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Session 31 - Tuesday 1st November
This week's session began with our usual hoop work. Standing in two lines, we threw the hoops to our opposite partner (of course without any dropping!) as uniformly and rhythmically as possible. Once it got going, we realised that with the right distance and throw, you can create an excellent 'swoosh' sound when everyone throws at exactly the same time. Good incentive to work together! We then tried throwing across the circle to the beat and rhythm of the Greek text - each time we do this, the key seems to be in the preparation of the throw and keeping that in time with the beat as well.
Following last week's work, we wanted to try the new walk & weave pattern that Sian had taught us with the hoops but this time with music. So we began by warming up with a little chorus of "Come into my Bed" (sung in three parts to the tunes of "do I know, this tune now, or am I a ****?". Thanks TC). Once voices were sounding solid, we began by making a line of person-HOOP-person-HOOP-person-HOOP. The leader of this line would then weave around the room, eventually circling inwards until you can go no further and at this point would turn and allow the next person to pass under their hoop and so the whole line follows. Sounds tricky but really isn't once you've done it and looks lovely. The first person would then connect to the back of the line and the new leader would try a new weaving pattern. This was all done whilst singing the "sing,sing,sing" to the Greek text. Occasionally someone would sing an improvised verse over the top or speak a bit of text which sounded great.
Next we did some more stick work led by Sian. Covering the dance, we looked at perfecting the detail of it - making sure that we know exactly what syllable to catch or turn on, where our eyes are focused etc. Maddy came up with the idea of someone banging the stick 6 times before we start the dance which gives us a good lead in and a beat to work from. We also worked on the optical illusion move of swizzling the stick from side to side and moving through the room, sometimes together and sometimes in a formation or pattern. The key with this we realised, seems to be letting the stick fall bit more heavily from side to side and keeping the wrist loose - too loose, however, and you will most definitely lose your grip, drop it and look like an idiot as I discovered. The loud bang from the stick does nothing to help hide this.
Next, we moved onto some more singing. We began with the "alien chords" of Tell Me Your Dreams. It took us a little while to get there but once we realised a few tricks of how to move between the chords it really came together. Then we moved onto the DREAMING YASA song with some new verses written by TC and composed by Jox. Nailing the chorus was our first task so we split into three parts - bottom, middle and tops. Most people seem to know this fairly well by now so it was just a little repetition to help us along in each line. All the lines move at the same intervals (except for the end) so as long as you have your starting note, you can know that the shape of what you sing will be the same as everyone else if that helps. Thankfully TC had his tiny guitar which helped us a lot more with starting notes than me banging a pair of tweezers against a wall last week to get an F! Then we learnt the verses for this song - the tune is the same for each verse, except with slight adaptations to fit the words. There are 3 lines of text per verse with the final phrase always being "Maybe I will oversleep my alarm". The chorus can hum a G chord underneath the verse, staying in their top, middle and bottom sections. The bottom (on a B) and middle (on a D) parts move up one tone on the word "sleep" and then all parts move up a tone again on the word "alarm". From there, you should be able to find your starting note of the chorus pretty easily. With a few goes of people singing different verses over the top, we had it by the end!
Lastly, we moved onto a bit of text work led by Jay (notes and thoughts on which you can find below).TC informed us a bit more on how things may run at the showing this month and a recap on how many pieces need to be learnt for each person etc. but more on this will follow next week.
In all, a lot to learn in time for the first showing but some great new stuff still emerging from it all.
Please add in anything I've forgotten since my brain is now officially fried this week!
StephJay Luxembourg on text elements of the 3.11.11 session:Unlike Fed and Steve I’m not a writer-performer, so it’s still a fairly novel experience to me to be on my feet with The Factory working text on I’ve written. There was a particular moment in this session where I felt myself in danger of disappearing down the rabbit hole. It was when we were all singing Sylla’s Song (my lyrics) and over the singing Johno started to perform my ‘To A Monster’ text. Suddenly all the words and worlds were weaving together while I was saying some of the words, and it was … odd. Good odd.Generally, I’m finding it extremely helpful in the Odyssey sessions to have parallels between the writing and acting process constantly playing out in front of me. It’s not a novel thought that the process of creating a character is pretty much the same whether you’re a writer or an actor, and that only the material (the page versus the body) differs. But it’s a thought I’m learning to think more about.I had a very useful conversation with Simon and Alex Barclay in the pub afterwards about what their default settings as actors were. This made me much more aware than I had previously been of the existence of my default voice as a writer. We were talking about my Book 3 dialogue (for Katie), one of the three pieces which I’d just heard read in the session (the other two were a Book 15 dialogue for Johno and a Book 18 poem for Al). I realised that in the Book 3 dialogue I’d been using my default position as a writer, which is to be funny. And that it’s important to use one’s default position but even more important to push away from it. The writers I most admire write from a deep self knowledge and self dramatisation which then becomes extremely malleable, and this connection to self allows them to do a very great many things. So I’ve since rewritten my Book 3 dialogue without the penis/maths jokes, and tried to focus it into a piece about the fear of the experience of sailing, and to draw parallels with the contemporary fear of flying. I hope that maybe this can bring to life something which I feel is very key about world of The Odyssey, the constant engagement which the characters have with the sea, and the huge power which the sea holds over them in so many ways, not least in being a barrier to their communication with each other.What the world of The Odyssey is, is of course a central question for all of us as we explore the text and our own experiencing of performing/writing around it. I suppose that inevitably the world that we are going to end up creating will be our own world, a setting for the story of our own experience of studying and responding to the text as a creative ensemble. One of the pieces that I read in the session was a poem which was in part a response to the beggar fight in book 18 and part a response to the events around the Occupy movement during the previous week. I’ve added the poem below as it’s the shortest of the three pieces that were read in this session. After hearing it, Johno said, ‘But there weren’t any guns in the Odyssey’. This was a joke, but (in the spirit of moving away from my default ‘funny girl’ position) I will take a serious point from it: I’m increasingly feeling that when I write text which is set in the ‘world’ of the Odyssey, the world of gold bowls and white sand and (one presumes) tunics, I feel that my text is dead. The same deadness occurs which I’m writing monologue or dialogue which attempts to summarise the ‘main action’ of a book. One of my current challenges to myself is to write dialogue without that dialogue taking on this ‘playlet’ quality.My Odyssey writing feels alive to me when I writing something which gives a personal or contemporary response to an aspect of the book. But the ‘contemporary response’ can’t, for me, be to simply write Homer’s characters speaking colloquially and saying ‘wanker’ a lot (cf my default position). Writing Homer’s characters in the book is a bit nasty and a bit ‘kids adaptation’, even a bit Homer Simpson, and I don’t like it but I do find myself doing it. For example, the Book 3 dialogue that I read in the session felt dead to me (though it doesn’t now that I’ve rewritten it) because I was really just summarising aspects of Telemachus’ conversation with Nestor while putting in colloquial dialogue and jokes. I think nowhere is one more aware than when one is actually attempting to adapt of how easy hollow posturing is. I don’t want to write little summaries of books. I want to find particular things in a book that interest me. Moments of extreme specificity.These are just personal notes relating to my own process of writing in response to The Odyssey. They are not intended to be in any way advice to other Factory writers or indeed actors. It is just my feeing that: I should not summarise. I should respond. I need to find moments to expand and bring to life. And not attempt to cram too many moments together least that cramming be deadening. And I suppose a point so obvious that it probably doesn’t need saying, but I still find it useful to say it to myself while I am writing: We are not making an adaption of The Odyssey. If this piece is anything, it’s an account of the Odyssey we’ve all been through in creating it.
Book 18 poem
I walked between the tables where sat the men
Men with gold
Men with guns and meat
Gambling chips on the tables
Bloody notes dropping into the tear gas.
Boy, you’ve been sent to the island
To get what you want for yourselfAnd the ones you love (don’t die, don’t ever die).
But there’s just two ways to get it, boy
You can beg or you can fight.
Outside the palace, out on the city streets
The banners the kids were carrying said
‘If you won’t let us dream, then we won’t let you sleep’.
They slept on the steps of the churches like beggars
But the churches came with guns and they had to fight.
I took a bullet in the face outside Troy, Oakland.
Guns don’t bother me none.
I lived ten years under siege in the trenches.
But here in the hall of the banking house
I suddenly wanted to run.
They threw their **** at me, their stools
They brought out a beggar with leprosy
Who ate the scraps from their table.
Both of us begged for permission to beg
But they told us we had to fight.
When the leper saw the look in my eyes he gasped.
I was armed with goggles against the gas.
I said ‘They win by making us fight each other
For one pound coin. One poem written on a wall. One look of love.
It makes them laugh to see us going at each other for so little.
’I broke the leper’s head and left him spastic.
Then I said to the serving girls who sucked the suitors’ cocks‘
Do you want your freedom?
Well there’s two ways to get that girl,
You can beg or you can fight.
’They said ‘Who do we have to beg?
And who do we need to fight?’
Thank you for describing very succinctly the 'movement' in the session - I'll just add a bit more description of the 'chain figures': Chain dance 1 - The leader guides the line with their hoop held in right hand and holds one side of the 2nd in line's hoop by the left hand. Everyone else links up in similar fashion. The leader makes a spiral pattern by circling inward, anti-clockwise. Once at the centre of this spiral, Leader turns to face number 2 in line. Number 2 turns to the right away from Leader forming an arch with the hoop (between Leader and no.2) and they progress along the chain of people at the same time as drawing them behind.
Chain dance 2 - Everyone is linked by a hoop as before. The leader turns to face no. 2 & 3 in line and walks under the arch made by the hoop they share, then immediately turns back and walks under the arch made by no. 3 & 4 and continues weaving forward and back through the arches of hoops.
Once the Leader has completed the journey they can release hold of no. 2 hoop and join the end of the line allowing no.2 to become Leader.
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