Week three is upon us already! It seems like only five minutes ago that I first sat in the Module introducing myself to a large group of intimidating theatre people. So much time has passed since then and those people don’t seem so scary anymore, and are in fact a very friendly and inclusive bunch. Monday’s session this week begins as it always does with a check-in where everyone has the opportunity to share their feelings and their weekends with the rest of the group.
The thread of transparency and openness that has really established the rehearsal process for me has no sign of shifting and that proves Chris Goode’s dedication to his directorial methodologies. It’s a natural part of the day that as time ticks on is still important to touch upon. Although the process of Jubilee doesn’t utilise a naturalistic approach to psychologically directing actors, Chris encourages the actors to introduce their own emotions naturally. Check-ins are a great way to manifest this kind of thinking in a rehearsal room and prevents the sometimes forceful question of “How does this make you feel?” In Jubilee this is none of your business unless the person in question wants to share that with you. People are at the core of this production and to paraphrase an expression used by Chris, ‘Where some productions utilise a group of people to hold up and show how good a certain text is, Jubilee utilises the text to hold up a great group of people’.
Chris then follows the check-in with an admission of the unavoidable part of any rehearsal process: “We are moving into a place where decisions need to be made”. I realise that without context this could appear to be indicative of a process where nothing has yet happened to develop it into a place where it can be performed, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. What Chris in fact means by this statement is that in order for the performance to take shape, he must become a much more traditional director. He must block the piece and that may involve a bit of ‘you stand there and move there’ instruction, something hitherto alien from this process. As he states himself, he has never worked with such a large cast and never in the style of theatre that the Royal Exchange’s Module demands. In order to attain the goals that need to be achieved in the given time, ‘decisions need to be made.’ For an aspiring director like myself this has to be admired because Chris has clearly worked tirelessly against the grain to attain a process that is personal to him, this has been clear to me throughout the process. To then revert to a more traditional style of directing can be daunting but Chris’ ability to briefly grasp regularity by the horns proves his virtuosity. A director must be able to mould themselves around a process and deal with its individual demands and this week Chris showed me that this can be done without sacrificing vision or integrity. Chaos still reigned but was given a path on which to travel.
Pathways felt very important throughout the week both for Chris and for Assistant Director Atri Banerjee. Rather than confining actors to set patterns of expression and movement, they instead gave them set pathways from which to deviate and despite Chris’ warning regarding tougher decision-making, these pathways were always established in conversation. Through having a set amount of time to block each scene, there was the ability to try a scene over and over until it felt right to both the actors and to Atri or Chris depending on who was leading the session.
The word ‘sketch’ was in common parlance throughout the week as it was emphasised that looseness and flexibility were still at play. Nothing was yet set in stone but a basic awareness of the movement of a scene in a space and it’s pace was being established. The use of ‘sketch’ reminded me of Chris’ comments on The Dust Archive, a book by Alexander Kelly and Annie Lloyd which chronicles the production history of the Leeds Met Studio Theatre through ‘sixty-three translucent pages on each of which is drawn a floorpan of the theatre’. Chris comments in The Forest and the Field that “the use of tracing paper [allows] several layers of memories to overlap or merge or echo […] the minute variations in each hand-drawn iteration of the floorplan [captures] something of the humanity and fallibility of the building” (Pg. 65) These sketches seem to me to follow a similar pattern to this. Each pass at a scene leaves a new trail of movement and expression that is then indelibly marked upon the minds of the actor and the director. The final performance of this scene will evidently consist of all the layers of these passes brought together to create an ultimately human and fallible character. The focus placed on improvisation and play alongside more traditional blocking techniques gives the actors to freely sketch these layers without two passes ever tracing over the exact pathways as the one before it.
Week three of observing Jubilee re-assured me that as a director, you are allowed to follow the guidebook on occasion. The ‘directness’ of directing may be difficult for Chris to impose upon such an open and equal rehearsal room, but through it’s careful implementation, the play really began to emerge. The openness Chris had cultivated over the previous weeks allowed the actors to work with this slight shift in the directorial approach. His trust in their ability to work actively even when given instruction illuminates another level of importance of the first two weeks of the process.
Creating an environment where actors can apply a method of work to an exercise that does not seem to reflect that method was the key to how I observed week three of the process and I learnt a myriad of techniques and exercises to help develop my own directing style. Along the way I felt more involved and active in the process than ever before and found myself conversing more and more with everyone around me.
Jubilee runs 2 - 18 November 2017, Theatre