“…You get down with my girlfriend, that ain't right!
Hollerin', cussin', you want to fight
Payback is a thing you gotta see, hey
Brother do any damn thing to me…”
When James Brown sung these lyrics, I bet he didn’t imagine that, 44 years later, a group of people doing a table read would spontaneously break into song, rendering bits and pieces of his vengeful anthem without provocation. Ola and Nina spearhead the movement; they recite chunks of the song out of nowhere and we all laugh. Payback is, judging by the lyrics, a song about revenge, but James Brown does it with a great sense of humour, so it only feels like a cool funky song… at first. Without noticing it, the song creeps beneath your skin, and forces you to move… it’s a true call to funky action.
It’s all about grey areas; the song is about revenge, and you empathise with the Godfather of Soul. However, while you start thinking that payback may not always be the best option, you find yourself helplessly tapping your foot to the tune.
It’s similar to Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 because, while you laugh and tap your foot, you kinda think: “Should I…?” Perhaps Nina and Ola are subconsciously aware of the grey areas—both in the song and in the show—and let it all come out in the form of James Brown. We all just let ourselves be carried away by their flow.
We’re on week three of rehearsals. The show is slowly but surely coming through. This week it’s all about getting a full structure of the play, characters and movement before we’re off for a Christmas break. The scaffolding is in place, and now it’s time to start laying down the bricks, and dropping the beats.
The energy in the room is busy and focused. Every now and then, without notice, we let the Christmas spirit intoxicate us, only to very quickly jump back into the Twilight universe. The wonderful Gate Theatre’s Young Associates and the Gate Theatre team come back in to give us some feedback as Nina does a stagger-through for us. All the feedback we are getting, all the different perspectives, make the very nature of this show even more relevant, and Nina’s voice clearer and louder.
How do we make each of the characters stand out for their uniqueness and their message, not only regarding the script, but also in terms of movement? The characters are in an area of moral ambiguity that makes it all very exciting; they are wrong, and right at the same time. They are like each and every one of us: perfect in our imperfections. The interesting thing here is that, depending on the audience, the show can have many different meanings. Some people may relate to some characters, while a different audience will instinctively position themselves in the opposite side of the spectrum. After all, there’s a little racist living inside each of us… don’t you think? Do you feel free to talk about race?
The black, asian, white and latino community are in many ways represented in our team. Ola’s done an amazing job in making sure we are a diverse group. It’s also the reason why sometimes we all have completely different opinions on some subjects. It’s so important to make sure that you are surrounded by people that don’t think alike and come from different backgrounds… It becomes ever so obvious when doing a show like Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992.
At the end of the week, we face some structural changes, thanks to an almost full week of trying out different things for each section and for each character. Trial and error is the key… Which is an oddly fitting expression, considering the subject of the play.
For the first time since we began, I can almost see the show. We now have time to meditate, reflect, come up with new views. The last week of rehearsals is usually my favourite week; actors are off book, blocking has begun, and the most creative ideas come to light. It also tends to be the craziest week of all, with last minute changes, new ideas, new issues, and the big flashing countdown. We’re all so eager to make this show come true, we can almost smell it!
As we wish each other a merry Christmas and a happy New Year we know that, upon returning, we’ll jump right into the action. It will be our last week of rehearsals and, if experience proves me right, it will get a little crazy… or, as James Brown would put it:
“…I don't know karate,
but I know Ka-Razor!
(yes we do!)…”