Tonight I can’t help reflecting over the latest segment of Skin Tight up at the IGNITE Festival, Exeter. Especially as we’re now in the process of gearing up for the next incredible part of our journey (no spoilers). After several months of planning and research and development as a full team and then a month of intense rehearsals, it ended up being so much more than i had dreamed, and I’m convinced it’s because of the process.
In rehearsal we played and tried EVERYTHING. We image streamed, we did image work, we researched about New Zealand soldiers in Egypt during WWII, discovered places in NZ, the whole team talked and discussed and tried. We definitely got it wrong over and over again in the rehearsal room, until it felt right. And the whole time the actors were fed their lines by under-readers. Every exercise pulled from our collective group experience was strengthened and supported by having the text within our hearing (as opposed to fingertips).
I’ve been saying for a long time now that actors need the chance to explore in a rehearsal room. The joy (normally) of research and development, is that most of the time there is no deadline, no proof of work that has to be offered up at the end which gives you freedom to find out. It is incredibly difficult with a ‘first night’ looming to maintain that level of ‘risk’ in the rehearsal room, but as a team we strove for that on this project. The actors went for it, and so did I.
Under-reading on this project, for the entire rehearsal period, allowed us to constantly take chances. It emboldened the actors which in turn strengthened me. I found myself making bolder decisions, throwing out images or work that I had prepped from my personal research if it conflicted with what was developing in front of me. I began to trust that my research was sitting in my unconscious ready and waiting to be drawn upon when needed, but only then. It was thrilling.
In the final week before performance, with all the usual (and some unusual) technical worries rearing their heads, we stayed the course, kept playing, kept trying, the under-reading slowly fading out. And then we were on and I made a whole new discovery of what under-reading can give – freedom to keep playing even on a first night. The connections they had made throughout rehearsal from the intense bond from day one of only ever responding to what they saw or heard from each other or around them continued to grow and reached out into the audience.
“Dramatic, sometimes uncomfortable, fight scenes allow the actors to develop a raw, physical connection and the Director, Jemma Gross, describes the use of Under-Reading, a method of being fed lines by ‘under-readers’ rather than using scripts, as ideal in conjunction with this type of fighting, developing a dynamic and striking new level of character awareness and interaction.” Audience Review
PLANETBROWNY.COM – Review
PHONIC FM – Review
“Impossible for the audience not to be swept up in the emotion and passion of the piece.”
EXEUNT – Review
“Romantic, vigorous, erotic and chest-crushingly sad, in equal measure”