3 September 2014 • by Jennifer Tang
In the Rehearsal Room: The Edge of our BodiesI love the first week in a rehearsal room. It is the time where, after weeks, maybe months (or maybe even years, in some cases) all of your questions about the play get confronted. From the big questions (what is this play all about?) to the smallest of details which may never be revealed to the audience (what colour are her socks?), for me, week one is where the company come together to discover the bones of the piece which they will come to flesh out and eventually bring to life.
Week one in the Edge of our Bodies rehearsal room has been no different. A beautiful but dense play, this week has been spent undertaking what is commonly known as ‘table work’. That is, we sit around a table with the script and start to mine it for all the information that it can give us about the world we are about to inhabit. Starting by dividing the text into units, and then giving each unit its own distinct title, we then glean as much information as we can about the world and its characters – the unquestionable ‘facts’ of the play. All the things that are not known, or which we want to know the answers to are listed as the ‘questions’.
It is been a thorough and painstaking but invaluable process. It is where we have been able to meet each others’ ideas, imaginings, questions and provocations about this piece for the first time. The ensuing discussions that the ‘facts’ and ‘questions’ have thrown up have been detailed and lively, and while it is always tempting to try and answer every question that is posed, director Chris is always quick to remind us that we can’t hope to know any answers until we are further into the rehearsal process.
As the solo performer, it became evident how important it was for Shannon to know intimately each of the other characters in the story. In order for her character, Bernadette, to be able to talk about these characters and her reactions to each of them, she must first know everything about them. So again we spent some time mining the text for as much information about these characters, and Bernadette’s responses and feelings towards them.
A lot of my time this week, and in the weeks leading up to rehearsal, have been spent researching and reporting back to the rehearsal room. The range of the topics covered have been huge: from upstate New York private schools to the pronunciation of American anti-acid medication, from famous Basketball players to New York subway timetables – it has been a real journey through American contemporary culture. The level of detail and accuracy achieved through extensive research helps to create a physical and tangible world within which we can then begin to place the character Bernadette.
This research has been both text and image based – and much time has been spent gathering and choosing images of the world that Bernadette sees around her. From the people that she meets on her journey, to the coffee shop where she buys her cappuccino, to the trees that she sees from her train window, this week has been spent populating our imaginations with image after image of all that Bernadette encounters.
So, all in all, Week 1 has been everything I had hoped it would be, and more: intellectually, visually, imaginatively and creatively challenging and stimulating. At times astounding, fascinating, heartbreaking, and fun – and all in 5 days. It was provided some answers, thrown up a whole lot more questions, and paved the way for a very exciting week 2.