Today we learnt the dance and then we played,
with the three puppets my assistant made.
From thence we staged the fairies worlds and Puck,
Titania, Oberon and by our luck,
We even squeezed a bit of Bottom in.
A busy day and now I need a gin.
We learnt another song. We had some costume fittings. We read a bit then went and rehearsed in the basket ball courts opposite our flat. We talked about our dreams and our experiences of drugs, had some more costume fittings and then had dinner. And wine. And a frozen cheesecake. A good second day.
Day one of our madly short rehearsal period. We read through it sitting on sofas, and mostly on the floor, of the composer’s flat, trying to remember what heightened RP sounds like. We had lunch. We went to the park to run around after eachother (we were working on the lovers scenes) and attempt to retain an iambic pulse. We learnt an Andrews Sisters style acapella lullaby and discussed what kind of voices the fairies would have…given that they’re puppets. Haven’t quite solved that yet – will have to see what the puppets are like (my production assistant has been beavering away on them today). A good day.
Had a great design meeting with my designer for Arabian Nights – really excited about it – so far we’re thinking a lot about circles and object-theatre. I’m particularly excited about the puppets, which she’ll be designing and making from scratch, which maybe I can take home once the show’s over. So nice to be working on a show with a bit of budget for a change. So circles and maybe lots of gold. That’s that sorted. Next.
Then I read my plays on the train. Actually I only read two out of the three, because I read the second one twice. It was that good. And equipped with my new Lyndsey-Turner-style-rigour I am armed with lots of questions for the writer (and a burning desire to direct it) so hopefully that will work out.
I still haven’t quite resolved my fairies in Dream. My rigour has not yet come up with the goods. I think the answer is puppets and because of our twenties setting I’m quite interested in the Cottingley fairies and something quite simplistic and two-dimensional/papery/origami. But musically their world is slightly Andrews sisters close-harmony which feels a bit incongruous. Then again a papery aesthetic could help us with Bottom’s ears/tail transformation if we made them from paper. Who knows what will happen if it rains – the whole show is outdoors and totally open to the elements. Though I imagine if it rains then paper props dissolving may be the least of our worries.
The whole of August has been in one way or another a rather relaxing time work-wise. Everyone else was either in Edinburgh or on holiday so I gave up on doing much real work. But now suddenly the clouds have parted, or the fog has lifted, or some such appropriate metaphor, and everything’s beginning to gear up again. My inbox is filling up at a rate of knots, especially with emails from writers. It’s just as well I have just discovered this great love of new writing because if my inbox is anything to go on I’m going to spend the next year directing lots of new plays (once I’ve got Dream and Arabian Nights out of the way).
Spent the morning working on Arabian Nights in anticipation of my first design meeting tomorrow in the glamorous environs of Paddington Station. Also snuck in a bit of work on my new play, for which ideas are flowing thick and fast. Been reading a wonderful Kundera novel – Identity – which has been a bit of an inspiration.
Then had a delightful phone meeting with a young writer who promptly sent me three plays to read, which I intend to digest on the train tomorrow (heading back to the West Country yet again partly for more research on the play I’m writing, mostly to celebrate my sister’s GCSE results and see the wonderful Giffords Circus). And hopefully I’ll direct one, if not all of those, not to mention some operas of his father’s (who’s possibly the best concert pianist in the world). Intriguing…who are this mystery father and son artistic duo? All will be revealed in time…unless I’ve mentioned him before in earlier posts in which case work it out!
The moment I rang off from my mystery writer the phone rang again and I had the somewhat surreal experience of my Dream composer singing down the phone at me, with an idea for Oberon’s song. It was good, possibly not quite there yet, but lots of potential.
Then spent the rest of the afternoon with the ever brilliant Laura Wade who was kind enough to give me some feedback on the play-let I wrote back in the spring. And also some ideas for the new play I’m working on. I love her. Although she did rip my play apart. And even for that do I love her the more.
And now for an evening of film – Brideshead Revisited – research for Dream because we’re setting it in the 20s.
Spent last week working on the new play as well as doing a bit of prep for Dream and some very tentative prep for Arabian Nights. Then on Friday I went to the Young Vic for a workshop on directing new writing with Lyndsey Turner – lovely, rigourous and fierce in equal measure. Actually more lovely than anything else, but also fiercely rigourous.
Left me feeling much more dramaturgically tooled up – which has already come in handy with my own play – but intellectually a bit unfit. Have decided to get match fit on the old analytical rigour front – I think directing new plays is much more demanding in that sense. Or maybe I’m just quite a lazy director and have got too used to relying on instinct, predominantly working on plays by dead writers who can’t argue back.
So here’s to rigour, precision, craft and analytical ability – they are to be my watchwords for the week. Now I must grapple with the fairies in Dream – we’re doing them with puppets, made from paper…or maybe I have not sufficiently and rigourously investigated all the other alternatives. Hmmm…
The RADA reading of The Acid Test went very well last night – it’s amazing what you can achieve with very little rehearsal time (5 hours). I don’t know what I’d do at the RSC, where they have ten weeks to rehearse. Ten weeks! I could rehearse three plays in that time…but then you always use the time you have.
Anyway, Anya Reiss is a great writer it’s like directing a musical score, the rhythms are so precise. I’m really getting into my new writing at the moment, strange, the different paths one takes in a career. Perhaps it’s because I’m beginning to write myself, it’s opening up another whole aspect of theatre that I’d previously been relatively uninterested in.
And this afternoon I’m off to the National Theatre Studio where my friend James has been working all week on a new American play called Touch. Can’t wait to see what he’s done with it – he’s one of the best young directors I know so I’m sure it’ll be fabulous and as he’s been telling me the great thing about having a week of R+D at the National is that you get all the resources of the National behind you so you really get to explore the design/aesthetic and play with large spaces as well as getting into the nitty gritty of the text.
Then tonight I’m off to Riverside Studios to see some of the new operas in the Tete a Tete festival, with the composer I met last week (who might write an opera with me). I have no idea what the pieces are that we’re seeing but hopefully they’ll provoke something or at least give us a starting point for a shared vocabulary.
So it’s lots of newness all round. Feels quite exciting, feels like some sort of transition.
Friday I did some work with Loren on the future of Points of Light and then we went to see Lab Collective’s utterly astounding Matador and the very funny, very clever improv troupe The Improsarios at Theatre 503.
Then on Saturday I started writing my next play. All very exciting. And then I jumped on a train back to the west country to do some research for it – one of the characters is a Samaritan, as is my mum, so I meant to interview her for it, though as it happened I got distracted by birthdays, pub quizzes and a trip to the beach. Oops. Will try again next time I’m back.
Now on the train back to London, having hopefully missed the bulk of the riots, on my way to Rada to direct a rehearsed reading of Anya Reiss’s The Acid Test, which will be on tomorrow night in the rada bar.
I was just feeling like it had been ages since I did any opera and then I had a meeting with a composer yesterday who is interested in writing an opera together, or several. So that’s exciting. And he has some brilliant starting points so hopefully at least one of them will come to something.
Also feeling the need to write a play – just read five Royal Court plays this morning (making a concerted effort to get more up on new writing) which have inspired me. I feel the story and the characters just sort of dancing on the edge of my consciousness, waiting to fully emerge.
And later today I’m off to meet a young director who, I think, wants advice on how to make it in theatre. Hmmm, how do you make it in theatre? I wish I knew…
I don’t have a huge amount of work to do at the moment – I’m not sure anyone in the theatre does in August, unless they’re doing Edinburgh in which case they have all the work in the world.
So just making lots of phone calls and writing lots of emails. Had a meeting about the Tempest project yesterday in town – that was a good excuse to get out of the flat. Today’s excursion is to the Young Vic to see The Beauty Queen of Leenane. And I wrote another draft of my short play this morning, so that’s something – maybe I should get that on somewhere…
I should probably do some prep for Dream as well, but I sort of feel in limbo with it while the Producer is away (also in Greece, though we didn’t overlap) because ideally I’d like to know who our cast is before I think too much about the production and staging etc. And we can’t even really get started on the music because the composer doesn’t know what instruments he’s writing for until we cast it!