James Pacey’s Rehearsal BLOG – Day Five
I currently sit writing this, feeling exceptionally guilty at my consumption of a Cornish pasty for lunch; my justification for this comes from the scene we were looking at just before lunch in which the boy refers to the “pasty that mum made for our lunch” or words to that effect – watching the scene several times has embedded the word “pasty” deep in my psyche!
Nevertheless, a point does emerge from the musings of my stomach. Daniel was keen to emphasise the varying energies of the two characters playing roles, and essentially ‘performing’ to the audience, and at the same time telling and creating a story together for the first time. There is a real challenge for our two actors to ensure that each time they perform the piece it has the spontaneity of being the first time they tell it. While this is true for all theatre, it seems especially important here, given the nature of the play and the age groups to which it is being performed.
There was an intriguing exploration of the conventions of props becoming objects today, specifically that of the old wooden chair which so far has been used as a horse, a plough and even … a chair. So too, is the tractor ‘becoming’ a horse, as well as also being used as its maker intended. By using one or two objects to represent other objects, does this then create a necessity to use all props as something else, or can there be instances when “a cake is just a cake?” Do we run the risk of audience members asking ‘why is such and such an item not being used as something else?’ Or am I creating questions unnecessarily??! I suppose it comes down to justification – as long as we can justify a prop’s inclusion/change within a truthful context then there is no issue. It is fascinating how a wooden chair can so easily inspire the imagination; as Daniel says, “we see a horse.”
The aim of the day was to work through the play, though I don’t think it can be described as a simple blocking session. Daniel is spending considerable time re-working and examining each ‘chunk’ before moving on. Rather than some directors who would simply work out the basic moves and then start again from the beginning, Daniel is keen to ensure that each move has justifications and doesn’t feel ‘stagey’ – such is the nature of the piece. The challenge for Matt and John now (Boy and Grandpa respectively) is to remember the work done the next time they come to look at it. I am always excited to see how much work is going to change – I know from my own experience how an idea can seem wonderful and just work, but then when you come back to it several days later it can look awful. Let’s see what happens.
It’s very comforting to have a director who has such a clear “through-line” of the piece. Daniel knows where he wants to go, and has a strong view on what works and what doesn’t. At the same time, he is very open to suggestions from us all, but he has a clear vision for the piece, and a real understanding of the conventions he is creating. When I was observing Garage Band, there was a clear intention to answer questions about the text and its sub-text. How important is this for this piece? Do we need to know, for example, whether Mother has sabotaged the tractor? I suppose, whatever the characters would know, we will want to know.
Again, an interesting day, and no doubt there is much I will wish I’d done. It’s coming together well. There is something profoundly touching about the simplicity of the piece and the power of the relationships. The brief connections that the characters make to the audience are also oddly moving, notably today when Grandpa talks about his own mortality. It is on the one hand a morbid topic to mention to 7/8 year olds, but on the other hand a deeply personal confession that creates a wonderful connection.
Well, that’s enough for now. I’ll just leave with you a quote of the day, which came as a result of Daniel’s musings on what father’s death reminds him off, prompting Mr. Powell to observe: “Clark Kent’s dad’s death on the farm in Superman?!”
James Pacey (Assistant Director)