10 September 2014 • by Jennifer Tang
In the Rehearsal Room: The Edge of our Bodies week twoI have always found the prospect of week two of rehearsals quite a scary one. Week two is generally where we take the leap from sitting around the relative safety of a table discussing the play, to getting the actors up on their feet and actually doing the play. It is when we put all those things we have been discussing during table work into practice. Literally, putting words into action.
And so this has been our week two in the Edge of Our Bodies rehearsal room. We have spent the week tentatively feeling our way through the text, sketching out the broad brush strokes that we will then go back and colour in over the ensuing weeks. But, as Chris is constantly reminding us, these broad strokes are pencil marks only at this stage. Everything is liable to change as we keep going back over the text to dig deeper and add multiple layers to Shannon’s performance. It has also become evident this week that a lot of the staging and blocking that we are experimenting with will also change once we are actually on the set. One of the benefits of a solo show is that staging can be left until the very last moment until final decisions are made; that the only performer to be affected by any late changes is Shannon herself. It gives us a lot of freedom to keep things flexible and means we can be quick to react to any new discoveries we make along the way.
Much of this week has also been spent answering a lot of our questions regarding the timelines in the play. Although seemingly simple on the surface, this text is complex in terms of its multiple chronologies. Investing in rolls of flipchart paper and marker pens, we set about dissecting and formalising a lot of the timings mentioned in the play. We have eventually ended up with two timelines: one that charts the past year and marks all the big events in Bernadette’s story, while the other is a much more detailed timeline which maps her journey, hour by hour, over that weekend in November when she visits NYC. We used as much information from the text as we could gather in order to populate the timelines, and then made informed decisions about all those details that were missing. It proved to be an invaluable exercise in helping Shannon to understand the wider arcs of Bernadette’s life, as well as the minute detail of her journey into the city.
We have also continued to saturate the walls of the rehearsal room with the various images that Bernadette would have seen on her journey. The room is now starting to become a wonderfully busy place full of the sights and images that Bernadette would have encountered, the faces of the people she has met, and the world in which she finds herself. Along with some of the rehearsal props that have started to find their way into the room, we are really starting to see the piece come alive.
So while the prospect of week 2 is always a scary one, it is also one of the most exciting. This is the week where the world of the play, which has so far been in our heads, begins to take physical shape for the first time. The world of Bernadette is still in its relatively infant stages, but already it is thrilling and haunted and beautiful and funny. Week 3, I am sure, will only unearth more.