Victims of their own intensely irritating personalities, Lisa and Simon are trapped in their office building after angry demonstrators occupy it. With life and death in the balance, the pair are forced to confront their shortcomings and lack of popularity.
A drama/comedy about politics, isolation, social decline and irritating colleagues.
The performance on Sun 26, 3.30pm is followed by a Q&A session.
Andy trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. He’s a qualified acting teacher, working as Senior Acting tutor at ALRA North. Theatre credits include Road, Romeo & Juliet, An Inspector Calls, Casting the Oracle, Death on the Wards. TV Credits include: The Innocence Project, Shameless, Boy A and Poppy Shakespeare and a high profile TV commercial campaign. He has a love for improvisation and new writing.
Graduating ALRA North in 2013, Amy has since appeared in Big Game (JB Shorts 10), We’re Going On A Bear Hunt (Octagon Theatre, Bolton), The Island (Small Things Creative Projects), various rehearsed readings at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton and Oldham Coliseum, and completed stunt work for feature film Top Dog (Richwater Films). Amy is thrilled to be returning to 24:7 following her role in last year’s MTA nominated In My Bed.
Laura was a finalist in the Royal Exchange’s WRITE competition in 2002 with her 1 Act play XXX Live Chat. Then in 2011 she developed the play into short story form and went on to win the Etherbooks Short Story Competition, in collaboration with Circalit. Laura is delighted to have had her play chosen for this year’s 24:7 Festival and hopes to continue to write for theatre.
Liz trained at Birkbeck College on the MFA in Theatre Directing. Directing includes: The Dumb Waiter (Lee Rosy’s), Beef (Edinburgh Festival Fringe), The Country (Blackburn Empire Theatre) Orphans, Road, Rope (Nottingham New Theatre). She has been an assistant director at the Hampstead Theatre, Royal Exchange, Menier Chocolate Theatre and the Gate.
Flora is from London but got involved in directing when she studied English at the University of Manchester. Her first play was Black Comedy by Peter Shaffer, followed by Ella Hickson’s BOYS. After graduating she produced and directed Luke Barnes’ play Chapel Street at Joshua Brooks and has loved getting involved in the Manchester Fringe Theatre scene.
Katie trained at LIPA studying Theatre and Performance Design. She was the inaugural winner of the Playhouse Studio Graduate Design Prize and went on to design Held, directed by Lorne Campbell and written by Joe Ward Munrow. Katie has worked at The Royal Exchange, The Liverpool Everyman and the Playhouse Studio and is primarily based in the North West.
Shaun studied Law and Environmental Science at the Australian National University where he also directed, acted and designed theatre productions. He has since directed a production of The Sound of Music and is currently is involved with the Contact Young Company. Having established himself on developed scripts, he is currently interested in collaborating with others to create new work exploring pressing social justice issues.
We are the Multitude smashed the 24:7 Big Festival Weekend and then went on tour to Liverpool’s Lantern Theatre!
I’ve never helped a show go on tour before and therefore didn’t know what exactly to expect. Just the weekend before the show had seen four wonderful performances playing to great crowds and to great acclaim so going on tour should be seamless, right? It a lot of ways yes, the cast did a fantastic job and Katie Scott’s set looked just as beautiful but some adjustments had to be made because the space wasn’t exactly the same. How inconvenient!
We arrived at the theatre for a lunchtime get-in and tech to find, as Katie already knew, that the space was smaller than the Martin Harris Centre in length, depth and breadth. This meant that the space for the onstage action was more limited and the space within which the set had to fit was going to be more of a squeeze. The window had to be lowered down on its stand as when in its original position it hit the ceiling. The width of the desk dividers also had to be reduced. And there was another challenge – the wings that were downstage left and right in Martin Harris were now just walls. So with some cable ties and spare wing material Katie made some wings, but they were however now upstage. So when Lisa and Simon blockade the entrance with the chairs and tables it would now be in a different part of the room.
Not big changes (and ones that the actors adapted to seamlessly) but it did make me think about how plays that tour must need to adjust to each space they enter. Lighting rigs may differ, dimensions of the stage may change, entrances and exits may move slightly from show to show. What other challenges (or equally opportunities) may each new venue unveil? May performing in one venue, where changes need to be made, present different ways of presenting the material?
But back in Liverpool, once the set had been rejigged, the lighting reprogrammed and after the actors had a run through, then it was ready for the show! The actors put on a great performance on the Wednesday night and the audience loved it. Hopefully this won’t be the end of We are the Multitude touring and adapting to new spaces. The hard work of Amy, Andy, Laura, Liz, Flora and Katie deserves to be shared more with the wider theatre community!
The first slice of our theatrical sandwich is buttered and ready to be filled – sorry, I’m really hungry! What I mean to say is that up until now, our rehearsals have involved exploring the first half of the play and now we’re getting to the meaty middle – sorry! Hunger pangs again… Before we launched into the latter half of the play, we needed to address the passage of time – around 6 hours. What do Simon and Lisa do to pass the time, to get them to the point where the second scene starts? After letting me and Andy hash it out, we then performed some freeze-frames, which Flora photographed, to summarise what happened during each hour…
|8.20am – 9am
Simon barricades the door, whilst Lisa gathers ‘essentials’
Simon looks for more information on the computer, whilst Lisa inventories their food
|10am – 11am
Both go a bit introverted and try to distract themselves
The waiting game. Lisa needs to urinate and negotiates privacy with Simon
The pair start to eat some food together and initiate small talk
The two have exhausted their games and fall into silence
With our immediate previous circumstances in our bodies, we could plough into the meat of the text (seriously, someone get me a chicken sandwich)! We worked the first unit of this scene, exploring our objectives; there are constant battles for status between Simon and Lisa, almost like a brother and sister – but there is also an internal struggle within each of them as to whether they should be worried for their lives or just grin and bear an awkward situation. Our characters don’t actually have much information about the siege, so there’s peaks and troughs in the energy and pace - flipping from panic to frustration in a moment. The start of this scene is very introspective; conversation and games have lulled, so their pair are musing aloud – trying to provoke each other. There’s lots of questions so Liz had us do an exercise whereby we reallyasked the questions of each other and wouldn’t move on to the next line of text unless we felt our questions would actually be answered. This saves us from falling into the trap of making every question rhetorical (as actors we know what the next line of dialogue or answer will be). Yes this breaks up the text and flow of the piece, which is why we did it as an exercise – whereby we were free to chew over and mull each question.
Liz also had us explore the weight of our words; Lisa and Simon both attack each other in the second half of the play – lots of home truths are brought to light and they need to physically land within each of us. For these exchanges, Liz give both Andy and I a pile of post-it notes; when we felt like we said something that was a ‘shot’ we had to place it on the other person, but also consider where we were hitting them – the mouth, the nose, the heart, the head etc… What was interesting is that Simon kept trying to attack Lisa’s head – shaking her up and making her ‘see’ or learn and understand what he was saying, whereas Lisa was trying to hit him in the chest and heart – get him to emotionally awaken. Andy and I also worked with Liz and Flora individually on our ‘truth’ monologues, whereby our characters pour out their darkest secrets. For me, actioning each line really helped – assigning a transitive verb (e.g. to pierce, to tickle) to lift the colour and direction of the text. We also discussed the deep sense of shame and embarrassment Lisa feels with her revelation; this is the first time she’s actually admitted this and said it aloud, so she’s figuring out what she’s saying and how she feels as she’s saying it. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the weight and gravity of words when performing a monologue – but it needs to be difficult to spit out, as once its out into the ether, its more real. A lot of Lisa’s shame comes as a result of social pressure and at the end, she realises she did everything for nothing – as nobody else cared. Heavy shit man!
We continued in this vein throughout the rest of the play, but I’m being a coquettish tease and not revealing exactly what we got up to – otherwise you won’t bloody come and watch us! However, we spent a lot of time looking at Simon and Lisa’s relationship with each other and the rest of the world; Lisa is in her own little bubble looking out, whilst Simon is in his bubble looking in at himself. Throughout the play, although the two are both isolated and actually very similar, they just miscommunicate all the time because they fail to see things from each other’s viewpoint.
We’ve got just over a week left until we open, so be sure to book your tickets:
Ruddy hell are you still there? Bet you thought I’d forgotten about you! No such luck I’m afraid; I’ve just had my head snugly inserted up my – I mean, deeply immersed in rehearsals. Now I know you’ve all been on tender hooks awaiting updates on the Foursquare tournament, but it’s been a rather traumatic and painful experience… As it stands today Andy has 8 points, Flora has one point – whilst the rest of us ghost behind with nil points. Allow me to take this opportunity to say, this isn’t a result which we ladies take lightly and we’ve been rallying together to knock Andy off his pedestal (which he seems far too comfortable on for my liking)! Oh but the game is so revealing! Tactics are getting dirty; rules are being brought into dispute, backhanded and vicious serves coming into play and even, dare I say it, a bit of shit stirring! The latter of which resulted in Andy being revoked a point. Tensions are running high but it’s still all to play for folks…
Now, where was I? Ah, yes, rehearsals – for this show I’m hoping you’ll see no less! Since I last left you, we’ve really engrossed ourselves in the development of the play – treating ourselves to a rehearsal near enough every day! For me this is really valuable as it keeps the ball rolling and means your character and ideas are constantly being challenged and developed – although don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to a couple of days respite. I’m planning on using this time to digest and process everything we’ve been working on (God that sounds wanky doesn’t it) and to get off book ready for Sunday’s rehearsal – as by then it will be less than week until we open!
Journeying back we’d recorded the entire play, allowing us to play with it physically in the space, so returning to this idea – we repeated this exercise but introduced the geography of the set, so we had something to interact with rather than just each other. Designer Katie and director Liz had also come up with the idea that during the passage of time, Simon and Lisa barricade themselves in the office – piling up the desks etc in front of the exit. Not only does this give me and Andy more freedom in the space but allows us to explore the idea of trapping ourselves or blocking out the outside world – key themes of the play. We’re so lucky to have designer Katie on board; at our production meeting, dream team Blake and Drake shared our character biographies (bit of actor homework, creating a backstory for our characters) allowing the whole team to get a more detailed indication of the characters – leading to a discussion about costume ideas and how the characters imprint their identity within the office environment. For Simon, he desperately doesn’t want to be in the office, he feels trapped and it’s just a place of work – physically he’s present but not in mind or spirit. So for his workspace it’s going to be very minimal and clinical; a coffee mug, a newspaper and a couple of ‘inspirational’ visuals for his writing. Lisa is the polar opposite; the office is her life, it’s where she desperately tries to connect with other people and reveals her emotional immaturity. This spills over into her work space as colour, clutter and sentimentality – photographs, teddy bears, fairy lights etc. We’ll all be mucking in together to source the costumes and props, with the aim of achieving a sense of heightened reality (to compliment the heightened situation).
With Liz and assistant director Flora at the helm, we began to work through the first couple of units of the play – up until the inciting incident of gunfire – probing as to the characters objectives, ensuring that we are actively always trying to affect each other. The opening section of the play gives us a real chance to play with status; invading each other’s space, standing off against one other and battling for equality. With this in mind we tried a couple of exercises to explore status – a particularly helpful one was setting out a row of chairs; one end was the highest status (1) and the other end was the lowest (8) – Andy and I both planted ourselves at the ‘markers’ where we felt our status are at the start of the scene. As the dialogue unfolds we had to move up and down this ‘status ladder’ according to what we felt we were doing to each other – or indeed ourselves, be that raising or lowering status. By physically exploring this, we were able to see where the biggest shifts in status where – which we’ll be able to feed into the scene to find the beats and rhythms, choosing the biggest hits (as there isn’t always a constant power struggle).
The opening of the play has actually proved quite challenging to get our heads round – for Simon and Lisa, this is just another day at the office; although Lisa is thrown off her stride by finding Simon in the office before her for the first time, whilst Simon has been caught in the act of writing mid-flow (today affectionately likened to being caught mid-wank!) So we have to explore this idea of a mundane routine, just another day at the office, whilst exploring the little quirks that show the two are clashing over opposing objectives. To establish Simon and Lisa’s long history together, Liz had us perform a series of improvisations – free from the script to explore how these two characters interact and put up with one another… And importantly, why?! These two characters really irritate each other and after working together for so long, they know how to push each other’s buttons – so what keeps them amicable, why don’t they just lay into each other when things go pear shaped in the play? We also explored what our characters jobs are within the Finance Department and how the two might interact or reply upon one another to get aspects of their jobs done. Liz gave us a variety of scenarios to explore, including; 6 months before the start of the play when Simon has broken up with his girlfriend Joy and the first time Lisa’s bullying diary is introduced into the office, the last Friday before the office Christmas party, the first time Lisa receives flowers on her desk, the day after Simon and Lisa have a meeting with line manager Cheryl after Lisa lodges a complaint against Simon, what happens when Simon explodes and swear at Lisa and finally, the two trying to make conversation – finding common ground. Aside from being hugely entertaining for director Liz (and providing ample material for a new office-based sketch show), these improvs showed that over time the two have learnt where each other’s ‘line’ is and the repercussions for crossing them. For me, I managed to latch onto the idea that Lisa is actually very emotionally manipulative; bursting into tears and causing a scene to guilt others to get attention or her own way. Poor Simon… Although – hey, wait, he’s just downright mean to Lisa at times! Talk about a superiority complex!
To round off these couple of days, we explored our favourite exercise again – the silent sketch show! Although this was mainly for writer Laura’s benefit to show the arc of the play and characters emotional journeys, it was exceptionally well timed as we had access to the space at ALRA North (an old cotton mill), which was hugely extensive. This time again ignoring the actual geography of the set, we were allowed to explore the characters in this wider environment, not having to perform to a specific audience… In fact at times, both Andy and I disappeared into the various crevices of the building – which is hugely liberating, not having to worry about ‘performing’, instead just inhabiting the character. Now that we’ve got our footing with the opening of the play and an idea of where we’re working towards, we can spend the next few rehearsals unravelling the heart of the play – whereby Simon and Lisa begin to pick each other to pieces… Ooh my saliva glands are already going!
But that folks is a story for another day…
We are just over a week away from the 24:7 Weekend! We are the Multitude is in intense rehearsal mode with Amy Drake and Andrew Blake exploring their new alter egos Lisa and Simon with Liz Stevenson (director) and Flora Anderson (assistant director) guiding them on their way. The story of two cubicle buddies (office cubicles, obviously) who have failed to find any common ground, despite their extreme everyday geographical closeness.
Now I’ve been where Lisa and Simon are at. I’ve worked for universities and Government departments and have met the whole range of people – the one who is in the job while they’re ‘in between’ even though that’s been five years and counting, the overly enthusiastic one who (once you learn their job description) you fail to comprehend how they can love it so much, the one who has been there for twenty years and has gained a knack of clicking away from Facebook at the precise moment before their boss notices. You hear stories of where people dreamed of being, against where they’ve ended up, and you’re too afraid to ask what horrible set of unfortunate events occurred between the dream and the reality.
And the more I see how Lisa and Simon react to the situation they find themselves in, the more I think how would each of those people react? And how would I react? Would an attack on my (metaphorical) office shake up my life? And if one never came, would my life go by unshaken? SHAKE IT UP!
You know that old adage – “you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family”? Well I think it should be – “you can pick your friend, but you can’t pick your family, but you also can’t pick the person you have to sit next to at work day in and day out and you probably spend more waking hours with them as you do any of those pre-mentioned family that you haven’t chosen so I think that’s a much bigger concern we need to face up to!”
Not only is We are the Multitude (the cool kids are saying WATM, apparently) is about these #firstworldproblems a lot of us face but at the same time it discusses the bigger issues surrounding education, Government, budget cuts and privilege. The first budget delivered by George Osbourne for the new Government has cut maintenance grants and now students who had previously used that money to get by at university are now going to leave university and spend even more of their lives riddled with debt. How much more of a burden can the Government put on students back before they break? And what will this breaking look like?
WATM (it’ll catch on) captures the micro and the macro, the serious and the not so serious, of what is affecting us right now.
I’ll try to keep these blogs short and sweet/sour (depending on my acid reflux), mainly as I don’t want to reveal too much about the show – but also because I worry I only have a minute sense of self-restraint left when it comes to this blogging business. Day one – here’s a funny albeit tasteless joke I made in rehearsals… Day nine – here’s where my bowel habits are at today… It’s a slippery slope, you see?
Anywho, just a quick run down of where we’re at production-wise… should keep you satiated – you fiends! We’ve confirmed our production team, which we’re all giddy and suitably pant-wettingly excited about; written by the luminous Laura Harper, directed by award-winning Liz Stevenson, assistant directed by the fantastic Flora Anderson, produced by our sizzling Shuan Wykes (Foot in the Door trainee), designed by the incredible Katie Scott (do you know how hard it is to illiterate the letter ‘k’?!) and featuring the talent of Andy Blake and unbridled humour of… well, me. Now the real fun begins…
No really, the first meeting was delightful! Which was possibly helped along by the fact that I brought enough of Tesco’s finest snacks to feed the 5000 and Liz provided pizzas and ample liquid refreshments in the way of wine, beer and maybe a bit of the hard H20… It’s true what they say, well-fed actors are happy actors! Important rehearsal note one. So after the preliminaries were exchanged, wine uncorked and chairs assembled, we cruised through our first read-through. There’s nothing quite like the excitement of a first read-through; this was the first time we had all met together, our Team Multitude, and the first time Andy and I had read opposite each other – so it was refreshing and rewarding to see how our energies played off one another. It’s also the first time we’ve all heard the script in its entirety read aloud – we each explored certain excerpts from the script at the auditions, but exploring the characters journey throughout the entire play is a different beast all together. It was really insightful; from a practical perspective, it gives us a sense of running time and how certain technicalities can be achieved but another aspect is seeing what lines do or don’t ring true, what bits of character need developing – what does/doesn’t work. It’s one of the few read-throughs I’ve ever done where I’ve been wet through with sweat at the end! Woah betide the audience – maybe we should have a Shamu warning sign… the first 5 rows WILL get wet!
Once we’d digested both food and text, we did a bit of housekeeping… no I didn’t help wash up – we finalised our rehearsal schedule, and everyone got dished out their homework for the week. For Shuan, he’ll be working on developing the social media/marketing, Laura and Liz will be finalising some finer details with the script itself – working through a few tweaks and plotting the objectives through the story… as for Andy and I (the dream team Blake and Drake as I shall now refer us…) we have been asked to complete some character research, to be discussed in individual meetings with Liz at the end of the week. Finally, all those years of hard swotting come to good use! We’ve been asked to collate a list of; what our character says about ourself & other characters, what other characters say about us and indisputable facts. Any drama school graduates will be thinking… YES FINALLY – a use for Stanislavski’s Lists!!! And sadly enough, that was my first thought too… It’s something I usually do for my actor’s working notebook for whatever project I work on (a folder with character findings, research, script notes etc) – but actually being openly invited not only to DO it, but also share my findings…?! Well, my geek specks just skipped a beat!
Our evening drew to a close and all departed… well, us ladies perhaps indulging in another glass of wine (those Minstrels did need polishing off too)! Blake and Drake (<< that’s me in case you forgot) will be meeting Liz to explore the findings of our characters before a second read-through and table work on Sunday evening. I can see a filthy weekend habit emerging… well I can think of worse vices! Until then – g’night, g’bless!