As I walk towards Swan Street on the Monday of my second week of observing the process of Jubilee I feel much more relaxed and at ease with my place in the jigsaw puzzle of the production. There is no more intense settling in periods and the new people that I meet instantly fit into this environment as if they’ve always been there. In week two Jubilee really feels as though it’s getting into its stride and embracing a pace that is relaxed but never lazy. This is not to say that it is regular in any way. As I would discover, Chris’ process thrives on setting a pace that is constantly shifting and morphing around the needs of the situation; a trait testament to the nakedness of his process.
The first thing I noted when walking into the rehearsal room last Monday was that a clearer theatrical space was beginning to emerge. Tape on the floor created a full-size sketch of the set design and the sofas, old chairs, mattresses (and a commode) scattered around the room began to serve their purpose as surfaces on which to play. A full model of the Module complete with the Jubilee set was placed on a table for all to see. A time was set aside in the day for designer Chloe Lamford to meticulously explain the ins and outs of the set and how the actors will interact with its many features. This was particularly exciting for me as Lamford designed Headlong’s production of 1984, a formative production for me. I found myself mentally tracing journeys around the space, and a pang of jealousy hit me as I looked towards the actors who would get to fully explore this unique environment.
After this, Chris explained to the actors that they were going to spend the rest of the day running the play. A mix of emotions whipped around the room as the actors understandably felt trepidations, excited and down-right scared to perform a play that they had up to this point only read on paper and talked about in groups. The set was laid out as much as possible and with an explanation from Chris that if the run was anything but a complete shambles, he wouldn’t be happy, the first performance of Jubilee began. It was a shambles, but may be one of the most entertaining two hours of my life. The sense of comfort created by Chris and the team in the first week allowed the actors to really let loose and properly explore the space and their characters without the fear of being told that they are wrong, or are going too far. The actors know their own limits and really pushed the boundaries of expectation for a first run of a show, a nice reminder of how exciting this show really is. This brought to mind Chris’ work on productions such as Homemade, a ‘site-responsive’ piece of theatre in which the cast would enter an audience’s home with a basic story and adapt it for the situation, allowing the space to morph their story into something unique. Running the play at this stage permits the same kinds of discovery. The obstacles created by the space are overcome through creativity and inventiveness and engagement is rewarded with new and interesting insights into character and movement.
As the run progressed, paths began to be created and natural hierarchies emerged that clearly showed how the actors’ understanding of their characters informed their use of the space. This would undoubtedly inform Chris’ direction as through this exercise, he allowed the actors to make initial decisions regarding physicality for themselves. This gave them ownership of their characters which formed a skeletal framework on top of which Chris could add layers of direction.
Working against an actor’s instinct is difficult as no matter how neutral you encourage them to be, they will always be a person. They will always think and feel in a certain way and Chris embraces that. This is especially important in Jubilee where the personal struggles and emotions of the actors are intentionally channeled through their performances.
Chris’ inherent trust of the actors to do their best work, even when this work is pure instinct, is something I can learn from greatly. This experience was the stand out moment for me in Week Two. Admittedly I was not able to attend rehearsals as much as I would have liked but my glimpse into the process was eye-opening. If the first week of the rehearsal concerned ‘nakedness’, then the second concerned ‘space’ and more specifically, how that nakedness manifests itself in the space of the play.
I am learning a great deal from this process as I outlined last week and I can only re-affirm how important it is that I am gaining the insights that Chris’ process offers. To see what to me are novel and alternative concepts, methods and ideas being put into practice is perhaps the best way to learn about theatre. From little preferences to big rehearsal techniques, this process could not be more helpful to me. Before Jubilee I had never really considered why I made decisions about my process and even if these were the right decisions for me.
What is clear is that, if I am to succeed, I have to be truthful to myself and to what I want to obtain from directing a production. I eagerly await next Monday to see where the process is now and what lies ahead.
Jubilee runs 2 - 18 November 2017, Theatre