Exeter Phoenix Studio Week

Studio Week at Exeter Phoenix March 23rd – 26th 2015

Exeter Phoenix hosted us as we undertook our final preparations for Rebellious Sounds: The Orchard Roadshow, before heading out on the road to Cornwall.

It is and it isn’t a rehearsal week.

It is a getting to know, getting underneath, getting inside, an excavation of a brand new script.  It is actors in a space working in a lively and open way with a director and a writer.  Sometimes other people, (Mary Lidgate, Belinda Dillon, Claire Ingleheart) venture into the space and contribute too.  It is a democratic space.  These voices are welcome.

At the beginning of this week the script copy is sprawling and repetitive as I have tried to seek out some rhythm.  In some places I try too hard and it is easy to edit.  To put a line through things.  There is also too much of it.  It needs attack.  So we attack it.  In other places, the more we hear the actors speak the words the more complicated it becomes.  The more we try to understand it, get hold if it, the further away in the distance the text moves.  

It is a pretty ruthless exploration of hearing the words, being playful with them, seeing and tuning in to how they move on their feet, whether they have feet at all.  A collective listening in is established.  Ruthless as we only have four days together.  To edit, to explore, to play.  To shape.  To re-write.

The unknowns are more than the knowns, but somewhere this is exciting.

What we do know is that this play The Orchard is full of provocation.  Full of red herrings, strands of text that don’t quite fly.  Cut them.  Cut them out.  There are words that get overused: but / now / and / for / hypocrisy / lungs / heart to name a few.  

We keep asking questions about what this process is.  What is it?  What will happen when we start to share the work with audiences?  Will there be any audiences?  How do we frame what we are doing?  Knowing we are about to find out.

Actors Ruth Mitchell and Michelle Ridings, and director Josie Sutcliffe have to keep moving with the changes to the text that they are presented with each morning as I go home, after a day in the studio and get out the metaphorical scalpel.  Try new words on the page, new thoughts.  Seeking out the voices of two female political pioneers.  The tensions between them rising.  How to find moments of stillness.  Moments where they shift from the relentlessness of their positions.  Moving thoughts and words in a space and not just on a page is enlightening at such an early stage of a new scripts life.

Everyone works hard at tuning in.  The pace is fast and we have to remain light on our feet.  This might be how we hold the roadshow scratch performances too.  Lightness.

Natalie McGrath

Click here to read a review of the Orchard Roadshow written by Sally Trivett »