of Being Earnest

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
Currently Viola Davis

If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
Currently Leonardo DiCaprio

What’s your favourite party game?
Charades

Day Thirteen...

Today was another action-packed day of staging the Chalk Circle. We ended it by tackling what is probably the most iconic scene in the play (apart from the ending), when Grusha comes to a treacherous bridge and must cross it or fall into the hands of the soldiers. I won't reveal how the actors made the bridge (you'll have to come see for yourself!) but it was created using everyday items that might be found in your local community centre. This kind of theatre brings back memories of childhood for me - those games that everyone seemed to play as a kid, of arranging household objects like chairs and tables and pillows to make a safe path over the boiling lava that is the sitting room floor. Brecht wants us to use our imagination to paint the picture of the stage using those mental muscles that we exercised most in childhood - and when the staging works, there's a childlike wonder and excitement at seeing everyday objects become something else entirely. 

HBM

60 Seconds with... 

Nanny / Fat Peasant – Elizabeth Appleby

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
Elizabeth Appleby – The Nanny (and Cook) / Peasant Woman

Where in the UK are you from?
The South East

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
I remember singing ‘little donkey’ on a rocking horse at nursery school

What was your first experience of Brecht?
I played Mother Courage at drama school

What was your first experience of The Caucasian Chalk Circle?
My pal was in it and commented ‘it’s f#####g long’

What was your first thought when you heard about a production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle?
‘its f-##’ – no, I was really excited because I’ve been doing a lot of Shakespeare and wanted a change

Tell us the title of your favourite play?
The Events (David Greig)

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
Many, many but Mary Anne Duff

If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
Again many, many but atm Meryl Streep

What’s your favourite party game?
Cards Against Humanity

Day Twelve... 

Today in rehearsals our dramaturg Sara came in to speak to the actors about the roles they're each playing. Sara recorded short sessions of the actors individually answering questions about the play and their characters. It was interesting listening to what the actors had to say and the questions themselves were very characteristic of a Brechtian play - how does their costume represent their character? In this play the costumes are the main distinguishing factor for each character. A yellow anorak for a young poor girl, dungarees for a farmer, a T-shirt and tracksuit bottoms for an actor playing an actor (accurate). It reminds us of how simplistically Brecht wants us to treat the characters. He isn't interested in back-stories or psychological depth. In a play, he just wants to know what happens next, and there's something really exhilarating about that simplicity.  

HBM

60 Seconds with...

Jessup / Shauva – David Thackeray

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
David Thackeray – Jessup/Shauva

Where in the UK are you from?
Rayleigh, Essex
What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
Midsummer Nights Dream playing Bottom.
What was your first experience of Brecht?
Back to lovely senior school days. Didn’t have a clue what was going on.
What was your first experience of The Caucasian Chalk Circle?
This project.
What was your first thought when you heard about a production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle?
Epic classic

Tell us the title of your favourite play.
The Duchess of Malfi.
Who is your theatrical inspiration?
I can’t decide…. ahhhhh
If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
Robin Williams, Robert De Nrio

What’s your favourite party game?
Ooooo erm… some sort of board game with questions.

Day Eleven...

Today was nonstop - now that we're in the final week of rehearsals we're starting to put the play on its feet and set it in stone. The actors are off book and it's time to link their lines with each movement, so that the two become muscle memory. Scenes change and actors take on new roles so quickly, they really have to be on their toes and listen to each other - all those communication exercises in weeks 1 and 2 are beginning to pay off. Glimmers of the final product are beginning to emerge and I for one am excited.
HBM

Day Ten

As the second week of rehearsals ends, we discussed what we've done so far and where we're at in the rehearsal process. Next week is the final week in the rehearsal room and only then will we start setting things in stone. We asked the actors whether their thoughts about performing Brecht have changed since rehearsals began. Some have found it easier as time passes and many have found it hard to adapt to what Brecht demands. Brecht asks that we don't put our own emotions onto the people in the play and essentially this is asking actors to not make choices about their character that are substantiated in their lines - they must work with only the bare facts from the script. In a strange way this restriction can be liberating - the actors' job is simple. But simple doesn't mean easy - indeed, many of the actors have said that Brecht is the biggest challenge they've faced in their careers so far.  
HBM

60 Seconds with...

Governor’s Wife / Mother-in-law / Ludovica – Carly Thoms 

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
Carly Thoms- The Governors wife and Ludovica

Where in the UK are you from?
Essex

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
On stage- Curtain up Theatre school shows, I was 11
Auditorium- Starlight Express
What was your first experience of Brecht?
Studying Brecht at The Brit School

What was your first experience of The Caucasian Chalk Circle?
This is my first experience of the play!
What was your first thought when you heard about a production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle?
That sounds like a challenge!
Tell us the title of your favourite play.
Hedda Gabler

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
Imelda Staunton

If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
Emma Thompson

What’s your favourite party game?
Pin the tail on the donkey

Day Nine

Today in rehearsals we introduced costumes. This production's setting is modern, taking place in a community centre where neighbours gather and put on a play together. Within these parameters, the actors are each dressed as people we would see every day on the streets of any town in Britain. There's the builder in hardhat and high-vis jacket, the farmer in dungarees and wellies, the wealthy country woman in riding gear, the politician-type who visits a building site in a suit and token hardhat. It's exciting seeing the actors in their costumes because they're wearing outfits that are immediately recognisable to us in the 21st century. We know what type of woman one actress is playing because of the M & S shopping bag she carries. These are, of course, wildly general stereotypes. But this is part of the point - don't we all make judgements about one another within moments of meeting? Doesn't our tendency to make snap judgements about each other inform what we put on in the morning?
HBM

60 Seconds with...

Fat Prince / Lavrenti / Irakli – Tom Woodward

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
Tom Woodward – The Fat Prince, Lavrenti, and many many others.

Where in the UK are you from?
Newtown, Mid-Wales

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
My first memory on stage is playing a boy who lost his teddy in a ‘Safeway’ supermarket…original.

What was your first experience of Brecht?
I was lucky enough to be Lazarus’s first production of Chalk Circle last year, this was the first time I had ever come into contact with Mr Brecht.

What was your first experience of The Caucasian Chalk Circle?
See above!

What was your first thought when you heard about a production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle?
Interesting title.

Tell us the title of your favourite play?
I honestly can’t pick one, but I saw Mary Stuart at the Almeida earlier this year, I’d be happy to throw that in the mix.

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
It changes week to week. I saw Tom Rhys Harries play ‘Cosmo’ is The Pitchfork Disney last month and he blew me away. I’m always inspired by people’s work.

If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
I don’t have one but I’m on a big Ruth Wilson buzz at the mo. Love her in Luther, The Affair, and I saw her in Hedda at the National, I think she’s one of the best out there.

What’s your favourite party game?
I was introduced to ‘In the manner of’ over the Christmas holiday and  could not stop laughing, but I think the alcohol prior heightened the fun!

Day Eight

Where does The Caucasian Chalk Circle sit in Brecht's canon? Like any artist, he borrowed the idea from a previous work - this time from a 14th century Chinese drama known as The Circle of Chalk. Of course the bare bones of the story, in which the true mother must prove her love for the child before the authorities, is Biblical, appearing in the story of Solomon. But how did Brecht adapt this ancient story to his own dramatic needs?

Brecht's first problem was getting rid of the idea of a heroine. Brecht didn't want Grusha to be an 'idolised goddess'. That wouldn't work with his vision of our world where good wasn't necessarily opposed to bad: he was more interested in a woman who was neither good nor bad. In Brecht's own words Grusha should be 'simple...stubborn and not rebellious... long-suffering but by no means inconvertible'. This last point is particularly significant - Grusha isn't incapable of making morally wrong choices. There is nothing inevitable about her decision to help the child. By avoiding making his leading lady a saint, Brecht also avoids tipping into sentimentality. 
HBM

60 Seconds with... 

Azdak / Monk / Corporal – Owen Pullar

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
Miles Owen Pullar – Azdak /Monk/ Corporal 

Where in the UK are you from?
Matlock, Derbyshire

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
Buxton Panto!

What was your first experience of Brecht?
A Level Drama.

What was your first experience of The Caucasian Chalk Circle?
I saw a University of Sheffield production. I remember it was long!

What was your first thought when you heard about a production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle?
I thought the play was boring… But having read it 10 years later I was wrong. I really like Frank M translation too!

Tell us the title of your favourite play.
Jerusulam 

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
To work at the RSC.

If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
Mark Rylance or Adam Godley or Samuel Barnett

What’s your favourite party game?
Cards Against Humanity

Day Seven

In rehearsal this morning we explored Scene 2 of Chalk Circle, when Grusha flees into the Northern Mountains, with the soldiers in close pursuit. There are a range of locations in this one scene; the inn Grusha rests, the place where the soldiers catch up with her, the farm where she leaves the baby Michael, the dangerous rotten bridge, as well as all the travelling she does between those places. Since the words in the script are the only means of communicating our location in the story, it is particularly important to hear those lines. We did an exercise today in which the actors all vocally responded to each other's lines from outside the scene, affirming if they had heard and understood, and not responding if they hadn't. The actor speaking wouldn't move on to the next line until she had gotten affirmation from the group that she had been understood. Afterwards, there was a marked difference in the way the actors delivered their lines - suddenly every line was clear and was reaching all corners of the room. One actor said that this exercise made his lines' intentions clearer and he was right: it got all of us to think about the significance of every line. As we are constantly reminded, there is so much information to convey in a Brecht play. Clarity, again, is the word of the day.
HBM

60 Seconds with...

Simon / Singer – Robert Metson

Give us your full name and the character you are playing.
Robert Metson, The Singer/Simon

Where in the UK are you from?
Little Dunmow, Essex

What was your first theatrical experience, either on stage or in the auditorium?
Peter Pan the Pantomime

What was your first experience of Brecht?
A-Level Drama Studies studying the ‘Alienation Effect’

What was your first experience of The Caucasian Chalk Circle?
Reading the play for the first round of auditions.

What was your first thought when you heard about a production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle?
I was intrigued. I’d never seen a Brecht piece performed professionally but knew how he like to construct his work and his ideals when doing so; I wanted the opportunity to explore that.

Tell us the title of your favourite play.
Glengarry Glen Ross

Who is your theatrical inspiration?
Stephen Sondheim, David Mamet and Harold Pinter.

If you had to choose, who is your favourite actor?
Antony Hopkins

What’s your favourite party game?
Shut the box

To find out more about our Chalk Circle Cast in 60 Seconds Click Here

Day Six

Today we had a whirlwind tour of 20th century history presented by the actors in groups of two. Topics ranged from international politics to women's suffrage, from Brecht's life to the modern military. It struck us as very important to remember how little time has passed since 1939 and the outbreak of the most recent World War. This led us to discussing society today and women's place in it; the women of the 1920s certainly got the ball rolling for gender equality, but issues like the gender pay gap, limited maternity leave, and the misogyny of the recently-elected US President show that we still have a long way to go. 
HBM

Day Five

There's a line in this adaptation of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, 'Terrible is the temptation to do good'. This line sticks out to us, because at first glance it is antithetical, contradictory. How could the act of doing good be terrible? Directly before this line are the words, 'This was a time of terror...this was a time of hell'. In times of terror, we as human beings simply want to flee and look after ourselves. But when we confront someone weaker who needs our help, the temptation to stop and help them is strong. The temptation to do good is terrible, because it can lead us into situations that endanger our own lives. We are tempted to help our neighbour but we don't always do so because of the risk to ourselves. In the play Grusha is tempted to help the child, and she succumbs to the temptation.  
HBM

Day Four

Today in rehearsals we’ve been exploring different methods of communicating Brecht’s text, through physical movement, vocal intonation, volume and contact with the audience.  We performed an exercise in rehearsal where the ensemble told each other when their meaning wasn't crystal clear, and what they could do to improve. It's difficult to express in words exactly what makes for effective communication - but we all know it when we see it. We can all be teachers in this area, because we all watch each other all the time, mining for clues and trying to decide what that person is about. In a Brecht play, there is so much to communicate - dozens of different characters, locations, events and ideas, that characters' intentions and feelings need to be simplified. And if the delivery is clear and simple, the play's meaning emerges.
HBM

Day Three

In rehearsal today we came across an image of a woman breastfeeding an infant. It was beautiful, striking-- but to one actor the woman looked like she was uncomfortable. Her shoulder was raised in an unnatural position, it looked strained; like the act of lifting the baby to her breast took a lot of effort. It got us wondering about what it takes to be a mother. Are the things we take to be natural, everyday habits, actually more difficult than they seem? One actor pointed out that breastfeeding is very painful for many women. Perhaps motherhood is simple, natural, and easy, and at the same time, terribly difficult, frustrating and painful all at once. Grusha takes a child under her wing that isn't hers, and despite the danger and heartache and pain it brings her she determines to save it at all costs. She does so when the child's real mother has left it. Is Grusha driven by maternal instinct? If so, what is it that causes the real mother to leave her child behind? 
HBM

Day Two

Today we came across the word ‘refugee’ in the script. ​In the play ​a rich woman ​ fervently denies she is a refugee, claiming she is simply travelling to her summer home in the mountains, not fleeing from danger. If we go by the dictionary definition of the word, ‘a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster’, then she is indeed a refugee. ​But because she does not fit the image of a refugee in her head, she thinks she is somehow different from all those around her who make the same journey to safety. She clings to her story that she is simply moving from one of her many homes to another. This got us thinking, the word ‘refugee’ is a word with a lot of baggage attached, even in 1944 when this play was written. ​ The events of WWII forced millions of people across the globe to flee from their homes. As events in 2017 force millions more from their homes in the Middle East, surely it’s time to shed the baggage of that word ​ 'refugee',​ and to embrace those whom the word describes. ​

​HBM

Day One

What a whirlwind! The first day of rehearsals is well underway and I’m already exhausted just watching the actors. We did a run through of the play with the actors on their feet and some exciting ideas are emerging, with the help of some hula hoops and an inspired use of a megaphone.

HBM

 

John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore in Rehearsal...

Over the course of the next few weeks, actors Stephen MacNeice , (SM) Sasha Wilson (SW) and Valerie Isaiah (VI) shall be taking you step by step through the Lazarus process, discovering, building and presenting John Ford's remarkable taboo play, 'Tis Pity.

"Tis not, I know, my lust, but ‘tis my fate that leads me on"

Day fourteen...

Fight and Choreography was the Theme of today! Started off with a kick, it several kicks should I say! 

It really feels great to build something from the ground up and see it turn into this well oiled machine. I'm learning things I didn't know. Prior to this fighting for stage was foreign to me. It all felt a bit clumsy. But having worked with the talent Jonathan Holby, it all seems to move seamlessly. 

Finding how the body moves, manoeuvring between and around people in series of counts of eights,  can look so simple on paper but when it's brought to life with energy and intent, it's flawless 

Then in the afternoon we moved on to the bloody banquet scene, who knew there were so many theatrical ways to die! 
VI

Day thirteen...

There are several milestones on the way from day one of rehearsal to the last night of a show and the first run-through is a big one. It's the moment when a Company really begin to discover what it is that they've been labouring over for the last few months, how much work still needs to be done and whether they even have a show or not. 


Our first run was today and along with the inevitable bumpy moments, we came through it with a huge sense of relief and excitement at what is being discovered. The task now is to keep 'finding the ceiling' ; to push on and make something that is promising into something that is unforgettable. That's the work of the next week, but for now we can go home knowing that we have a show.

SM

Today was pretty exciting. I admit at first I thought it was going to be daunting running the show from head to toe for the first time. But I was pleasantly surprised. Talk about discoveries and eye openers. 

For me, it was the first time I was able to see and understand the vision. And like an burning bright light bulb the evolution and journey of every character went off to me. 

Something that was really difficult for me was finding the purpose of my character in every scene. I'm thankful for today because it allowed me to see my character not just in that moment but as part of a bigger picture. Which gave me more ideas and allowed me to be more playful. So yes our 'work in progress' run was a work in progress but a great one at that. And I was very impressed. So you're in for a treat
VI

Day eleven...

Slowly the play emerges, like some primeval mammoth from the fog. Or something. We are now halfway through staging and Ford's text is providing us with a fertile playground of ideas. Typically for a Lazarus show, naturalism is rubbing shoulders with abstract movement and symbolism as we work to create scenes and stage pictures that will thrill, challenge and delight the audience. For the actors it can be a tough but useful discipline. How do we stay actively involved with the action when we're not in a scene? How do we use the space so that we can be seen and heard by an audience in the round? How do we stay focused on the world of revenge tragedy when the MGM Story is rehearsing next door and 'There's No Business Like Show Business' is coming through the wall for the 84th time? We've discovered that the answer is listening. Listening to each other, to the play and, through textual accuracy, to John Ford himself. It can be demanding, but you know what they say about show business...
SM

Day ten...

How many times have you walked into a theatre and thought, maybe I got the wrong address? 

Empty stage, bare lights and you can hear a pin drop. Today we worked on breaking the conventional rules of theatre to give the audience and experience. An 'experience' in the real sense of the word. Taking the audience on a journey, detaching them from reality and pulling them into another world that is already alive, hustling and bustling. From the very start. 

But how do we do that, how do we make the setting more than a few table blocks and chairs? It's all in the mind, becoming more childlike back to the days where the couch was land (safety) and the floor was lava. Channeling all that to enter a scene and have a table be a story high balcony and that same table be a king size bed made an onlooker like 'wow, where is this place?!' And it's just the intention of the actor as the character believing, whole heartedly that, that was what it was. 

I personally feel like I got a glimpse into Philotis' world with this world today. And I look forward to creating her from within. 
VI

David Mamet suggests that one reason old actors reminisce so much is that they can't believe how

quickly life in the theatre passes. Nobody working on this show (me excepted) is old, but it certainly

seems for us that the first two weeks of rehearsal have gone by in a blur. Suddenly we are approaching

the business end of things and the staging has begun. 


Staging is a funny business. In essence we are just setting where we move and when, making sure we 

can be seen properly by the audience so the story is told in a visually clear and exciting way. From an 

actor's point of view though, once we know these moves we have to find a way to 'forget' them. We 

have to end up at the right place, saying the right words, under the right light at the right moment of

the play and make it seem spontaneous every time we do it. A fair definition of acting, I suppose.

SM

Day nine...

So today I was introduced to the crazy world of 'French Scening' it involves dancing, lots of energy and shouting. Trust me, you wanted to be there! 

But the interesting thing about the task was how invested you became when you become an active listener. If I could make a comparison to the information and the detail I got from individual character's stories compared to when I first listened to the play in a read through, it would be like black and white. I missed so much until the rest of my cast made it a point for the audience to comprehend what was going on. 

Then we went on to highlighting different themes of the play using the actual text. Seeing the significance of John Ford's use of love, sex, nature, religion and violence throughout his play in reference to what and at what moment. Like for example the heightened use of nature in a love scene. A conclusion that I can up with during today's task is that Ford is really interested in relationships and you can see that by the way he opens the play by introducing people by there relationship to other people within the setting. 
VI

Day eight...

After seven rehearsal days, we have come to the end of our preliminary text work and if it's way too soon to say we've 'broken the back' of the play, we at least now have a clearer idea of how rich, complex and resonant it is. Up to now, we've been focusing on unpicking and clarifying the meaning of Ford's words, allusions and images. Today we moved on to 'French Scene-ing'. What is French Scene-ing? Imagine a noisy panto played to a bear-baiting crowd with a high energy disco accompaniment and you've got some idea of what it is. It can be a very useful rehearsal tool in illuminating key themes and ideas in the play and also destroying any inhibitions the actors may have had with the text or each other. It is usually exhausting fun, but it can reveal serious things too. For example, the viciousness of some of the play's language is really exposed when it's shouted en masse at one cast member. Words are beautiful, but they can hurt and destroy too. I'll finish on some nicer words. Happy Birthday Dad.
SM

Day seven...

Why are manipulators so compelling on stage? Shakespeare has a great long list of them; Edmund, Richard III, Iachimo, Cassius, Don John and of course the daddy of them all, Iago. In real life they cause pain, unhappiness, heartbreak and worse, but in the context of a play, they delight us time and again. Perhaps it's because the audience are often the only people the villain tells the truth to, so when we watch the baddie at work we feel privileged in some way?  


These and other possibilities came to mind for me today as we worked on some of Vasques' scenes. He is the villain of our piece and is as duplicitous and conniving as you could wish. ''He's good with people'' noted our director Ricky and in a horrible way that's absolutely true. In many ways the villain is a perfect actor. He or she will try any tactic and play upon any vulnerability to achieve what they want. Perhaps that's why actors enjoy playing them so much. I know I do.    

SM

Day six...

Now in full swing the cast are moving more and more like an ensemble. We play together, we eat together and walk together quite literally! Having spent 20 or so minutes walking around a room, filling the gaps and spaces you'd think one would get tired or bored! But that wasn't the case. Something felt different, we felt connected. I suppose because it's week two now and we've formed bonds, so we're no longer strangers gathering  in a room, we're colleagues working together as one to create a powerful and interesting project. Which meant finding the heartbeat of the group became an easier task! We then went on to create rhythmic moves that describes us as a character and put it all together to series of eights both fast and slow. 

It's funny how you can tell a story or a relationship through the way someone shakes your hand. Which in a way, is what makes theatre possible. Our imagination is able to fill in the gaps from just a few clues. 

Then onto ploughing through episodes of text, for me its honestly exciting. I love how more aspects of characters are being revealed each day especially my own character Philotis. Learning how she responds and seeing her relationships with others. 

Today I finally saw her as someone with layers and I can't wait to see what else is inside her personality. Until tomorrow!
VI

Monday kicked off with frog squats. If you didn't know and are curious, a frog squat isn't some unpleasant hangover from Friday night drinks, but an intense calf warm-up to help with grounding. it's one of a number of exercises that we are now practising daily to develop core muscles for the demands of a very physical show. During the rehearsal and run of a show like this, those deep muscles can be your best friends, so it's well worth feeling the burn now.


We are now deep into our study of the play's scenes and the full-blooded richness of Ford's language is being revealed to us with almost every line. Everything we do as actors comes from the text. It is the source of everything we know and everything that we will create, so it's vital to read it carefully and accurately; to understand every word, phrase and reference in it. This work can sometimes feel dry and painstaking, but in a business where actors often have little or no rehearsal at all and are expected to make character choices based on a bare minimum of information, the opportunity to read a play so closely is actually a gift.

SM

The company of 'Tis Pity She's a Whore in Rehearsal, shots by Adam Trigg.

Day five...

How does the space we're in change the way we move and speak? That was one of this morning's questions and we set about creating rooms and living spaces for our characters (the furniture at the Poor School Studios has been hard at work this week). Everything from a doctor's surgery to a friar's cell was quickly assembled. Suddenly a room above a street in King's Cross became a kind of condensed city in itself. We discovered how playing in a larger, rather than a confined space can unlock a scene; intensely private moments can become big public debates that involve everyone. I think there is something else here too; It seems our Parma  is a tight-knit city where people

live in close proximity to one another. Some people live too close. Outsiders are uncommon. Secrets are difficult to keep. One person's tragedy is everyone's..


The week closed with violence. Not the Lazarus Friday night drinks (although I left early so I can't be sure), but a look at our spectacular 'bloody banquet' finale which even at this early stage looks like it's going be the party to end all parties. Roll on week two.

SM

Day four... 

Today the cast was in 'Crouching Tiger' mode as we explored the brawl scene of the play. Our challenge was merging realism with movement. How do we create a realistic fight scene whilst keeping it fluid and then fitting it to music. Because let's face it, music makes everything that little bit more epic. 

For me it was awesome to have everyone in a set space giving off their individual energy and watching it rub off on each other which created this almost beautiful sense of hysteria. And in under two hours it became a great piece of choreographed theatre. 

It got me really excited to think of viewing the fight as an audience member, imagining how they would pick out people's stories and relationships within fights.   

We then ended the day off with research. The entire cast's efforts paid off because we were filled to the brim with facts by the end of the rehearsal day! In our pairs we presented our six topics of research; Architecture, Sex, Religion, Politics, John Ford and Women were our topics. I feel as though we are in a great position to give you, the audience a fantastic and informed show of a lifetime.
VI
Violence is a funny thing. The world feels very frightening these days. The news seems inundated with breaking footage of bombings in Turkey, mass shootings in Orlando or even the stabbing by Russell Square last night. However (and I know I may be speaking from a place of privilege), but my world has never been one of commonplace violence. Not in the way that it would have been for the characters in Tis Pity. Men wore swords, brawls in the streets were common, murders and revenge were the way of the world. One needs only to look at the history of families like the Borgias to see this played out. I cannot imagine how your mindset would have to be specially tuned to be ready for a cut purse around every corner. This morning we workshopped our opening melee in all of its deliberate inelegant chaos. It's odd because for all its ostensible violence, I have found fight is such a safe and fun thing to choreograph. Everyone in the company continually checked in to make sure we were keeping each other safe so that we could really throw ourselves into the fray. It's tremendous because it's visceral and muscular, in many ways a perfect mirror to the text. The characters (with a notable exception or two) don't seem to think. They do. They see a threat and they throw the punch. They see the object of their desire and they do what they must. The mornings fight exploration was an interesting way into the bodies and hopefully the psyches of these people we are going to be over the course of the next month.
SW
A day of extremes today. In the morning we worked on fight choreography and there was general delight as the cast got to punch, kick, throttle and gouge each other in the safest ways imaginable. From that we moved on to research in the afternoon and among other things, sampled the glories of Baroque and Gothic architecture, the mysteries of early modern religious belief and the role of women in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century society. This last subject is particularly important for our play, which amid all the wild plotting, poisoning and mayhem is a bitter and thought-provoking reflection on the fate of women throughout history. Some actors and directors are a bit dismissive of research, perhaps seeing it as an irrelevance or a distraction, but anything that can open a door on the play and feed the imagination has got to be useful and sometimes the smallest detail can push you in a new and exciting direction.
SM

Day three...

I was always thaught that doing a play is like making a casserole. You keep adding ingredients to the pot, keep stirring, let it stew and hopefully what the audience gets will be tasty. Anyone who visits the 'Tis Pity rehearsal room will see our ingredients everywhere. The walls are now covered in images, pages of text and maps. Rehearsal room furniture is now being used to create everything from an altar to an assault course. Water bottles and discarded socks are now temporary props (OK it was my sock). It's a huge amount of visual, intellectual and sensual information which we have to sort through to find the things that will be useful to us and bring our production to life. As we begin to move through the scenes of the play though, things are starting to simmer. 

SM

Day two...

This play is marvellous but as Ricky has often pointed out, it comes with a lot of baggage and preconceived notions of memories of past and loved productions. I have often found that incredibly daunting in working in a show. How do I say these words like they belong to me now and are a product of my real feelings and the reality of the scene when I know full well that they have been delivered beautifully by actors a myriad times before me? There is comfort to be found, I think, in the text. Ford has given us a blueprint with all the clues and nudges all embroidered in the text. Today's rehearsals were the beginning of a lengthy and incredibly rewarding process of mining the text for those very gems. We have been combing through each thought and breaking it down so that we have a clear idea of what we're saying and why we're saying it in that way. Why do I choose one word over another? Why do I express myself in a particular metaphor or use a lot of alliteration? It all points to how I should be feeling in the scene or what my character is like. Without that level of attention to detail, my decisions would be impositions on top of or really despite what Ford has written. Once we've teased out all that information, then we can really start to play and see how we react to one another and *our* Tis Pity can come to life.
SW

Today was about sweat. A lot of it. 


The day began with a long warm up and I said hello to some very deep muscles that I haven't been in touch with for a long time. 

This was followed by an intense movement session where we began to create the physical language of the play; in particular we 

looked at the details of ensemble movement and began to feed in some musical ideas. 


'Tis Pity is an extremely sensuous and visceral play and this work is vital in connecting (or re-connecting) the imagination to the 

physical life and needs of the body. It's also a great workout!

SM

Day one...

First days of rehearsal are always tricky. They can be nervy and awkward as you get used to new people, a new space to work in, a new character to inhabit and (in our case) a not-so-new play to get off the ground. The good thing about a Lazarus rehearsal though, is you know that awkwardness will pass very quickly and soon you'll be feeling at home and doing things you wouldn't have imagined on day one. 

'Home' for us is the Parma of John Ford. A world of streets, bed-chambers, churches, dining-rooms and coal-houses that we must visualise and create for an audience from scratch. It's also a world populated by every strata of society from bandits to clergymen, and we'll have to create all of them too. We've begun by finding images that suggest themes and moments from the play and have started to examine how these images can be brought to life. It's early days, but exciting discoveries are already being made. We have also taken a look at costume ideas. There promises to be a visual feast at the Tristan Bates in a few weeks' time. 

Hope you can join us.

SM

Kickstarting our three week rehearsal with an artistic and creative bang! Having the entirety of the cast and members of the creative crew all in one room, we were able to embark on our journey of exploration. 

Starting with images the cast had brought in, images that symbolised initial reactions to the play and specific events. Starting with creating human tableaux's from the images we were able to draw out and build upon the essence and themes of the play and see how it could manifest into a piece of theatre.  

It was interesting to see how connected we were as an ensemble cast to be able to view an image and find ourselves within ourselves yet fit together to tell a clear yet complex story. And I believe we did quite well. 

That then transitioned into stylistic and costume design associated with each character. It's amazing how clothes can confirm our thoughts about the characters and also manipulate us into believing a character is one way. We deciphered as a company on what we wanted the audience to see and believe and how much should be given away. 

Further in the day, we looked at text and what we needed the audience to hear, get and understand from not only the play but from each character. Why is it important that we hear X information from Y character.  

But overall we left day one with an eagerness to continue and desire to see the play alive and on its feet! See you for day two! 
VI
A play is a living thing. Its spinal column and skeleton, the play, has to be given flesh by actors. Individually they are insufficient, but together they create a heartbeat that powers the play. And hearts, beating hearts are at the centre of our production, in that we are shown all  different kinds of love, tender new love, forbidden love or unrequited love.  We spent the morning of our second rehearsal finding our heartbeat. We walked around an empty room for hours. On paper it sounds terribly simple and frankly boring. But in practice, it is so much more rewarding. By making eye contact, falling into a rhythm and learning to negotiate a space as a group will forge us from a group of actors into a company.
SW

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Euripides' The Bacchae
in Rehearsal...

Over the course of workshops, rehearsal and performance, actors Amy Allen (AA), Lysanne Van Overbeek (LVO), Sonja Zobel (SZ) and Kenzie Horn(KH) join with assistant director John King (JK) in bringing you up to speed with all things The Bacchae. 


The end is nigh... 

Something clicked for me this evening, on my 3rd last performance- a realisation and a connection that has come better late than never I guess- but one that I wish I had found earlier! Last night we worked really well as a company together, getting great feedback from Gavin; we were listening and really hearing things for the first time, keeping it new and fresh whilst raging together as a slick ensemble. I had been struggling with how to pitch my first line- feeling like the first one liner as a chorus member was still a little tough to find a 'thought' or reason to speak for, trying out a variety of ways, however after a discussion with Gavin I went back to my original choice of being terrified at the prospect of what Pentheus might be capable of. This threw me off kilter but in a really good way- it renewed my words and thoughts and propelled me through the rest of the play. 
This evening with that in mind, and with our 'go word' being 'beginning' I started hearing things for the first time and felt my character become a whole- before she has felt very separate in the monologue from the one liners but now I feel I have her journey- as someone who has been vulnerable & frightened but who builds in strength throughout the play- drawing on others' stories and Dionysus' growing strength. I think I knew this deep down but it has become something tangible now. Instead of beating myself up for making this discovery/ emotional connection so late in the day, I am going to revel with the company in our last two performances. 
This has been an exceptional experience from the first audition until now- I have learnt & achieved so much, and tonight's revelation only goes to show that the journey doesn't stop here- it's so exciting to see what the next two performances will bring, and I'm sure I will be drawing upon my Bacchic discoveries for years to come. Hats off to lazarus and our beautiful company, it's been a blast.
AA

And into the run...

Time is just flying by and every daytime this week that I have been working to pay the bills, I have had the fact that I will be performing in the evening as an uplifting thought that keeps me going and I am so thankful to be able to be doing what I love the most. It sounds gushy and wonderful but in reality ('realistically'- the word in my Bacchic monologue haunts me on a daily basis- the reason for this word being in my monologue is that it is a word which builds up some anger in me as when I was younger dreaming about being on stage, I didn't much like living in the 'real world' - worrying about having to pay the bills/ doing the 9-5/  dealing with the pressures of day-to-day anxiety and society- but it is a word I have used myself more and more the older I get) it's tough doing fringe- amazing and challenging in the very best of ways but tough because there's the need to pay the rent and do the 'support job' in order to do the job I really want to be doing full-time. My problem is that everything I do, I want to do to the best of my ability but any job an actor has besides the acting-related work has to be secondary otherwise what's the point of pursuing this crazy and beautiful career? 

The beauty of working with Lazarus is that we have an early call time to help us have an individual warm-up before we do a company one. This helps me to zone in and breathe out the day outside of the theatre; to focus on the company and world of the play. The company warm-ups, mainly being led by the lovely Lazarite RJ, have enabled us to come together before each show to share our energy & tune into each other. We are onstage throughout the show- something audience members have commented upon as being very effective - our active listening on stage has vastly improved and we have really freed ourselves up to try out new things- a magical feeling when we are all working 'with one mind' as the Bacchae. I had some members of my park players (adult evening acting class I teach at The Park Theatre- one of my supporting jobs that I very much enjoy!) in watching this evening and they were buzzing after seeing the performance- they enjoyed the individual monologues and felt it important that people from different regions, countries and of different 'shapes and sizes' were represented together on stage. It sparked conversations and debates about Greek theatre and feminism and one of my members was so surprised at how much she understood of the story having had no previous experience of Greek theatre- she was wanting the script of our particular production she enjoyed it so much!. The word 'gripping' was used as it has been in a few of our 4 star reviews. I am so proud of this show, and proud to show my park players members that  their facilitator knows how to use the tools she teaches! This show is a form of escapism for me but has also enabled me to learn so much and has stretched me to use my singing, dance and acting skills, and to be present & in the moment throughout the performance. This is reality; I am in a fab show, with a wonderful company and have supportive friends. I know this experience will come to an end but I will continue to relish it while it lasts. Realistically I can say that the 'real world' for me right now, today, is pretty darn good!
AA

Opening Night...

We are officially open. Last night was press night and the adrenaline was high. The show felt great and everyone seemed very enthusiastic. When I woke up today, I was really excited still but also had a really weird, sad feeling. As if the run had already finished. Today was the first day we weren't in the theatre all day and didn't see each other till we got to the theatre at 6. It was strange not spending the whole day with these people I have become so close to.

Now that the adrenaline and nerves have calmed down a bit, our professionalism really came out. It is up to us now to keep the energy going and give every audience the same quality experience. When we arrived we did individual warm ups, a group warm up and a focus session, a moment to all come together again. 

The show went by in a flash. I feel so lucky to be on stage with these amazing people and to get to perform every evening for a new audience. It's a really great piece and I am very excited to do it again tomorrow.
LVO

Tech and into previews... 

Well we are open!!

...And we all survived! Over the weekend I think I went through some grieving for the rehearsal process. It's a bit gushy but this company of people has been brilliant to work with. I have been known to beat myself up on occasion for not being 'perfect' but this group had enabled me to be myself and embrace the personal and group challenges of the past few weeks. Today that old annoying voice of self-doubt crept onto my shoulders trying to stand in my way of being 'present' but working with such a supportive & hard working company, I am happy to say they are now being quieted. This morning we went through notes and different configurations of movements- especially the killing of Pentheus. I have had to get used to being in a different spot onstage in many of the sequences now as my speech is being said out to the audience rather than to the other Bacchae with movement upstage. I know this works better for the piece but it has taken some getting used to as the position I am now in feels less free- something I can work on channelling into the piece/ my movement/ intention. After some notes, movement & chorus work today, we then did a run-through. Our key word for this was 'explore' I felt more playful in this run than in yesterday's and the chorus work felt like it made more sense, however the speech didn't. I'm wary of it sounding too on one level and I enjoy playing with the musicality of the words- implementing last week's text work, however I pushed this a bit too far so need to bring it back to saying the words without 'trying' to put anything on top, and see how that feels. When it came to our first preview; our first public performance, our word to focus on was 'revel'! And it felt like we revelled. Obviously there is always more we can build on and improve upon, but I feel like we all went for it as an ensemble. I had a moment at the beginners call this evening, just wanting to thank my lucky stars for bringing us all together. Whatever happens over the next 14 performances, we are at a place where we are part of something pretty special. It can only become more so as time goes on. 
AA

2nd preview! It's been lovely seeing this show come together, and hearing audience feedback. The main thing that people keep saying is that it's a strong ensemble piece, and they love how well we work together as a cast. I'm quite proud of this, as I think our cast has really bonded well and been receptive to each other's ideas. It's been an incredibly rewarding rehearsal process, and I'm excited to finally get to share this piece. Can't wait for press night tomorrow!
KH

Day Fourteen...

So much is changing this week! We realised we had the skeleton of our piece but now it really feels like the stakes have been raised and we are truly discovering who the Bacchae are- I don't want to give too much away but it's all getting incredibly exciting - with all of the in-depth text work guided through by Ricky, combined with the reworking of our speeches and the innovative devising and physical work with Gavin, things are really coming together. We also got our costumes today, which will be lots of fun to work with...I don't want to give too much away but the audience is in for a real treat.

AA

Day Thirteen...

A 3 day weekend and WOW the world of the Bacchae has been turned upside down!
Today we started with a text technique workshop given by Ricky Dukes.
We worked on finding the words that need to be pointed, we worked on
musicality, intention and punctuation. Ricky works a lot more
thoroughly than I've done before and I found it fascinating. It's a
solid technique that I'm excited to put into practise.
In the afternoon, we started reworking the piece, making some pretty
epic changes. In short, Dionysus is the God of Theatre and we are
going to go with that instead of trying to make our lives more
difficult.
Three days till we go into production week and they're going to be
tough, but isn't that exciting?

LVO

Day Twelve... 

This morning we looked at blame and remorse in the aftermath of atrocity, and how participants retroactively process their own complicity in horrific events. I’m finding the ending of the play especially difficult to get my head around. After Dionysus’ departure, is some sort of normative order reimposed on Thebes? How are the survivors supposed to function in ‘normal’ society? How will the events on the mountain impact their individual and collective futures? I think these questions inevitably arise in modern productions, since the epistemological developments of the intervening 2,400 or so years have been so colossal. David our dramaturg dropped some bombshells in his workshops which have forced us, as theatre-makers, to be aware of the many anachronisms of the cultural and social framework within which we now read the play: two gems included, “well, the ancient Greeks didn’t really have a conception of ‘evil’, it’s a Judeo-Christian construct”; and “we can’t easily map our modern understanding of ‘love’ onto these narratives”. The Athenian understanding of death, honour, retribution, gender, mimesis (and therefore the most basic plot elements of The Bacchae) was vastly different to our own, and so group discussions have been essential in our collective ‘making sense’ of the text.


That said, from my vantage point at the production table, I’ve loved seeing the company flip deftly from detailed conversations about the play’s Big Ideas into intense physicalised stagings, responding to the space, the music and each other. There’s something very exciting about watching emotional intelligence demonstrated through the actual ‘doing’ of the work, once the discussions have finished. For example, today we watched a surprisingly touching episode in which Pentheus puts on a dress for the first time, and then walks to the mountain to where his mother is waiting. For me, it was an important reminder that there are always layers of potential meaning that reading and discussion of the text fail to touch, and can only be realised in performance.

JK


We did our first run today, which was both  exciting and terrifying, especially considering that we had just finished staging it earlier in the morning. All in all though, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the piece flowed. I really do believe that we have a very solid foundation for the play now. This upcoming week (our last week of rehearsals-oy vey!) will be mainly about fine tuning and clarifying the piece. I am incredibly proud of our cast and what we've created, and can't wait to see where this next week takes us! 

KH

Day Eleven...

Halfway week 2 and suddenly I am starting to realize how quickly show-week will come round. And suddenly my hands are starting to become a bit clammy and my stomach turns, out of excitement as much as nerves.
This morning we focused on one of the last big movement pieces of the show. My character doesn't get to do much of that. Sometimes it is just so nice to let go and to follow where your body is leading. In our society there are so many unspoken rules Bout how you walk and stand, that taking over cat features or a wolf's, feels like freedom. Which coincidentally what this play is partially about.
In the afternoon we focused on the text and we almost finished working through all the scenes. It will be interesting to see how we feel about the piece after we finish episoding tomorrow.
Not that long left..
LVO

How time flies when you're having fun! It's hard to believe that we have already reached the end of our second full week of rehearsals. We have looked at each episode of the piece in turn, and finally started to stage it today. Most of the cast have been asked to write a speech for their character. As I explained in an earlier blog, I found this a pretty scary/ exposing but liberating experience. I think a few of us have also reached the point of questioning ourselves quite a bit too in terms of whether our speech is acceptable - am I saying it as well as others etc (maybe this is the wall in the process Gavin & Ricky spoke of on the first day). This is possibly also because we are creating characters for these women with no name (Mine is now Alex- defender of the people- a strong Bacchic woman...with a North East accent)- it's funny that when speaking classic texts, especially the chorus lines, I tend to go into a very well-spoken 'holy' voice but I am wanting to make my character real so am earthing her with my own voice and natural accent. I have always found this helps me to connect to scripts better initially even if I change accent at a later date.
I think the cast is very tired but so invested in this piece- we have a mountain of work to do tomorrow but I am so proud of what we have discovered so far. Now it just needs some filing down and tweaking. We also got a glimpse of some rather skimpy looking costumes...so that should be rather interesting to add into the mix next week! For now I need to rest my weary Bacchic head in readiness for Staging the rest of the piece and presenting it to the creative team tomorrow! Eek!
AA

Day Ten...

How on earth do you tear off a man’s head on stage? This was the central question put to our actors in today’s devising session. The answer, it turns out, involves loud music, louder screams, and some very innovative, animalistic physicalisation work from the cast. The challenge of representing dismemberment demands the careful negotiation between seen and reported action, something that is intrinsic to all Greek tragedy.


We have also delved further into the confrontation between Dionysus and Pentheus, exploring in close detail the power play between the two men, and how it shifts in the space when factors such as proximity, movement and stillness are altered.

JK

 

Today we had an interesting discussion about wether or not The Bacchae is a feminist play. Personally, I believe wholeheartedly that it is. Our dramaturge, David, mentioned that the play was not performed professionally after Ancient Greece until 1908, where it was performed by a suffragette theatre company. I don’t think that this is mere coincidence. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that Dionysus chooses to enact his revenge by sending the women of Thebes to the mountain, throwing the city into turmoil. The play has a lot to say about gender politics, and its message is still very relevant to today’s society. However, I do quite like that in our production, we see men as the Bacchae as well. This shows the universality of the play’s message, and makes it a feminist play that everyone can relate to.
KH

Day 9 has arrived and I honestly can say that I have never enjoyed any rehearsal process as much as this one. I am now able to master Frog and Zeus Squats, to be an earthquake for 3 hours and to sing a 4-part harmony. However I am deeply stressed.  Reason for this is that I need to write my own speech until Thursday. I have far too many ideas and have written at least 15 drafts already. My character is vital and her speech will carry one of the concluding messages of the show. But how can I find a way to merge loss, brutality, human savagery, warning and the dangers of freedom, outcasts, religious fanatic together without speaking for an hour?  I am struggling.

I also came across a problem on a completely different level. today I had some very painful private news but still had to keep going. It was hard to focus but this the life that I have thrown myself into. Acting unfortunately means that you have to leave your private self behind as otherwise you would not be able to do the job.

However I am looking forward to tomorrow. The show is coming together and one can see the golden thread moving from one episode into the other. It slowly raises more and more questions about morality and how dangerous it is to be human. 

SZ

Day Eight... 

Week two has kicked off with a bang. I think, over the weekend, we’ve all had the chance to reflect on where we’re at in the process and what we’re working towards. I know I have had a lot of conversations with people who are curious about the show, following the increased buzz on social media (if you haven’t seen our rehearsal shots on the Lazarus Facebook page, you really should take a look...).


Today we had a very productive conversation about the ontological categories of ‘Bacchae’ and ‘Chorus’. We looked back at the work we did last week and reflected on what we’ve learned about the free will and coercion of the women of Thebes as they join the cult of Dionysus. More and more of our set is materialising in the space for us to play around with, though you’ll have to come and see the show in two weeks’ time to catch a glimpse of it yourself! We looked at some new writing supplied by the cast for the production, and devised Pentheus and Katrine’s climb through the rubble of the ruined palace as they confront Dionysus.
JK

Day Seven... 

Well we have reached the end of the first full week of rehearsals and already I don't want it to be over!
My body is tightening up- my muscles are aching less the stronger I  become (and the more used to frog and Zeus squats i get!) -and my mind and voice are getting a workout too! Our group is gelling as a cast and we have been getting very comfortable in each others company & really going for the exploration of who these people are- physically as well as vocally. 

This week, we have created a song, 2 pieces of physical theatre and we have been writing pieces of our own text as well as creating a high energy warm-up dance and working on the given text.

For me the most exposing element of the process so far has been writing my speech- giving my character a voice; discovering why my character decided to follow Dionysus- I was very interested in the emphasis the Greeks had on the men in their society having the power while the women were thought of as less important and were only good for 'weaving on the loom'. Euripedes really gives women a voice in his plays and I wanted to take the opportunity to show that women could be strong and choose to break away from the oppressive society in which they lived. We still haven't fully settled on when exactly we are setting the play- but I feel that the issue of gender equality is still so relevant today. Of course much has changed over time but it's still an ongoing conversation in today's society and a one that remains to be relevant world-wide. 
Reading my speech out for the first time felt exposing but liberating at the same time. As an actor it can be helpful to create a back story for your character but there are not many opportunities to have your own voice heard through you actually being able to write a part of the play. We are all totally and utterly involved in this process of building our piece under Gavin's direction & guidance and I feel like this process is a very unique  one. Don't get me wrong, it's blooming hard work but if it was easy & straightforward it would be nowhere near as exciting; Dionysus didn't do things by half and neither do the cast & company of The Bacchae! Next week things are going to hot up as we summon Dionysus for more explosive explorations, watch this space as we get to go face to face with The Bacchae & wreak havoc on the city of Thebes...
AA

Day Six...

Today was all about writing songs. It is almost the end of week 1 and I am so tired. Its really great to be back in full time rehearsals but it makes you remember why you were always exhausted during drama school.
Anyway. 
The great thing about this rehearsal process is that I might be tired when I come in, but as soon as we get going, the tiredness just disappears.
We were asked to think of a melody for 1 or 2 lines of text over the weekend. Those lines were then recorded and today we heard the result. Somehow we managed to fit them all together and over the course of the day we made one complete, wicked song out of it, with canons, harmonies, the whole shebang. It sounds really cool and we really made it all together. 
Tomorrow we're going to start putting the first couple of scenes together. Sounds like we are going to finish week 1 with a bang! 
LVO

Today was mostly spent writing and staging songs. Everyone had been assigned a line or two from a choral ode and arrived with a melody in mind, which they then taught to the rest of the group. We spent the morning piecing it together and smoothing out the cracks, and in the afternoon put both songs up on their feet. The result of such a collaborative process is that you can hear all kinds of influences, from traditional church music, to chanting, to film scores, weaved together through the text. This hybridity fits well with our production, in exploring how very different people from different walks of life might be convinced to abandon the rigidity of their everyday lives in favour of more free and wild self-discovery and expression.
JK

Day Five...

Yesterday was the first time that I reached some limits of my body. I started the day feeling achy and I blame our intense, physical exploration of what an earthquake is like the day before. It is fascinating how music can free us to go beyond our own body limits, to overstretch and be capable of movement that you cannot do without the connection to the beat. The price is pain on the next day. My back and neck were stiff and I felt tired before we even started. But it is incredible to see the strength of a human body. In the moment we started warming up and working on the opening sequence, all pain was gone and the energy, mental and emotional focus dominated the room again.  

Yesterday we also got the show up on its feet. We created an opening number that took the ideas from last week’s exploration and therefore linked monotony to freedom. It will hopefully make the audience think about those 2 worlds and how similar and restricting both can be.

After lunch we did more text work, which really goes into details. Every comma, every word and sentence is discussed and it is fascinating to see how much playfulness one can have with a single line.

For some reason I started to sympathize with a character that I have never liked, because he felt so trapped and let down by his own people.

SZ


Today we locked down some of the movement for the opening of the play, using the material that the cast devised yesterday. There’s something very satisfying about seeing distinct gestures, which were created individually and in isolation, slot into place as part of a wider narrative. It’s great to be in the privileged position of looking at the piece as a whole and being able to identify the genesis of each little section.


The biggest challenge for me today was coherently recording these decisions as they were made in the room. Translating body language into a common, written vocabulary that everyone in the company can return to is difficult enough; when the stage is compartmentalised into four ‘corridors’, and fourteen actors are doing vastly different, and rapidly changing, movement sequences within each, it’s even trickier!  Needless to say, I’m leaving the rehearsal room this evening with very strong feelings about the key differences between a ‘turn’, a ‘twirl’ and a ‘spin’, and the catchy rehearsal track is very much stuck in my head.

JK

Day Four...

I felt like everything was starting to come together today. We did a lot of physical work in the morning, creating movement pieces around words that have a connection to Dionysus. I'm finding the whole concept of release very interesting: whilst release for the women of Thebes is a central part of the play, it is impossible to have release without first having tension. Bacchae is a play all about opposite forces coming together (femininity and masculinity, control and release, freedom and structure), and it's been interesting to explore those opposite forces physically. Also I may have treated myself to another cookie. Yay. 
KH

Today we explored the celebratory aspects of the cult of Dionysus, as well as the earthquake which wrecks Pentheus’ palace, setting the god free. We’re at that exciting, early point in the devising process where everything is very expansive. Today’s physical exercises have been about generating raw material – gestures, sounds, sequences - which we’ll return to in the coming days and refine into the performance.

Similarly, every line of text is proving to be a potential conversation-starter, with cast members drawing on contemporary culture, personal histories, Greek mythology and even the experience of living in London today in their engagement with the text. 

JK


Day Three...

Being tired in a rehearsal is the worst feeling. 


Scratch that, having to do what seems like a never ending amount of squats whilst tired in a rehearsal is the worst feeling. 

Due to the insane storm last night, I wasn't able to get a full nights sleep. Especially in such a physical show as Bacchae, being fully present and energised is very important. And it's frustrating when you want to give more than you are, but your body simply won't let you. Fortunately, the rest of the cast seemed in a far better state than I, and we were able to have a productive day. We're starting to get some ideas for the opening sequence, and it's really nice to see how people's ideas can build on top of each other and create something completely new. Who knew strips of fabric could create so much?
KH

Today felt most intense and demanding so far. This surely related to the fact of having had no sleep due to storm Katie, who kept me awake all night. Biking to rehearsals equally proved challenging and so I started the day tired and soaking wet.


We began with warm ups that included the dreaded Zeus Squat, a heavily tiring squatting exercise in a position symbolising Zeus. Later we progressed to a walking exercise where we tried to find a walking pace that became the heartbeat of the group. From observation I learned how important energy, awareness and strong decisions are when finding a smooth way through the group.  Afterwards we began with devising the potential opening sequence of the play. There seem to be 2 states of existence dominating the story. One can be described as a monotonous, heavily structured and trapped society that then progresses to a state of release, joy and fun to find liberation, freedom and empowerment. However can freedom actually be fully free? Or does not any ‘liberated individual’ fall into the next trap of monotony, conformity and following another idea or person? Can we actually make free choices or are we always led by our own moral values?

SZ

The Bacchae congregate for the First Day... Workshops

Hi there! I’m John and l am the assistant director on the production. Over the next few weeks, some of the cast and I will be sharing a little of what’s been happening in the Lazarus rehearsal room as we put the show together.

After two workshop days last week, we assembled in the Blue Elephant Theatre this morning for our first full day of rehearsals. Excitingly, we have the opportunity to devise our entire piece in (and for) the Blue Elephant’s stage, on which it will be performed in three weeks’ time.


We’ve been exploring the world of the Bacchae through physicalisation and discussion, playing with ideas of the ‘Bacchic’ and its opposites; considering both freedom and obedience, release and constraint. There has been a lot of building up of communication and trust among the ensemble through games and exercises.


Our dramaturge, David Bullen, has led two workshops to contextualise the mythic tradition into which Euripides was writing. Last week, Gavin briefly introduced me to the (very thorough!) Lazarus approach to text. It was great to see this in action today, as the company worked through Dionysus’ first speech, clause by clause.


Lots of exciting questions are arising as we tease open the text: Is true freedom possible? Is it necessary for society to function? Is there comfort in conformity? Fear in freedom? We’re very excited to work through these questions over the coming weeks. 

Watch this space!
JK


So... my name is Lysanne and I have just embarked on an insane project which is basically every actors dream (given that they love classical theatre, which I do). In 3 weeks I will be performing in Lazarus production of The Bacchae, a play by Euripides with a brilliant group of people at the Blue Elephant Theatre. I will be playing the part of Katrine.


We started our rehearsal in a circle, introducing the creative team and then ourselves. By this point we had heard safety regulations, bits about the possible design for the piece and were now asked to give our own opinions.

Now, I originally imagined the Bacchae as quite disturbed characters, as if under a spell. It was quite a dark vision, quite specific. But hearing everyone else's opinions and ideas was fascinating, as some had gotten completely the opposite ideas; they got colour, freedom, a way for people to find release so they could deal with the world they have to live in. Lots of exciting things to work with and explore over the next few weeks and see what we can create.


To finish the day we had a lesson in Greek Mythology 101; who are all the main Greek Gods and what did they do? The Olympians could have their own soap series!  At the moment I feel like my mind is in overdrive. And am very excited for what tomorrow might bring.

LVO


First Day of a rehearsal process is stressful  for an actor. There is the worry that you are not good enough, that the ensemble might not like you, that the director will come to the conclusion of having made the wrong choice and worst that you feel wrong in all this. These unnecessary stress factors start on the evening before and will guarantee a night of little sleep.


Today I started my first day rehearing for the Greek tragedy ‘The Bacchae’ at the Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell. It was one of the best first rehearsal days I have had. Although there is a lot to be done to devise a heavily movement and singing dependent show in 3 weeks consisting out of 40 pages of script so far where most of it is still to be written, I felt safe. The company knows what they are doing and are ready for this big journey.


Therefore I left the rehearsal today being deeply inspired.  I started reading the full text again and making thorough notes. I watched extracts of other versions, watched documentaries and read travel articles from British people going to Athens. Somehow my mission has become to convince an audience of the amazing stories and depths of Greek mythology that are so relevant in modern times.

SJ


So here I am, riding the tube home after our first two days of Bacchae rehearsal. And the main thing that's hit me (other than waves of exhaustion and a serious craving for cookies), is how close our company is already starting to become. There's something about a rehearsal room that immediately bonds people together. It's always amazed me how actors have this willingness to make themselves so vulnerable in front of complete strangers. This company in particular seems to have a lovely willingness to play, as evidenced by a very sweaty, very chaotic movement exercise we did this morning. Especially in a piece like this that is heavily devised, company unity is critical. This play is weird as hell, but there's something very human about it. As we discussed today, even the Gods have flaws in Greek mythology. It's nice feeling free to be messy and chaotic in rehearsal, because that's the atmosphere that this play demands. We've got a lot to think about over Easter weekend, but I'm very excited about the direction the play is headed, and the ensemble we're creating. Now if you'll excuse me, I think it's time for that cookie I've been craving. Being a Bacchae is hungry work.

KH


Beginning the rehearsal process this week I had that first day of school feeling; a mixture of nervousness and excitement. I remembered the buzz I had felt coming away from the auditions and focused on all of the reasons why I wanted to delve into the world of Lazarus and The Bacchae; I’ve never been part of an ensemble piece of theatre before and haven’t done a full rehearsal process and decent run of a show since leaving ALRA in Dec 2012- and immediately I have an extra spring in my step.


On day one, we had an introduction from Ricky and Gavin as well as some exciting design ideas from Sorcha and some in depth background in Greek Mythology from our Dramaturge- David. We discussed our initial reactions to the play and began to get to know one another through playing ball games/ name games. Day two saw a more physical warm-up and a sweatier start to the day with some dance and exploration, as well as more cast bonding through games and gaining more pearls of wisdom from David about Euripides. We ended the session looking at text analysis.


I feel like my brain is in overdrive! It’s bizarre how much can change in such a short space of time; I began yesterday by feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of the knowledge some members had of Greek Mythology and history, and unsure as to where my role fits in to the play, however I know that I learn by doing, and actually physicalizing these ideas and relating them to a play has made me thirsty for knowledge as well as being able to hold onto facts and information which previously has tended not to stick. I am already looking at the world around me in a different way, and seeing The Bacchae as a lighter play rather than merely heavy and tragic. Although the Chorus is integral to Greek Theatre, not having a character name & background makes it more of a challenge to discover meaning for the role, however I now feel that it is empowering to be able to give my character speech and a reason for being in the play. The Bacchae now conjure to mind images of liberation, expression & release and I’m excited to discover who they are as we continue the journey next week!

AA

 

Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle
in Rehearsal... 

Over the next few weeks, actor Paula Brett (PB) and assistant director Grace Joseph (GJ) bring you up to speed with all things, Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle... 

From workshop to final performance, we bring you into every step of our process, behind the scenes and with us as we explore, build and present one of the most revolutionary plays ever written...

 

 

Inside the Chalk Circle... 

The last leg

I can’t believe how quickly the last few weeks have gone. It is clear we’ve been part of something really special here – not only in terms of what we created, but for the Brockley Jack, changing the seating layout was certainly a gamble for them and I am so relieved we were able to make it work. It was funny seeing some people walk in, clearly regulars, and witness how taken aback they were by the change in space.

I must say, I’ve come away from this experience with a big confidence boost. It was not only a challenging text full of hidden meaning, with great need for buckets of energy in delivery, it was a massively technical show. There was never a point in which one could become complacent – to potential for disaster alone was enough to keep us alert, and I don’t think a show went by when one of us didn’t have to leap in and rescue a falling cone or swipe up some police tape before someone tripped over it. We made something incredibly complex function safely and smoothly in a VERY short space of time, which is a big achievement for us all. It is really incredible what can be done with a really focussed and committed group of people. And I can say, with the deepest sincerity, I’ve never worked with a more hard working and good-humoured cast.

Many thanks to Ricky, Gavin and all our lovely creative team (including our Godsend of a Stage Manager Sinead) for all their hard work – Thank you too readers! It’s been a lot of fun to share the process with you. I am a little melancholy to be saying goodbye, but excited to see where the rest of the year takes us!
“Times change, and change is hope.”
 PB

Up and running...


The past two weeks have whirled buy - I can barely believe we have just five performances left of this incredible show. We’ve been extremely lucky to have such full houses almost every night -

It has been observed by myself and others that it is difficult to feel as if each performance is slightly different, as you’d feel with most shows – even though, of course, our representations of the characters are indeed having their slight variations. Each show seems to be as exact a copy of its predecessor as it is possible to be, with no feeling at all of stagnation or indeed of repetition. We certainly aren’t going into the evening thinking “Just do what I did last night…” However, the fact that there is such a high technical requirement of both ourselves and the crew means that 90% of what goes on absolutely must be done exactly the same – i.e. the boxes must hit that exact spot, or we must take exactly eight counts to move those chairs – or the whole rhythm of the show is thrown off. The acting is the easy part! There is so much that needs to be remembered, so much to be aware of, so many snap decisions to be made an back-up plans made in anticipation of any mishaps – that’s what most of our brain power goes into, and that’s what gets remembered.

There’s been very little (touch wood) in the Mishap department – a few minor technical issues and a falling box aside (landing on the two empty seats in an otherwise packed house) – things have ticked along nicely. The audiences are fascinating. Some nights we get laughs to such an extent that there are giggles where giggles should never be, and some nights nothing but a feeling of intent listening. It’s the kind of thing you feel when someone leans forward and looks directly at you to hear what you’re saying – every night there has been that little fizz that comes with sixty brains ticking along with yours, and that is exciting. This is the kind of play that cannot be measured by laughs or applause, but how much rustle and fidget is heard in quiet moments. We even had a school group in, and I thought we might lose them early, but they remained alert and very much engaged – It was very easy to make and keep eye contact with them.

Upward and onward, said the wise man – and I hope next week’s audiences will get as much out of the Chalk Circle as our visitors have so far!
PB

Press Night

WE HAVE OFFICIALLY OPENED! Wahey!

For the first time as we went into the Prologue I felt a real fizz in the air – I have to say, for a press night audience they we very willing to engage. I managed to make quite a bit of eye contact with various people throughout the show, which usually is very difficult, and even as they entered for my little pre-show biscuit-fest people seemed excited! I did have Hobnobs in the tin this time, which helped.

I think the couple of extra hours to lie-in really helped refresh everyone for the final push in the day-time rehearsals. We ran it through again, taking on notes from the night before, ironing out some bits that were still a bit sticky (BUNTING) and choreographing the party scene. It’s a funny one because there are several different conversations all overlapping, and if it loses any energy or pace it can feel like it’s going on for years. It ticked along nicely last night, though, and really helped us power on through into scene four.

We found out afterwards that there had been a technical issue with one of the speakers, which meant in places the backing tracks were extremely quiet for some areas of the audience, but we could hear everything in the playing area! I don’t envy our tech team – we have some very complicated sound and light cues, especially when it comes to cueing in the songs. They’re doing a fantastic job with it, for such a complex show we’ve really had very little in the way of technical mishaps.

I for one am quite relieved that Press Night is out of the way, mostly because my brain just needs to have a day off from doing the show twice. I’m excited to get back in for Friday’s show and get the ball rolling for the next two weeks!
PB

Day Eighteen - Previews

What a thrill to be packed out for our second preview! Another successful show after another very long day – there were a lot of notes from the creative team yesterday, so we steadily worked through them – the main issue, in all the mental hubbub of last night’s show being our first proper run-through, was that our level of clarity dropped quite drastically. I did notice last night that the “pointing” of the thoughts was all over the place. The space is bigger than we think it is, and certainly bigger than it looks with the haze and lights going. We need to try and play beyond the four walls of the Brockley Jack, and reach a level of communication that will mean the person sitting on the back row will feel as involved as the person in the “round” seats.

From what I’ve heard of the audience reaction – and even just from observing the audience during the show – we seem to be going down well. It’s very easy to tell when an audience stops listening, you become aware of rustling and fidgeting – it can sometimes even feel like the whole room has blurred slightly, like an out-of-focus camera. However I haven’t felt that happen once over the last two days, and tonight’s show was run without an interval. I do think the audience plays a part in committing to a show like this. It isn’t lazy viewing, by any means – drift off for two minutes and you’re hopelessly lost. We managed to keep them engaged, though, which is very encouraging.

We had a run-through this afternoon before the evening performance to iron out some of the previous night’s issues and try some new things. I’m always thrown when I open in a show and then run it again without an audience – it feels like a piece is missing. The bunting is still giving me grief – I’ve tried several different versions and I almost had it this evening – I am determined to nail it tomorrow.

Although I am feeling slightly battered, both mentally and physically (So many bruises, so little recollection of receiving them), I feel all the hard work we’ve put in over the last few weeks is really starting to sizzle into something quite spectacular, and hopefully our reviewers tomorrow will feel the same. Onwards! 
PB

Day Sixteen - Tech rehearsal

Tech rehearsal DOWN! Wahey!

It has been a very long day for the cast, and an even longer one for our creative team, who were in the theatre when we arrived this morning and were still there when we left. We spent the morning working with our Musical Director Bobby, tidying up our song sections. We are finding that it is quite difficult at times to retain the precision and clarity of our musical work when we are moving  at the same time – we must know the music inside out in order to really start doing several things at once while singing.

There was a lot to deal with today – being aware of lights attached to the floor, using liquids on set for the first time, as well as some new details such as phones for paparazzi and torches as searchlights. We have eight strings of coloured bunting that need to go up and down at various points during the show, as well as a bag of party hats that come on and off – these things need to be meticulously tracked throughout. We really found today that if the slightest thing is out of time it can throw off a whole section. Stumbles or fluffs of any kind are like grit in a sensitive machine, causing the whole theatre to shudder and hiccup and hope we can fix the issue.

I feel like my head is about to explode. I have so many little extra things to do and think about that I hadn’t anticipated before today – I will be busy recapping it all on my journey in tomorrow! I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever worked with such an efficient technical crew – they really do know their stuff and they’ve done an amazing job with our monster play. It hasn’t quite sunk is the actual members of the public will be coming to see this tomorrow, but I’m sure that won’t last long!
On to opening night!
PB

Day Fifteen 

We managed it! Scenes four and five were conquered this morning, in time for a run in the afternoon. Things remain relatively static for the tail end of the play so things were pretty straight forward, however once again the real challenge lies in keeping the pace up. These are VERY wordy scenes after a rollercoaster of a first act, and the conclusion comes almost out of nowhere – we want to make sure the audience remain engaged until the very last moment, otherwise the whole point of the last couple of hours of madness will be lost.

Despite my feelings of trepidation, the run went rather well! I have felt from day one that the cast were hard working and trustworthy, and we really pulled together this afternoon to string this beast of a play together. More than once someone would turn to grab a prop only to find themselves groping at empty air and staring around the room in horror, so all those bits need to be ironed out – nothing can be left to chance in a show like this. 

I am so excited to bring an audience in to see what we’ve concocted – we’ll see what production week brings!
PB

Day Fourteen 

After leaving rehearsals yesterday feeling a little woolly-headed, it was back down to Earth with a crash this morning as we went for a personal best in a game of Chaos. This involves memorising several ball-throwing sequences and executing them simultaneously with as few nervous breakdowns as possible. We did reasonably well today – we managed a whole four rounds before a rogue ball slipped away. I have to admit, slightly begrudgingly, that I quite enjoy Chaos (Yes, this is the same person who wrote the blogs in week 1). Like Copycat, it’s a fantastic snap-focus exercise, and brings the cast together in an instant. With my past rocky relationship with ball games in mind, I actually find that my challenge is not so much to NEVER DROP THE BALL, as to handle inevitable ball-drop moments with such speed and calm that it doesn’t affect the rest of the game, or fluster my own gameplay afterwards.

Our staging work ticked along nicely – we didn’t encounter anything major that required any prop-manoeuvring more stressful that the unfolding of some party bunting until we reached scene four. Then, of course, we are thrown back into the melee of the Revolution from scene one – from the perspective of the frenzied crowd, this time. As we saw during the London riots, destructive and violent behaviour is contagious and people find themselves doing things they would never normally consider. In the play there is a fevered spate of killings, including the city judge – and there are very few who would argue with such a large crowd. Trying to depict this while commenting on just how bizarre this sudden bend in the rules of respectable living kept us busy for much of the afternoon.

We have just one day left to finish scene four, five, and run the entire thing. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, but – que sera sera!
PB

Day Thirteen 

We upped the pace again today, picking up at the beginning of scene two and ploughing on with the events in the Northern mountains. Things are reasonably self explanatory here, which will give us all a brief break from moving furniture around! The key now is to gather pace in these relatively calmer scenes. As Ricky pointed out, we are leaving too much space between words - what we really want is to draw out the important words to provide clarity, and shorten the gaps between words to provide pace. 

We had another epic electro transition into scene three to do, and that is looking pretty impressive, even from inside the "machine", as it were. All that walking-in-time and breathing-together and eye-contact really pays off when we come together for those abstract shifts. I can certainly feel a group musicality and awareness coming to the fore now - everyone seems to be on the same page and working at the same pace, which is exciting.

It is easy to forget the importance of identifying the private/public moments, and among all the furore of set movement we are very much in danger of losing that attention to detail when it comes to who is speaking to who. As I have mentioned before the fact that the show is in the round presents an issue here, as standing right next to the person you're talking to means 90% of the audience feel closed off from the action. We are having to  have a private conversation with someone standing on the other side of the room - hence the need to be as clear as possible. 

We are not far off the end of scene three, so all being well we should get into some good work on scene four tomorrow.

PB

Day Twelve 

Despite the dreaded lurgy quietly making it’s merry way around the cast (as is inevitable when you have eleven people sweating and blowing raspberries in a small space), there was a distinct air of determination in the room today. Even a truly DISASTROUS game of keep-the-ball-off-the-floor didn’t dampen our spirits, and although we are not as far ahead with the staging as would be ideal, what we are getting is very exciting. 

We ploughed on with scene one and have now staged that in its entirety. It’s funny – when we’ve been doing our improvised run throughs we’ve been concentrating on the chaos and panic of the packing scene – trying to get the Governor’s Wife to leave her dresses behind and run. We had another look at it today and have ended up with something much more mechanical, slower and clearer, with more of a focus on the ridiculousness of the situation and the total skewered priorities of the Governor’s Wife that almost doom her.  Of course, this makes far more sense – what we really want to do is comment on the social roles, and make a very complicated set of text as clear as possible – I think both of those things would have gotten lost if we’d tried to play total chaos.

We managed to have a look at Grusha’s flight into the Northern Mountains before we headed home. We’ve got some fantastic soundscape contributions from our sound designer, Neil, which contributes nicely to the sense of foreboding we want to create – we must remember that her journey isn’t just a trip, she is actually being followed, and that takes the stakes in each scene leading up to the end of act one way up.
PB

Day Eleven

Week three, and we hit the ground running with our staging of the Pre-show and Prologue today. It’s always strange setting a pre-show bit of business without any audience to interact with, but with what we have I think we will be immediately engaging people on a far more vibrant level than the average trip to the theatre. I’ve undertaken the role of Movement Captain for the company, and this afternoon was quite the test of my artistic skill – drawing stage plans with each member of the cast’s physical journey – or track – during the transition from the Prologue to Act 1. We have a hefty pile of props, from a huge table to an enormous pile of crates and just about everything in between. Although it will look fantastic as these bits and pieces shift around to create different spaces, this could be a potential minefield for injury (our poor Stage Manager is chewing her fingernails in terror as we speak), so it is tremendously important that people are alert and 100% sure of their movements at all times.

Having had time to reflect on our on-the-feet semi-improvised run last Friday, I have to say that there are actually far more location shifts per scene than I had anticipated, especially in the first half. We’ve been working without much in the way of time constraints with regard to scene changes, and I am daunted by the mammoth task of finding a way of setting scenes two and three in particular, which have NINE scene changes between them. Our stamina will be pushed to the limit over the next few days – it’s going to take a lot of work to get the transitions looking slick. If nothing else, we will have beautifully chiselled arms by March 12th.
PB

Day Ten

Two weeks have disappeared. I have to say, though, that with just one week left in the rehearsal room, we left the show in a pretty good place – despite not having set any of the movement yet. Either I have total faith in our team, or that’s the after-effects of Friday-Night-Drinks talking. We ran the whole thing through on its feet for the first time today and, messy as it was, I think we can all now see the overall shape of things, and have something pretty solid to build from next week.

The understanding of the text itself is still presenting some problems, and it was interesting hearing some of the longer scenes in full. The language is so blunt and seemingly plain that it is easy to fall into the trap of simply playing the line instead of the intention – I know I keep harping on about the Public/Private issue, but if we don’t identify the underlying intentions then the dialogue just becomes domestic chatter, with no connection to the dilemma of Michael-the-Metaphor. Each character and scenario we encounter is there for a reason. Every member of the cast must know exactly what that reason is, and the only way to make that clear to an audience is to de-bunk each individual line as thoroughly as we can. Even I, having been party to the breakdown of the Metaphor-off during the court room scene yesterday, struggled to keep up with what was being said and my brain zoned it out as white noise. The clearer we are, the closer our audience will follow.

I am also very relieved to say we have finished the songs! We spent the last couple of hours of the day securing them, and they are sounding strong. I am actually still not sure what our accompaniment will be like – I know it won’t be live, but we’ve not heard anything regarding backing tracks (if that’s what they are). I will be intrigued to see how it all slots together next week!
PB

Day Nine

Here's the blog:

WE HAVE MADE IT THROUGH THE TEXTUAL ANALYSIS STAGE. And with a day to spare. We will hold off feeling smug for now because we are still stumbling through our lines and not being anywhere clear enough with our thoughts, but I have to say it is a relief to have reached this milestone. It was a long day today and for the first time I am feeling mentally fuzzy. The second half of the play is riddled with metaphors – Azdak practically has his own language made entirely of riddles, and many of his intentions are buried under some clever quip or another. He and Simon even have a metaphor-off in the court room, and we spent a VERY long time trying to debunk that particular conversation. The idea of dual audiences – private conversations happening in public spaces – come in full force, particularly in the Court Room, and if minute details are missed the whole thing can become horribly confusing. 

There is a very real danger that after a volatile first half, we will begin to lose our audience during the Court scene. I think I have mentioned before that it is far more static than anything we’ve previously seen, and so much fresh information is introduced very late in the play. That one will be a real stretch of energy – not only to wrap up Grusha’s story, but for the audience to connect what they’ve just seen with the events of the Prologue.  
A daunting week lies ahead. All being well, we will be able to run through the entire play tomorrow morning and then learn the remainder of the songs in the afternoon, which will set us up to start choreographing more fully on Monday – There still seems so much to do and so many possibilities to explore!
PB

Day Eight

I will forgive Ricky his extensive ball games this morning, ultra-confusing as they were, because we also had a rather lovely shoulder-massage sharing session to start the day off. In my opinion the world would be a better place if we could all have a massage before we start work – I shall start a petition immediately. #ChangeIsHope. Everyone felt a little mid-week fuzzy-headed-ness this morning, but we managed to plough on through.

More good progress was made today and I’m feeling far more optimistic that we are going to get through the initial text analysis and experimentation run by Friday. I do have to keep catching myself with my pacing – events in the play move along so fast that if we don’t slow down, make our intentions clear, and include the entire audience in our decisions it becomes very easy for people to get left behind. Ricky has mentioned that he feels each scene is like an Act in itself, and that makes total sense considering how much goes on in each scene. They are mini-stories combined to make a wider tale, really – finding the heartbeat of each scene, and finding how that fits with the heartbeat of the overall story is a challenge we've not conquered yet. We all need to be sure that we've memorised the stage directions as well as the lines themselves - so much vital storytelling occurs in silence that we can't afford to be hazy about it.

We are slowly building the musical element into the show now, which is exciting. Many of the events are so frantic that the songs almost serve as check-in time for the audience, for them to take stock of what has happened and offer an insight into some personal moments. I am looking forward to learning the rest on Friday!

Day Seven

Things were off to a rocky start for me this morning after an inexplicably sleepless night and some truly spectacular train-related disasters. However, I managed to get myself together enough to help the group reach our personal best in the good old "keep-the-ball-off-the-floor" warm up game.


We upped the pace of our work today, and powered through scene two. Things take a sinister turn here, and we move into the realms of the military rabble - I have seen gangs of lads in the streets not unlike the Corporal and his men in their cold brutality. I wonder if the Corporal is self-appointed, and not a military man at all. There is always an alpha dog. The so-called Horrors of War are demonstrated here too. The swaggering, boastful self-assurance of the soldiers allowed to take what they like - including other humans - for themselves is thrown into stark contrast with the frightened, objectified women who must live with the knowledge that their femininity strips them of their worth.

At this stage, every time I get up to do something I have to be careful not to get carried away by "SO MANY PROPS SUCH FUN AHHH", but I am really enjoying just jumping up and having the chance to play with the space before blocking things. I have to say, I've not gone into a rehearsal process having already learned the lines before, and I cannot tell you what a relief it is to have had that head start on a piece this complex.

I'm off to reclaim my lost hours of sleep. 

PB

Day Six


Happy Monday!
We were straight out of the weekend and into some intense physical work this morning. We tried, as a group, to keep pace together – as Ricky says, finding the “heartbeat” that will keep the play moving forward. To the outside eye this might look and AWFUL LOT like we were just walking around (and around and around and around) the room, but there is a whole lot more to it than that. Nothing is more frustrating for me than to work with an ensemble that does not have an awareness of each other, and exercises like this really cement that group focus and make for a slick show. It is not about walking in time, it’s about silent communication, self and group awareness, really listening to what everyone else is doing, and adjusting to any changes accordingly. It took me a little while to get into the swing of things this morning, but once I got in sync with everybody else I felt the morning fly by. This is an enormous test of endurance both physically and mentally – I could feel people getting tired towards the end, but no-one seemed to give up the ghost altogether, which was encouraging.

We cracked on with Scene one in the afternoon, and we are finally getting to grips with the chaos of the uprising – it is entirely possible that I’m having too much fun having free reign to just play with the props (and there are a LOT of props to play with), but we have so many possibilities coming to the fore now that I’m confident we’ll be able create something wild without losing control and trashing the place. (We won’t trash the place, Brockley-Jack-Managers, pinky promise.) We had a little look at scene two towards the end, so hopefully we’ll get most of that sorted tomorrow.

The work we have left to do still seems pretty daunting – the last two scenes in particular are so hefty that I am having brief but intense moments of panic that we won’t get them done – however, I must keep reminding myself that two weeks is a long time, and I can honestly say I trust my team. 
PB

End of Week One Round Up...

At the end of our first week of rehearsals, the enormity of what we’ve workshopped, discussed and explored makes it a little tricky to choose something to share with you. I suppose it makes sense, then, to write about the development of our aesthetic and theoretical concepts.


On Monday, Sorcha, our designer, let me take a look at her sketchbook and it reminded me of the partial transformations the show has undergone. Something I’ve noticed about Ricky is the highly visual way he conceives of the play, and I think this is reflected in the consistency of the basic shape and feel of Sorcha’s sketches. However, as we research and rehearse, the creative team has found new ways of making the play feel ‘immediate’ – one of the words that make up Ricky’s theatrical language. In response, the temporal and physical location and reference points of the production have evolved, and our conclusion is vibrant and bold. It’s been inspiring to observe the way in which the world of The Caucasian Chalk Circle has been built – and I mean literally built – in the rehearsal room.


I’ve had a (frequently fraught) relationship with Brecht over the years, but my first thought whilst rereading this play for the project was just how ‘2016’ it felt. In Scene Two, Innkeeper says, “Dear ladies, you do understand that in these times a house must be very careful – so many refugees”, which somehow feels both biblical and unsettlingly current. One thing we’ve been noticing about Brecht is the ease with which he combines these proportions and plays with scale; he couples the personal with the global, even in his theatrical agenda.


‘Agenda’ in theatre can be off-putting, and I think often as a result, Brecht is considered to be academic and theoretical, rather than the playwright and practitioner of immanent and rousing art. As part of the research I’m doing for our production, I read reviews of the 1955-7 performances in Paris, London and Moscow. It was written in The Observer, ‘Once in a generation the world discovers a new way of telling a story; this generation’s pathfinder is Brecht’. What an exciting play and person to be reviving in 2016.

GJ

Day Five

Rather alarmingly, we’ve come to the end of week one! This one has definitely crept up on us.

We made good progress with Scene one today – it’s organised chaos from beginning to end, and it is tempting to get swept up in the lines and so miss crucial action hidden away in the stage directions. We keep having to go back, search for answers, try something new, find another clue, go back again, search again – the text is a treasure trove of detail, and there are such huge shifts in that first scene that need addressing. Way back in the workshop I noted the sheer size of the crowd we have – characters aside, there is a Mob outside the palace gates, soldiers, servants, whole swathes of people rushing to and fro. How can a handful of people create the claustrophobic, frenzied sensation of being crushed into a crowd of that size? Given also that we’re in the round, we have found that we must be as clear as possible when a shift in role occurs, as there is no off-and-on-again-in-a-new-hat scenario to separate one person’s six or seven characters – nor the time to do anything like that.

The company had put an enormous amount of effort into our respective research projects, and we were able to share with the group this afternoon. The wonderful thing about Caucasian Chalk Circle is that it carries echoes of many different events across Europe from the first stirrings of war in the 1910s all the way up to the present day, so there is a lot that we can draw from. Most interesting for me was looking at the religious aspect of the play. So many rigid social structures and rituals have emerged from religious beliefs, and since we are dealing with a world where to be seen to be doing the right thing is crucial (even if your ultimate intentions are dubious), we now have a whole new set of options when it comes to what exactly it is that informs our characters’ decisions.  After all, as we know, religion and good morals do not necessarily go hand in hand.
I am looking forward to getting back to it on Monday – we seem such a little way through the play, I want to get cracking and keep exploring for fear of not getting the thing done on time, but I trust in my team – and in any case, the lie-ins will be nice.

Until then,
PB

Day Four

We’re finally in the Brockley Jack! Hooraaaaay!

It’s a huge relief to finally let ourselves settle into our space. The rehearsal room is almost exactly the same dimension-wise as the playing space downstairs, which is such massive help with regard to getting a sense of the geography of the show – and in any case, it always feels so much better to build into a space rather than try to fit some foreign thing into it.

We did a pretty hefty amount of physical work this morning, (WITH NO BALL GAMES, PERHAPS THEY WERE BUT NIGHTMARES) starting with one of my favourite exercises, Copy-Cat. It does what it says on the tin, essentially – Ricky gives us a physical and vocal phrase and we repeat it back, trying to copy his movement and tone as exactly as we can. I have never known a company come together in focus so quickly as we do when we play this, and it really sets us up for the rest of the day.

We’ve got some basic drum patterns to work with as heartbeat-of-the-play idea, and we spent time exploring the way our bodies reacted to the various speeds, and what kind of characters could emerge from the different physicalities. The play is a melting-pot of human life – old, young, rich, poor – and I’m looking forward to filling out the scenes bit by bit with this ever-present throng of humans in all their noisy, awkward glory. Brecht loved a crowd, it would seem.

The Prologue and scene one are shaping up nicely. We’ve got some basic ideas in terms of sculpting the space – things move so fast early on that we must be careful to be as clear as we can in the way we present new information to our audience, and that we are in a position to reach the entire circle.  We’re going to have to decide as soon as possible when happens when we come “offstage” – which, in the round as we are, isn’t an option. Hopefully we can get this sorted tomorrow, so that we can go away with a clearer picture for the weekend.

PB

Day Three

The ball games were back this morning, and since they aren’t going away and I am not one to be beaten (especially not by a collection of bean bags), I paid extra attention to my body language and connection to others during the games. I felt ridiculous at first mimicking the Rugby-scrum “gimmee-the-ball” pose I was seeing around the circle, and to my alarm I found people were actually throwing to me more often, which I suppose was some kind of twisted improvement – amazing what happens when you appear to say “involve me!” when in fact you’re thinking “leave the room immediately!” Fake it til’ you make it, and all that.

One of the reasons I wanted to work with the Lazarus company was their meticulous attention to the text, in particular punctuation.  We had a good look at the four pages of Prologue, working together to identify the words that needed to be pointed. To be perfectly honest, we didn’t do very well with it – honouring the punctuation and pointed words is redundant if we don’t adhere strictly to what is written on the page, and even with script in hand there was a lot of paraphrasing and missed words going on, which only made an already highly complex opening scene even more unclear. We have a lot of individual work to do to get these lines down exactly as Mr McGuinness provided. On the upside, the Prologue at least has some kind of physical shape, and the beginnings of the identities of the people there are beginning to emerge – hopefully we’ll crack the text work tomorrow.

I have mixed feelings this evening, having finished off with a wonderful music rehearsal (I’ve been promised epic drums and guitars and I may have muso-geek-squealed), which is going to be hugely exciting – I will, however, be heading out tomorrow with a certain amount of apprehension – we have a tremendous amount of work to do.

PB

Day Two

Things were on track this morning, so after the (sweatier) warm up and (traumatic) ball-games, we finished off our staggered read-through. It was strange, after all the running around that the first half of the play commands, to settle into the relative stillness and claustrophobia of a court-room for scene five.  Things get tricky to play here because the characters are almost exclusively are aware they are being scrutinised by the court officials and the general public – and as we know, living in the age of reality television - not to mention the antics of our own dear politicians – and one person’s “private” and “public” faces can be very different indeed. This really opens up the motives of everyone in the scene, from Grusha to Azdak to the two Lawyers, and making crystal-clear decisions as a cast about exactly how that scene is played out will take a lot of trial and error.

We’d all brought along a couple of pictures each in reaction to events in the play, and to the play itself, and we spent the afternoon having a look at these – once again, the range of images was vast, ranging from current media to classical art to historical pictures, and even a few abstract images. As you might imagine, all this threw up yet more questions to consider. I don’t know about anyone else, but my brain had begun to melt by the end of the day – Who is really in control in any one society? How much control do the characters have over their journey? Is Grusha running from or to something? Perhaps the most quietly frightening of all – what would you do, if the worst were to happen? Can it be true that we as humans would reject the wellbeing of everyone else – even children – to save ourselves?

I must say – I am more than a little daunted by the many layers that make up this play, and as often happens at around this early time in a process I am wondering to myself how we will ever manage to make it come together. But manage we must – and I am looking forward to tackling the Prologue properly tomorrow.
PB

Day One

We’re off! Day one has been and gone in a whirlwind. We were finally about to jump in and try to start making sense of… I cannot call it the world of the play, but the universe of the play, it is so vast. The throw-the-ball games made another brief appearance, much to my horror, but we thankfully moved swiftly on to having a real think about our space.

The prologue is a puzzle, because the setting is so vague – this group of people, united only in shared experience of destruction, have come together. Not only are we bringing the play into the round, but into the present day – where, in the age of technological distance, would a community come together? The role of the community centre with it’s good old-fashioned hall is certainly not out of the running – even during the recent floods, buildings such as this have become crisis centres, a place of advice, and even temporary homes.

We were able to dive straight in and go for a read-through, improvising the blocking – I love doing this, as it gives a much clearer picture of the play as a whole right from the very start, and gives everyone a chance to muck in together to get through it. I’m intrigued to see what the next three weeks will bring.

PB

The Workshops...

Hello everyone! I’m Paula, playing Nanny and the Fat Peasant, and I’ll be blogging my way through the Caucasian Chalk Circle journey.

The last couple of days have seen the first tentative forays into the world of Caucasian Chalk Circle for the cast, and it is a complex world indeed – for all its hints of this specific war or that specific town, it became clear to us all that this is a parable that has moved beyond any time and space – it could be true of many countries in the world today, many communities, many families. As such, this opens up worlds of opportunities, so much to play with – I feel slightly overwhelmed with all the possible places we could take this!

We have spent a lot of time building our trust and communication as a unit, playing various games (some involving throwing and catching things, which took me into my own personal circle of hell. I only took up dance lessons to try and teach my flailing limbs a bit of co-ordination, for goodness’ sake, now look at me.) and working together to conquer a pretty mean obstacle course. I certainly feel secure in our cast and, despite the mammoth task ahead of researching and unpicking all that this most human of plays touches on, I am excited to get stuck in on February 1st.
Until then,
PB