The Light Burns Blue: Rehearsal Diary – Intensive Week

Propolis Theatre (Made in Bristol 2015) and Young Company member Dale Thrupp shares his diary from rehearsals for The Light Burns Blue. We join the company during half term, which is their first intensive week working on the show.

Last week was the first intensive rehearsal week we’ve had for the show. Despite being in rehearsals every Wednesday and Friday evening since the beginning of January; the 4 hours we have on those days never give us enough time to explore any ideas in depth. This week we had 8 hours a day to really get stuck into everything Lisa (Gregan, Director) and Silva (Semerciyan, Writer) threw at us.I’m not sure how much I can tell you about each day and what we looked at each day because everything is currently in flux and I may inadvertently reveal a vital plot twist or say something which might get cut over the next few weeks. So I’ll give you an insight into life for the cast for the week and some things that happened each day.

The Light Burns Blue in rehearsal. Photos by James D. Kent.

The Light Burns Blue in rehearsal. Photos by James D. Kent.

Every morning always begins with a warm-up led by the Assistant Director James Kent. This includes a good half an hour of physical stretches and movements and then culminating with us playing a game such as Killer Tig, Fives or my personal favourite; ‘Eastenders’.This is basically a version of the drama game ‘Zip Zap Boing’ but with each phrase changed to a line from the TV show. For example Zip is ‘Have It’, Boing is ‘Leave it out son’ and Zap becomes ‘Take it’. All phrases have to be said in a Cockney accent, something which everyone will have perfected by the time we finish rehearsing, despite us not needing it for the show. Each day we added new rules such as our version of ‘Fireball/Water Bucket’ which became ‘You Killed Lucy’. However the best addition came from Krista whose version of ‘Zoom’, which she decided would be ‘Natalie Cassidy’, was one of the funniest things to have happened in the rehearsal room yet.

Monday mainly consisted of Silva and Lisa reading through the current character list and the scene-by-scene plot line that they’d been working on. A lot of the scenes were taken directly from improvisations that we’d done over the previous weeks. Each scene was given a title such as ‘Over Exposed’, ‘Red To The Sun’ and ‘Canary Girls’. This was the first time that we’d been able to see a full story outline and what we were working towards that week.

On Tuesday Lucy Kerbel from Tonic Theatre came to visit and see how we were progressing. The Light Burns Blue is one of three plays commissioned by Tonic Theatre as a new play aimed at creating substantial roles for both female and male actors; helping to combat the gender inequality in theatre. She watched us improvise individual monologues as the role of the lead character Elsie. Silva and Lisa often set us tasks for improvisations around a certain character or scene as a way to devise new material. Silva then takes and collates the parts that stuck with her, into a written scene. Silva believes that this way of working allows the work to feel natural for the actors creating a better quality show.

Wednesday was mainly focused on us exploring how to show the photographs which play such a vital part of the play. We wanted to do it without physically showing the audience the original images as we all felt this takes away from the artistic brilliance of the original images. We experimented with using torches, strobe lights and mirrors to create an abstract image for the audience. There is a very strong musical talent in the group and almost half of the cast can play an instrument of some form. Music therefore plays a key part in the work that we create. The group make use of the piano, a flute, a violin, an accordion, their voices and whatever other things that can make a sound from to accompany the scene that is being worked on. The atmosphere of the piece can change instantly with the addition of different musical sounds.

The Light Burns Blue in rehearsal. Photos by James D. Kent.

The Light Burns Blue in rehearsal. Photos by James D. Kent.

On Thursday, James told us that we would be creating a trailer for the show in which we would be creating a moving image collection inspired by the idea of creation and destruction. The trailer wouldn’t feature any of the main characters of the story directly but rather showcase the sort of style that the whole play would be performed in; focusing on the ensemble work, as Lisa calls it ‘the creators’. The sequence we have for the trailer is a combination of the work from the 2 groups that we were split into. By splitting into groups it allows us not to only get the work done quicker but also and most importantly allows for a much diverse range of potential moments that Silva and Lisa can take and expand on later in rehearsals.

The final day of the week was very much focused on exploring the character and scenes that we’d been working even further, and keeping the things which had potential fresh in our minds. A lot of the movement sequences we’ve worked on come from a devising technique called ‘Short, Sharp, Direct’. This is a physical task which focuses on movement and reaction. For example, if I placed my hand on someone’s shoulder, how would the other person respond physically with another movement? I would then respond back with another movement and the process continues like that. It has created some really interesting moments, especially when we layer it with text or a character intention. It really feels like the characters are taking shape.

The Light Burns Blue in rehearsal. Photos by James D. Kent.

The Light Burns Blue in rehearsal. Photos by James D. Kent.

The weeks highlights;
• The Eastenders game is definitely one of the highlights of the week. Everytime we play it the group focus is incredible and makes the game even more enjoyable.
• Being in rehearsals all day for 5 consecutive days and having to buy lunch for each day became expensive and so on Thursday everyone chipped in and we made a massive pot of Risotto. It worked out at about 80p per person rather than the three pounds plus that is usually spent on food. It was nice to all sit down during lunch and eat together, making it feel very much like a family event.
• The whole cast gets on really well which allows us to trust each other and work effectively. This I feel makes the standard of work we produce a much better quality as we’re willing to take risks with our work and communicate our ideas to each other rather than feeling like we’re being intimidated by the rest of the group.

The weeks lowlights;
• On Wednesday a lot of the cast came in with a cold and everyone was really feeling tired. This made it a bit harder to work but we all still carried on, supporting each other.
• One of the task we had to do this week was to create a scene which shows Elsie being put down by the people around her. We were split into 4 groups and were each given a different scenario with a different set of people. Upon showing them, two of the groups reduced the cast to tears and made the atmosphere a very sombre place. Luckily though it was just before lunch and our sadness was short lived, but for that half an hour you could really feel that change in the room.
• The fact that I still haven’t won any of the games we play makes me incredibly sad. My aim for the next few weeks is to perfect my technique and win at least once.

This Young Company production of The Light Burns Blue will mark the world premiere of a new play written by former BBC Fellow Silva Semerciyan in collaboration with the company, and is directed by Young Company Director Lisa Gregan. Check back next week to read the second INSTALLMENT of the rehearsal diary.

As one of the inaugural commissions for Tonic Theatre’s new Platform series, which addresses the shortage of exciting female roles in plays for young people, the play will redress the issue of gender equality, and be packed with fantastic parts for both girls and boys.

The first Platform plays, including The Light Burns Blue, will be published by Nick Hern Books and go on sale from Summer 2015.

The Light Burns Blue plays in Bristol Old Vic Studio between 15-18 April. Book tickets here.

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