Thursday, July 06, 2006

Interesting Events, Aurora Lubos

So, we finished the rehearsal period and we have got a show !!!
Well not so great, because the premiere was full of surprises for me.
I don’t even know where to start. Well I knew that the show is hard because wearing furry hut, a coat hunger on top of it and attached man jacket back to front it’s not the easier costume to wear, first of all you can’t see very well through little hols and its really hot, you can hardly breath in this outfit and at the same time I have to move along not very friendly set full of pots, barrows, ropes, boxes… metal things, wires and so on and so on.

When you are a performer you have got from time to time nightmares about that you forgot the costume or you forgot the movement or your script but I’ve never had one that would be about not be able to see, basically being blind folded all the way through the hole show.
Well I’m might be not dreaming about it but it happened in the premiere.
So all that beautifully crafted and choreographed performance turned to a disaster for me.
I tripped over every possible object
I didn’t catch and of the pots which where thrown at me.
I didn’t hit any of the counts in any of the dance because ones I end up in the barrow I lost it completely.
I slide on the egg.
I smashed my face on the slide thinking that I still have got a meter to jump on it.
I didn’t bang any of the objects in the percussion dance instead I was banging the air with my stick.
Hm….Not a good beginning of the tour at all.
But to finish on a positive note, the following performance next day was great and any of the above things took place. So I’m looking forward to do it again and again and again…

Dilemmas and Disasters, Patrycja Kujawska

7.30 a.m. I hear the ugly sound of alarm clock. First thought- I am going be on the stage in few hours. Strong coffee and shower doesn’t really wake me up – how on earth am I going do this if my brain and body are still sleeping…

8.00 a.m. I am waiting in front of the Grindstone pub with my Tesco bags full of costumes to be picked up by Jim. I look inside the pub through the window and wonder, “Should I change my occupation and become a barmaid instead of exposing myself in front of a bunch of unknown people?” At least I could sleep until midday…

8.05 a.m. Lubos (Aurora) joins me with her suitcase. Soon after Jim arrives with his van completely packed with our set and props, and we set off from Sheffield to meet the adventure. We look a little bit like small “family circus” which goes from one little town to another giving the show of our lives. Little “Yorkshire La Strada”

9.45 a.m. We arrive at the theatre, little building, small but comfortable stage, narrow corridors, tiny dressing rooms, toilets with door locks not working properly and smell of cigarettes in the Green Room – all looks slightly old but very familiar and friendly – it reminds me of some venues in Poland, where you can feel the history of all the performances played there. We unpack the van, build the rubbish tip made of metal, wood, plastic crates, ropes, buckets, old tyres, aluminium pots, shit loads of cardboard; woodchips, old bike and radio, and God knows what else (I still can’t believe that we’ve paid quite a lot of money for all this crap!). A while later, Jim sets all the lighting and our set looks great. I think we all agreed that everyone of us would like to have one in our playgrounds when we were kids. Sound check and we are ready to rock!

5 mins to opening. Me and Lubos are rubbing some mud on our legs and hands and messing our hair up to get the look like we’ve been living in the den for ages. Minute of panic – did I set everything that I need? (high heels, wellies, skirt, fur coat, coat hanger, bag, pots in right place, instruments, fox etc. – anyway the list is so long that I am never 100% sure that I didn’t forget something).

The show begins…

…and after 2 minutes Lubos alarms me in Polish that she’s forgotten to set her costume trousers. Oh dear, oh dear, that’s going to be comedy to watch her all the show running around in jacket and boys’ shorts – what a pickle! It took me quite a while to get used to the idea but the show must go on. Anyway, the audience doesn’t know that she should have pants on.

Next few scenes go more or less smoothly until it’s my turn to do something wrong.

Tea party scene – there’s a lot of throwing pots around, messing with mud, water, smashing eggs and unfortunately I pour too much water into a pot filled with mud and while I’m turning with the pot in my hand, half of the mud lands on the first row of the audience. I finished the turn and I spotted 3 little kids in their cute white tops covered in ugly mud. It was a disaster. I thought the parents would try to stop the show. To my surprise, they didn’t. It was hard to re-compose myself because I felt really devastated.

We’ve managed to finish the show all right and the audience response was great overall but both Lubos and I knew it wasn’t a genius one. Even one of the last scenes (my favourite one) when Lubos, gives me a little flashing light by way of an apology which later I hold flashing in my hands – and the scene usually moves both of us dearly – on this performance felt quite empty.

Well, above all, I think these little “errors” happening during the show can be sometimes very useful – you have to remind yourself about precision, check your props not 5 but 10 times. It keeps you on your toes.

Apart from this awkward show, most of the others during the tour went well I guess. You could sense it from the kids and adults responses, but the most valuable of all was that we as performers enjoyed rummaging around the rubbish tip! There were loads of precious moments when we were amused or had a tear in our eyes when we were discovering new little things and times when we managed to surprise each other on the stage.

And that’s why I actually…don’t want to be a barmaid. I love and appreciate what I do and I hope I will never lose this excitement of performing.

Aurora’s Thoughts

Can we make a children show? What to make and how to make it? Is the approach the same as for the adult show we did previously?

Well… I could make a long list of questions and we did one at the very beginning of the process and we questioned every idea and tried to find answers for all of them. But when it came to showing it to the age group that we were aiming for, we were not sure if we would get it right – would they understand what we were trying to say, would they be exited or we had we got it wrong from the beginning?

In the creating process I had to retry to think like a child, I had to follow my instinct, the memories from my childhood, I had to recall what I was interesting when I was little, what made my laugh, frightened, happy, think about what I played with, what noises or sounds I was making…

Trying to enter the children’s world, and creating a child’s language through trying different ideas, creating scenes; mixing them up became more and more a part of it. But the process wasn’t smooth and easy at all. My attitude towards the material and the concept shifted from liking it, being bored by it, being really disappointed or even unhappy to finally finding some answers, re-finding the excitement and pleasure with one of the ideas which was about doing the whole show as two weird characters with coats over their heads.

So actually what I found out was that the creating process is not much different from making a show for adults. It’s again taking one idea and increasing and developing it to the maximum and working from it.

There were a lot of things, which pushed me as a performer in this project. The main thing was the mixture of skills that we were playing with - the musical, vocal, silent movie acting, and puppetry and perhaps most of all the movement material whilst being blindfolded.

I think one of the hardest things was to think about myself as a puppet, a character that can act most of the times only with form, gesture and sound. You are loosing your face, your eyes and your facial expression is not visible but you still have to be expressive and readable in your emotions.

At one point during the rehearsal process I said to Charlotte (the director) “I can’t work this way”. When I tried to explain that I have to feel first and when I do I can move or act more truly and naturally. But that wasn’t the way we worked this time. The acting had to happen through the body as puppet, through the form, not through my head. My freedom as a performer was taken away for a short time, but then what a pleasure when it’s given back within the structure of a show! I could finally find myself and just play.

Patrycja’s Thoughts

The first question I’ve asked myself on the very beginning of the devising process of Fairy Tale was how should I approach the issue of playing a child whilst being a 30-year-old woman? One of my general rules in theatre is not to “pretend” just “be”. I found that a lot of performers make mistake with mixing these two terms, rather than finding the way to “become” a certain character they “act” (pretend). Although the border between these two words can seem fluid or blurred, for me they are completely different things. When one finds a way to “be” on the stage, that’s when the performance becomes believable, becomes true.

So how will I get to the stage of “becoming” a child, when the first thing the audience will see is my physicality – 170 cm height, quite large breasts, thin and a muscular legs – all together rather very feminine. I remember one of the rehearsals when I put on for the first time my costume – too big fake fur coat, and 3 sizes too big high-heels. Charlotte looked at me, she laughed and commented “You look like a man in drag” (not quite the comment I would like to hear, but hey!). But because my “performance sister” is a lot småçaller than me, we’ve decided that emphasising the difference between us would be an interesting idea. (To reduce the size of my breasts and to make them as small as possible I was going through an everyday procedure of bandaging them before every rehearsal).

The other layer of thinking, how to create a child within myself was a question how the child moves. I must admit I was struggling with it and it took quite a long time to find slightly a different way of running around. The number of times I’ve heard from TC and Charlotte that if I’m standing too straight, I look like an ostrich, that when I’m trying to make myself a bit smaller apparently I look like an old lady, that my walk is still too adult and generally I move too chaotically. These were the moments of despair when I was thinking “I’m not going to make it”.

And the last layer of process “how to be like a child” was programming my mind to think like a child. I found it especially interesting – digging in my memory trying to recall pictures from past. What would make me scared when I was small? What would make me laugh or cry? How long I would sustain playing with one toy? How would I negotiate to play with another kid? How imaginative was I? How inventive was I? Trying to re-find a sense of naivety.

One of most enjoyable moments was when TC and Charlotte set a long improvisation to let me just be in the rubbish tip on my own, just to enjoy the company of myself and all the objects around me. I adore these moments when as an actor you are allowed to play around certain rules and discover things, with no right or wrong, without being judged. I found myself switching off for a moment my grown up – logical thinking, somehow I lost the sense of time, I could animate things so they were alive- suddenly piece of rubber pipe became a snake, long plastic tube was a see-saw which I could swing with my invisible friend on etc.

After this particular improvisation I felt like I owned the space a bit more - a step forward, the most satisfying thing is to find a good dialogue with your stage partner. It’s not the first time I have worked with Lubos, we have known each other for years, and have witnessed all sorts of emotional states together so we understand each other’s everyday dynamics, and we share the same enthusiasm for the work we do, as well as moments of despair, being lost, empty-headed, losing direction, losing belief in yourself. And this level of understanding adds the great value to the work.

And when you find out - when you achieve a consciousness of how you look, move, think, what’s your relationship like with your stage partner, when the directors put all the pieces of the puzzle together in the right place, you know you are ready to confront the result of 5 weeks of work with the audience. And that’s when the different dimension of discovery begins.