After spending a substantially unhealthy amount of time hunting for opportunities, I was extremely excited to be accepted onto this year’s STEP UP Creative Ensemble. It has genuinely been a refreshing process to have freedom of thought and access to so much knowledge in one room….or two. Each meeting presents the group with a dream playground for all types of theatre maker.
Approaching the scheme as an actor /deviser and get stuck in type; I have not been disappointed. Cramming a lot into an 8hr session is something I have become blissfully accustomed to. Sunday 6th saw us thoroughly discuss and bring the 2nd draft of our upcoming performance ‘Goldfish’ to its feet. We are working with the winning and running up scripts from the New Perspectives DREAM UP scriptwriting competition, which respond to the question “How can I remember things I never knew?”, taken from The Honey Man.
Although we labelled it so, it was not just a read through- the brilliant casting truly came to light. It works, hallelujah it works- not that I had little faith of course! I don’t really want to give too much insight into what we are doing, but enough to wet your palette.
Topics of discussion started with: What are the revelatory and confessional aspects that we can highlight and the difference between memory and knowledge?
know-ledge (From the dictionary of Selina)
Noun: Intelligence, Information & skills attained through one’s experience or education;
That which is perceived, discovered, or learned in a particular field. A sum of facts; understanding and an array of awareness.
When we initially read the chosen scripts they all took on unique stand-alone ownership. I couldn’t imagine them playing straight through as they do now. Gareth our dramaturg has masterfully blurred the writer’s scenes so that they merge into a metaphysical delight. I don’t want to sound like I am reviewing our work so far, but the genuine excitement of getting to mix a broad range of stylistic approaches, with naturalism and potentially forum theatre, I feel is a satisfactory defence.
Forum Theatre: Forum theatre involves the enactment of a scene that perhaps presents a problematic situation that is written/devised to stimulate the intervention of the spectators to either ﬁnd a solution or propose an alternate action to the given circumstance by taking the place of the protagonist.
We played around with members of the ensemble in turn taking on the character of Kevin Carter in Monika Johnson’s script ‘If I am That Lucky’: Creating an echo of a part in various ways. Several times with a continuous flow and at times where the Girl (the other character in the scene) controls the intervention.
Following our afternoon full read through we clarified individual concerns, which was lovely because it gave us a chance to visualise moments in the scripts physically and gain fresh ideas of what we might later do in future meets. Tallie and Beth (the ensemble’s two designers) had worked separately for some of the session and presented back to us in mind-maps and sketches around integral aesthetics. Naturally with a small tour of various sized venues, there is the huge challenge for our designers. Flashbacks of Art Attack, SMart and How2 slapped me in the face all at once- in all honesty I think there was a side serving of Pinky and the Brain, because I was truly impressed with their ideas for the opening sequence and scenographic possibilities. Melissa arriving at Sue’s door in Jane Upton’s script You, me and the rest of them, and the transition into the blurry, dream like world of memory… The idea of knowing exactly where you are, with Geoff from Hugh Upton’s script The Unsaid as a tour guide; and whether or not we let our audience see that other worldliness? We talked about a sense of claustrophobia that had emerged, which we could adapt to form anticipation, as if walking on thin ice over murky water.
The latter of the session also formed a review of characters to highlight individual thoughts, motivations and feelings as well as past memories and background stories. It was really helpful I felt, because we seemed to keep discovering lines in the text and fresh evidence that helped to bring it together as one without taking away from any writer’s individual story.
Our next mission- to watch ‘The Bang Bang Club,’ ‘Adjustment Bureau’ and ‘Fish Tank’ …not just for fun- but because we feel they are related to the texts and may inspire us.
A few links in case you want to read up on Kevin Carter, a South African freeance photographer; winner of the 1994 Pulizer prize, for a picture of a starving Sudanese girl who collapsed on her way to a feeding centre while a vulture waited nearby readily to attack. A central character of ‘If I am that lucky’, which I am mentioning quite a lot for the sheer fact that we spent a lot of this session working on this text in particular. I can’t recall working with a text that feels so semantic and at times uncomfortable- maybe there is a sense of unease due to the vast background history of his effect on apartheid and his subsequent suicide. This is a part of the performance where we are all set to be heavily involved at one time and I must say I am VERY EXCITED and therefore grateful for the boon of challenge. The writer has in our eyes created the Girl as a last person who spoke to him. I really can’t wait to work on all of the scenes we have on offer. Being a part of this ensemble is my current focal point in my development as an actor- This experience I know is one I’m going to remember at least until the age of 90….unless my memory fails me like a hash tag, hash tag #GOLDFISH. Until next time….
Follow Selina on twitter: @S_is_for_Selina – or the whole STEP UP Creatives training ensemble in one handy list.