It is some weeks since I sat down to write the first instalment of this blog, but I hope that you all appreciate that since then there has been a tremendous amount of hard work being done in all facets of this production.
First of all let me introduce you to our cast. Kate will delight you in the role of Sandy the Entertainer, Becki will move you to tears as Eve the Volunteer, Kaela will amaze and amuse you as the Nurse, Naomi will take you on a magical tour of duty as Ruth the Journalist and finally Gillian will hold you in the palm of her hand as Margaret the wife of the returned Vet.
The cast have ‘bonded’, there is no other word for it, over these past weeks and I swear they are as close as family. This is the most rewarding thing about a production. I see it time and time again. People involved in “theatre”, are usually very passionate about what they do, be it acting, lighting, costumes, stage management or simply working on the set or at the bar on performance nights. They give up their time with families and friends and their theatre family become very close to them. This ensures that despite the hard work ahead there is also great reward and FUN to be had.
But back to rehearsals – the girls have been working with both Hayden (our MD) and me on the play. Hayden started tutoring the five girls with their songs. I made it clear that the music component of this play should never dominate the dialogue. Hayden and the girls have worked very hard at achieving this. I asked, initially, that the accompaniment sound like a flute. This would I hope, give a haunting quality to the songs. Hayden, with his excellent ear for music, suggested a couple of the songs should have a more substantial sound behind them. This was a great idea and we incorporated it into the production. I will be interested in hearing your opinion after the show.
Three of the girls sing solos, but all five actors contribute to the songs. Considering that not one of the girls is a singer, in the performance sense of the word, I am so proud of this aspect of the production, and while you do not see Hayden during the performance, he is hidden close by, playing the beautiful sounds that accompany our cast. Thank you, Hayden.
The dialogue of the play is like a spell on the senses. The girls couldn’t wait to start learning the dialogue. Thankfully this appeared reasonably easy for them all so it wasn’t long before we started examining where each character came from and how their experiences in Vietnam affected them. When you come to the play you will see five very different characters on the stage. You see that they come from a varied background and follow their journeys to the conclusion of the play.
The play is full of symbolism and I have chosen to demonstrate this in many different ways. The most obvious is through colour. Each of the characters wears a different colour, which symbolises something very special about their lifestyles. Our Entertainer wears pink, the Volunteer is dressed in Green, the Nurse has the traditional Blue colouring, the Journalist is resplendent in the royal Purple and I have chosen Gold for the returned Vet’s wife, to represent her heart of gold.
I can’t thank Gillian and Theresa enough for the countless hours they have put in over their sewing machines. Theresa confided to me that they have renamed the foyer of Javeenbah Theatre as “The G & T Sweatshop”. It was not the most comfortable working space for them to create the costumes in 35 degree temperatures, with constant high humidity. However, the result is spectacular and I can’t thank them enough for the magic they added to our production.
Back to rehearsals! Every Director has their own method of handling the rehearsal period. There are Eleven Scenes in the play. Each scene consists of a number of Monologues from the characters. I started working one scene at a time with the girls. We would ‘block it’ and work it each rehearsal until the girls understood the basic meaning of each monologue and its context within the scene.
When we had rehearsed the first five scenes, I chose to create an interval. We then put together the five scenes and ran it as the First Act. When I was sure that we had a handle on this, we moved on to Act Two, using the same process till we reached the final curtain.
I must admit that the cast were a little worried that they would forget everything they had done in Act One, when we returned to it. But behold, without scripts they found they were almost word and move perfect after one run through!!! From this point on, one of the most important things a Director has to do is convince the cast that they really can perform the play without benefit of script or prompt!!!
And talking about our prompt, I must say a few words about Doreen. Some of you may know that Doreen has had a couple of medical issues lately. When it was first announced last year that I was directing "M&M", Doreen approached me and asked to be part of the team as prompt. She hadn't even read the play, but was keen to work with me. I took this as a great compliment and of course said yes. This year she knew she was scheduled for some surgery, but still turned up on day one to be prompt even though she was only a couple of days out of hospital. The prompt is one of those essential members of the team that provide the actors with the confidence to plough ahead with their dialogue during rehearsal, knowing that she has their backs. Doreen did this quietly and without effort. We missed her terribly when she unfortunately had to return to hospital for tests. Ginny stood in for her, but we all know that Doreen always will be part of Team M&M. Thanks Doreen.
Our rehearsals were full of interest. It was amazing to find the beautiful words were full of meaning. We could deliver them in so many different ways. The nuances were endless! We laughed and cried and laughed some more as we worked our way ever onwards. Who knew we could have so much fun? Who knew that a simple chair could be so many different things? You will have to come and see for yourselves to get the answer!
Meantime, there is a set to be created and the spell of lighting and sound to be woven. The people who attend to this wizardry would most probably tell you that they are not creative, but merely carrying out manual work. Not so!!!
My husband Grant, most probably understands me and my ideas the best. I am known for forgetting people’s names and my memory can often go into reverse. He is my support, the source of my imagination and the love of my life. Without him I doubt I could achieve as much as I have both in and out of theatre. He is especially important in realising the setting of most of my plays.
Together with Abbey, Ginny, Kate and Charli, and Colin, Grant was able to establish the simple yet effective setting for M&M. We even coerced Kate’s dad Brian to construct the bar. Thank you everyone for your time, effort and creative talent in putting all of this together.
One of the most evocative and magical components of M&M is the lighting. Javeenbah is so fortunate to have Colin in charge of their Technical Area. I like to think of Colin (whom I refer to a lot of the time as Malcolm – there I go again with names) as a friend. He works in a very methodical manner, putting down a base of light then expands and diversifies that base with effects, colours, spots and special effects of which I know very little about.
One of the most memorable moments in this rehearsal period was the moment Colin turned on the stage lights for a rehearsal and brought us all to a standstill. Colin’s evocative lighting design is stunning. He is also responsible for the sound operation and finding sound effects for the production. None of us can do without him. Mind you as his wife, Gillian, is in the production I can guarantee that he wouldn’t dare leave her in the dark!!!! Grateful thanks to this wizard in the bio box.
The show is in the more than capable hands of our Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager, Ginny and Abbey. In a lot of the plays I have directed over the past thirty years, the SM turns up about a month before opening night. Ginny is so dedicated to making sure that she is the best SM she can be, that she has not left my side since day one of the rehearsal period. Those of you who know her personally will also laugh when I tell you that if anybody couldn’t make rehearsal she read in for the absent actor. However when they heard from us all how wonderfully she performed in their absence, they didn’t dare miss another rehearsal. It is somehow comforting to know we have an understudy for the production!!!!!! My love to both Ginny and Abbey for not only the talent they bring to this area, but for also being two of our much loved friends.
I love my role as Director. I love watching it all come together. I love discussion of characters and text of the play. I love the way the cast and crew grow as a family. I love the respect I feel from the entire team. I love sitting in the auditorium each night of the run and see the MAGIC on that stage. I also love our audiences, who come to escape their everyday life and look to take home a little of the magic. And there is no doubt about it, there is magic in every theatre you enter.
I hope that I have shown you how important the rehearsal process is. How even more important the people involved in every facet of the production are. As I said in my first blog, it is the creative input of the entire team that results in a fabulous production.
Our reward is an audience that will laugh and cry along with us. We want to share M&M with you, so please come and see us in performance at Javeenbah Theatre sometime in April. It really will be worth it.