Rehearsing New Writing and Show Prep

It’s two days before Sticking goes on again, this time at Gala Durham, for the Durham Book Festival. Nerves don’t really cover it.

A couple of weeks ago my director and collaborator, Peader Kirk, and I had the chance of another week of rehearsal and development at Alphabetti Theatre in Newcastle –

And as seems to be the nature of a process of working on a show for intense blocks of time widely spaced apart (the last was in May), the script changed and shifted a fair bit, as we tried to get it as good as it’s been (which I reckon we’ve done.) . . .

 

There’s something exciting about working on something that is always changing – that develops and grows and becomes something slightly else every time it’s re-visited, that’s signed off as “finished” for one show and then teased into and moved around again for the next. In fact, it’s the same process I’ve often had with developing poems – the best ones seem to change and shift each time they’re performed until they finally settle into a version of themselves that feels complete.

I suppose the difference is I’ve never really thought about it, or anticipated that before. Whereas this time, there’s the knowledge that this work is as good as we currently have it. Which is good, and I’m fiercely proud of it. It’s exciting, there’s also something slightly knackering about it:

Mostly, I think, because it’s largely my own writing, I find it very difficult to separate ‘writer’s head’ from ‘performer’s head’ – to draw a line (even if temporarily) under developing the script and get into the headspace of learning the lines and the movements.

What do other people do to help with that? Are there any writer/performers reading? Poets? Or people who often have to give speeches or presentations as part of their work? I figure this is a fairly wide-spread dilemma – how to put the pen down, turn off one kind of analytical head and turn on another – one which will analyse what is there on the page to be learned and delivered.

 

For me, it’s been a case of learning the lines the way I would if I were acting, or otherwise performing someone else’s writing – pacing around, repeating the lines (often whilst rolling a small ball of blu-tack between my fingers and climbing all over the furniture) until one little chunk is in my head. And then adding another chunk and another until a scene’s in my head. And then standing that scene up, performing it sans-script to my bedroom wall. Until it’s in my head. And then the next scene. And then two scenes together. Until I can do the whole show.

As a process, it’s pretty tedious, but has a steady practical logic in it that seems to work – I’m not learning an hour’s script, I’m learning a five minute scene, times twenty.

I’ve also started to find, quite oddly, that I learn stuff better at two in the morning than I do in the middle of the day.

 

But yeah, if anyone does read this, and has faced a similar problem, it’d be interesting to know how you go about it.

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