by Marco Adduocchio, Company Member
St. Joan of the Stockyards follows the story of Brecht’s version of ‘Joan of Arc’ – in this case called ‘Joan Dark’ – and her battle against the meat King Pierpont Mauler. Its theme is religion vs. capitalism, and what happens when these collide. The play is set in Chicago, but we are not setting it in a particular time period so that it’s accessible to everyone and can be related to any era the audience chooses. The process has entailed a mix of devised material and working with the script. The original script was incredibly rich and long, so we had to cut it down to an hour and a half from the initial length of five hours. Nik Partridge, who is the director of the show, has been inspiring in his approach with it and lead us to demonstrate the folly of capitalism and show how the themes of the play relate to society today, with humour and precision.
We started the week with the full cast and we had already blocked most of the show – we just had to refine and develop the scenes. On the Wednesday, we did a full run of the show. We are in a great place to have all the scenes blocked and the transitions almost sorted so early on, as now we can focus on working on the characters and lines. Our deadline for learning the lines is the 20th of November – but we are almost already off book!
During the week, we have been devising some movement to represent the craziness of the stock exchange and the stockyards. I quote my favourite movement teacher, Gail Gordon: “Any fool can move quickly albeit not accurately, but it takes skill to move slowly”. We were doing a lot of slow motion movements repeatedly for some scenes until we got it right, which was exhausting. We also did some restraint movement where other actors had to hold us back to simulate a crowd of rioters. Our assistant director, Maisie, has been fantastic – she is able to pluck out ideas for movement out of thin air, which is a skill that I strongly desire.
On the Thursday, we met our musical director, Ben, who has been writing music for the show and on the Friday we started learning the song he has written.
The show really utilizes all the skills actors need in modern theatre. It is very dynamic with its use of the staging and levels, as we are performing it in traverse, which opens up many options for the audience. This is because the main action will be seen by everyone, but there will be subtle moments where some audience members will be able to see other movements depending on the angle they are sitting at. We are also utilizing the balconies, which will simulate the environment in much more detail.
Overall, the week was very successful as we are working hard and developing the show at a good pace. We are looking forward to progressing further with it and improving what we have done to the highest standard it can be.
Check back later in the year for more from the St. Joan rehearsal room…