The Madness Sweet Madness audition process was an early indicator of how director Phil Bartlett likes to do things. He decided on a workshop audition that latest about an hour and a half and had approximately ten people.
In two days.
Perhaps this is foreshadowing the intensive rehearsal process that is to come before the 24:7 Festival Big Weekend, but it certainly set the bar high and indicated what it is possible to achieve in a short space of time.
After some details about Georgina Treymane’s script each group was on to ice breakers. The rules of Zip Zap Boing were debated and discussed as it seems everyone who has ever played has been taught differently. Phil ‘ s version contained added showstopping (should that be game stopping) elements – Tic Tic Boom. Although it reminded me of a summer song from the nineties, the energy and the laughter of the groups was apparent. This was going to be hard work, but it was going to be fun.
Moving on to another game called Sheriff (and / or Splat/Bang or James Bond amongst others), there was a remarkable constant across the two days. In half of the games played, Phil was out first. His only respite was in a smaller group on day two where the first person out was me. Perhaps this is why we are on the production side of things!
Getting down to some exercises Phil asked the groups to pair up and mirror each other. The specific detail was the connections and accuracy between the actors. It was, slow and detailed, fast and loud but as an observer it was incredible to see the chemistry between people, where the sparks were and how creative people can be with a simple premise.
Developing from this Phil led an exersise called Atmospheres. In which a given atmosphere affects the actor. It was at this point the words on the page came alive. The actors had been asked to memorise a line and deliver it affected by the given atmosphere. One small sentence – given life. The result every time, in every group? A little moment of magic.
In the second section of the workshop it was all about the script. The wonderful thing about the way Georgina has written the characters of Walt and Maarten is that they aren’t gender specific. This meant in auditions that there were lots of combinations to be played with and lots and lots of fun as a result. The characters of Grace and Vesuvius were worked on too, pushed and pulled in different directions, towards and away from the script.
To see the words lifted off the page, the skills that the actors brought with their interpretations and characterisations really highlighted the strength of the script. To watch Phil working with them, exploring who the characters were and how they would react in any situation was fascinating.
It was great to see that somewhere over the course of the two days, in the maze of choices and interpretations, the next steps for the characters were found. A spark of life. Another moment of magic.
There is something special here, just waiting to be unleashed and I for one am looking forward to seeing how that develops through the intensive rehearsal process and on to the performances at the 24:7 Festival and beyond.
So a big thank you to all who auditioned for your time, energy and enthusiasm, but mainly for showing that sometimes unconventional is the best way to do things.
Perhaps that is the heart of this production and the essence of 24:7.
It may seem like madness – but it sure is sweet.