Usually the first week of rehearsals consists of meeting your fellow cast members and slowly getting used to each other’s way of working. We haven’t had that. As Propolis Theatre, we’ve been working together for over 9 months as part of Bristol Old Vic’s Made in Bristol scheme. That means we are comfortable enough to challenge each other to create stronger work and, importantly, to trust one another for support and constructive criticism. So, in that sense, we’re already in a better position than most new theatre companies are at this stage when embarking on their first show.
The style we’ve chosen to work in, verbatim, is undoubtedly the most exciting way of devising I’ve ever worked in. We’ve interviewed over 20 people asking them a series of questions about sex, in total giving us hours of amazing answers which will over the coming weeks become our script.
By completing the interviews and transcribing stage of the process at the end of last month, we were able to walk in on Monday morning and straight away begin exploring how to stage sections. By the end of the first day we’d already explored 10 of our characters through movement, song, speech patterns and even as a compilation scene involving answers from many characters. It felt very much like, even at the end of day one, that we were storming through the process.
Tuesday was a strange day as we weren’t all together during the day. In the morning all of the male members of Propolis Theatre were taking part in a photoshoot for another Bristol Old Vic project, leaving the 5 female members time to look at some of the female characters in detail and, in particular, a group scene involving a group of girls. In the afternoon, 2 other members had to leave and take part in a different project leaving everyone else to explore some of the other characters yet to be worked on.
We’re really interested in using physical gestures and choreography as much as we can in the piece, and so we explored the possibility of having a scene in which the guys perform as a unit whilst one of the characters is speaking about something which affects everyone… I’m clearly trying to give away as little as possible, I do apologise!
As the week went on, we started to think about the big themes that come up a lot in the answers as these would be the backbone for the show.
A big topic is virginity, so on Wednesday we all took the answers about that topic and looked at staging them. The stories which came out really lent themselves to being shown on stage, and so some of the characters we have not only talk about what they think about virginity but also their own personal experiences. For me this is one of the reasons why verbatim really suited a show about sex. It allows the show to become personal rather just a sex education play, and lets people feel like they can go and talk about their own experiences which is what we are trying to achieve.
Our two musical directors are experimenting with using the verbatim text to create soundscapes and songs not only as a musical score for our piece but also as a way of performing certain answers and sections. To hear them take some answers; say the answers for the question ‘where would you like to have sex’, and create a song using the characters speech patterns was incredibly exciting.
By Thursday however it became very apparent that the vast trove of material we had was becoming an issue and therefore we dedicated the whole day to cutting out the waffle and the repetition, writing profiles for all the people we interviewed and most importantly splitting all of the interviews into 2 groups. We wanted to make the distinction between ‘characters’ and ‘motifs’. Some people just naturally felt more like pop up ‘motifs’ which have really amazing thoughts on a variety of subjects, whereas the ‘characters’ are those people whose answers arc around one key point. We want the ‘motifs’ to be the drive for the piece, moving everything on and the ‘characters’ to be the real crux of the play adding the personal into the bits where they naturally suit.
The last day of the week was dedicated to the filming of our trailer, which we’re working with Russell Hancock from Extra Strong on. I won’t tell you what the setting is as it may ruin the trailer when it launches later this week, but we’re thinking of setting the play around an event. So there are going to be loads of decorations and props relevant to that environment. In between us all filming our individual sections for the trailer, we started to look at our chosen ‘characters’ and select their arcs and sift out the material which not only added to that arc but gave a rounded and fair representation of the character as a real person
Last week was a brilliant start to the 4 weeks we have to create our show. Yes, it’s going to be tough and there are sometimes disagreements, that’s just the way theatre works. I think one of our strengths as a group is that we are able to leave everything at the door and walk out at the end of the day knowing that it’s fine. It allows us, as I said before, to constantly push and challenge each other always aiming for new exciting ways of performing. We all come from different performance backgrounds and so to be in a room of people where creativity is in no short supply, allows you as an individual to have so much fun making theatre. Which at the end of the day is what its all about.
At the end of the week, we performed at a cabaret event hosted by Sharp Teeth, and Jenny (performer and designer) chatted about it on BCfm. You can listen here: bcfmradio.com/saturday (select ’10:00 – 06/06/2015′ from 14m)
We’ve been raising money to be able to take Spill to the Inspiring Curiosity Festival in Coventry in July. Head over to our Kickstarter where you can watch our launch trailer, and if you’re feeling generous – we’d love it if you could help out!