Over the past year I have been very lucky in getting placements on all sorts of different productions. But whilst I may have sat through tech and dress rehearsals and actual runs, I had not yet been able to see a professional production at its very start in the rehearsal room. That was until I was put on a placement with Monkeywood Theatre’s ‘Uprising’; a one-night script-in-hand show which was to be the culmination of a more long term project to help four playwrights develop new pieces of work.
Given that the focus of the project was on the texts themselves, rather than creating a finished piece, I had ample opportunity to see how the writers, directors and actors approached the script from the initial read through to more detailed discussions about particular scenes, characters and plot details. As there were actually four writers, two directors and ten actors involved overall I was also able to see different ways of going about this, whether that was to read through the script in its entirety a couple of times and then discuss it or to stop and start as they were reading through.
I was encouraged to take part in the discussions and it was interesting to see how the writers were taking on board all the suggestions and were keen to change elements of the script which didn’t work as well when read aloud. I also noticed that although the director was clearly in charge of the rehearsal space and deciding the plan of action, everybody was still very much a team giving useful criticism and working together on any queries that were thrown up. The actors had also obviously thought through the type of person their characters were and were keen to discuss background and motivation with the writers. For me it felt as though from that initial read through, the script became somehow jointly owned by all the members of the company, with everyone helping to develop it and keen to make it successful, which was fascinating to see.
Although only twenty minutes of each play was to be used, with only a table and some chairs for a set, the company added some movement into each piece. Whilst not every stage direction was acted upon, and many were simply read out, it was still possible to see how the script went from being a text read aloud to a piece of theatre simply by the addition of movement and expression. For the actual ‘show’ the actors sat along the side of the stage and simply moved into the centre for the particular plays that they were involved with. The simplicity of this set up, with lines being read from the script, basic lighting and only entrance and exit music to distinguish between the different plays, allowed the focus to continue being on the content of the texts themselves. This lead to a Q and A session at the end with the writers, which again showed to me how differently people interpret plays.
And with that my time with Monkeywood Theatre came to an end! However I will definitely an eye out for those four scripts to be turned into polished productions, and look forward to seeing how much more they have changed by then!