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Seagull Session 14
First Day of Intensive
12:00 (- 6 Hours TC)
With no work set we decided to repeat a previous exercise and run the full play with our unit titles. Impressively we had a full cast, and a few doubles who joined as we went along. We also impressed with our ability, by and large, to do each act and the notable improvement in terms of moments of loss/confusion from the first time we attempted this.
We established a few ground rules:
If you don't feel you have been given your cue for a next unit simply say nothing and wait.
If you feel the other person is still on the same unit as you, but you have said your word (because they have broken theirs into more chunks) repeat it.
An interesting debate arose about the usefulness or not of going back over each Act and attempting to unpick any moments of confusion, or by going over to individual actors with 'I thought you were here', or 'I thought you were going to do that bit...', or 'What happened here?' type question. We decided against it, largely because TC has never indulged in these sort of postmortems and we didn't want to introduce something new and potentially destructive. Also we reasoned a lot of these confusions may not present such problems when we are speaking the full text (we hope). I actually found some of the confusions exciting (Leila kept insulting me in the Actress/Son scene in Act 3 far longer than I'd anticipated for example, which was usefully cruel), and a lot were instructive in shining a light on lost moments and the mental workout these moments engender is a great way of deepening understanding. But it is something I've been wondering for ages. Will there come a point when these small reviews are useful, or saying things like 'You never seem to mention anything connected to this thought/line of text and I wondered why, is it a choice?' etc, especially when such missed units are important cues for entrances and exits.
2pm (-4 hours TC)
TC set us a few exercises for the afternoon. The first another repeat - telling the events of the play from our character's point of view, only listing what happens on stage and how it is perceived by us. As we've grown into the relationships and details this exercise also grew, with most of us using it as an opportunity to justify our behaviour to the rest of the group. After a while we split up into pairs in order to finish before the end of the week. There was a lot that was useful in listening though, particularly when our own characters were mentioned. Hearing Fed justify her treatment of the Son only seemed to emphasise her shoddy attitude in my eyes, a good example perhaps of how if we play as if we're right and play the positive the character's 'negative' qualities will shine through all the greater.
4pm (-2hours TC)
In partners again we were tasked with explaining each of our units and, crucially, the journey between them. So we had,
'TOWN - I affirm that the brother would be better of in town. And then I see the teacher and the bailiff's daughter hanging around so I tell them to
LEAVE - because the stage is not ready yet. And then the brother says..." etc. Our partners were there to help check we didn't miss things and bust us if our unit to unit logic wasn't clear.
6pm (0 hours TC)
TC began by informing us of the rules of the game vis a vis props for these three showings only, or at least for Thursday night. He pointed out we may change it up after that. These are that all props will come from the room we are in. We will ask the audience for these at the start of each Act (there will be 5 minute breaks between Acts). We are free to take time to choose from all the suggestions as to which we find most appropriate. For example we may get a choice of books, if so we'll pick the one, and perhaps ask for a moment in it, that is best suited to our purpose in the play (be it the passage read at the start of Act 2, or the link The Girl picks out for The Writer to read etc). All props will be referred to as they are in the play (whatever we find to best fit the Seagull will be called a Seagull) unless the actor deems a - it makes little difference so we may as well call it the thing it is, i.e. if we are offered apples and not plums we can call them apples
b - (I think, please correct me if I'm wrong) if it is appropriate to change the action of that moment (e.g. the game the girl plays with the writer may not be hunt the coin, but a different game of chance perhaps someone has brought along a Magic 8 ball or some thing. If so she can then choose to refer to it as a magic 8 ball.)
The game will be invented, such as lotto, from bits of paper etc. But then if someone happens to have been to Argos and doesn't mind us playing then we use that.
I think - please please someone tell me/us all if I'm wrong.
Also I have one question, from a personal point of view, does the son's work need to be something we can destroy and therefore do we tell the audience this?
TC then asked for a volunteer. Colin offered (foolishly?) and was made to do a one man version of Act One - which he did brilliantly with a use of discarded bits of food and drinks bottles and voices. There were a few flashbacks but he got through pretty much everything by the end.
Then it was our turn, in partners we retold the story of the Act, pretty much in the style of the two 13year olds I'd been stood behind in the Costcutter earlier. 'He said..., then I said...so he goes..., and I goes." Our partners urged us to 'show' as much as we can, rather than simply narrating, at TC prompted us to bias the story towards our characters POV as we do in real life, making our actions justified and reasonable and highlighting the inconsistencies/down right obstinence of everyone else.
Simon Muller's one man Act Two was an incredibly impressive feat. He sweated and swore, jumped around like a demented Gepetto and only I think once made use of flashbacks as he moved around the actors, as puppets, to tell the complete story of the second act. As with Colin's object puppet show the choice, incredibly heightened, of voices, characteristics, opinions and perspectives Muller put on moments and characters was also instructive. They lead me to thoughts of 'well, you may think the moment is that/my character is behaving in this way, but that's only because you don't see it like this...', or 'is that what he thinks this moment is/they are doing/they are focussed on - that's interesting and different...'
In this way we had all walked our minds through the first two acts in their entirety, noting our weak points/gaps and in the case of act one exploring those events through our own perspective.
7pm (1 hour TC)
We walked our minds through acts three and four through props, TC instructing us to find, in two minutes, all the props and significant pieces of furniture we interacted with in those two acts. We gathered these together from the objects in the room and explained them, their significance and their role in the story to our partners. Then we took our favourite and told other members of the group about it.
Perhaps with the new instruction that we are to take responsibility on Thursday to ask for required props from the audience we then attempted to plot a prop time-line for the entire play, out of the whole group's assembled collection of props. These were all placed at one end. We then took turns at placing props one by one in order of their appearance...
These are the clothes that make The Bailiff's daughter so distinctive....this is the snuff she then takes...etc....
When a prop had been used once we left it at its point of first entry, and merely pointed it out to the group when it reappeared. There were lots of 'flashbacks' as forgotten items were remembered, but by the end we had ploplottedted through the entire play as a sequence of what must have been around 30ish items.
And that, I think, was that.
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