You're joining us today and I haven't written another one of these blogs for you to catch up on what we've been up to this week. Whoops. Just the highlights, then.
We've found quite a different rhythm of work to most of our devising periods in the past. Before, we've tended to run quite long-form improvisations and exercises to briefs I've set, then simply pick out what we like and try to hone it. We've tried to figure out why something spontaneous has worked, then find how to plan for it.
This week we've come at it from a range of different angles, but very seldom that one. For the first two days, we had Fiammetta, our designer, in the room. So we talked a lot about how the set might work and what opportunities it might give for play, and for storytelling. Sometimes these conversations bubbled into an idea for a sequence, and we'd then explore that practically. As with the best of these moments I can't remember how it happened, but the introduction of one moveable set item in particular has opened up the whole show, includes lots of our old material, in a very exciting and very funny way. The item is a coffin, or something like one. And sometimes we just talked through it, and that was great too.
We've also spent a lot of time talking about music and listening to music, to get towards what kind of music Jack might make for us to play in the show. One memorable jam session, featuring extensive percussion played on Dan's head, pointed towards a whole new way of reaching the climax of the show. It's more brutal and less restrained than what we have already, and I think all the better for it.
Yesterday we worked only half the day, due to a huge and extraordinary event taking place at Northern Stage. Called Stronger Together, it was a national conversation about collaboration, in all the forms that's relevant in the arts. (The least relevant bit was a fifteen-minute work-in-progress of my performance lecture The Price of Everything, but it was huge fun to share.) It was a real privilege to be part of Northern Stage yesterday. My regional theatre was showcased as a genuine national hub, with satellite events in Bristol, Manchester and London reporting back to us via video link. Thrilling.
When devising, one sees relevance in everything and draws parallels everywhere. Interesting that you should talk to me about the death of your grandmother – that reminds me of this bit of my show. Still, yesterday afternoon seemed an apposite comment on our process this week, which has often been slower and more contemplative than in the past, but has also created much more space for ideas, whatever their form and from whomever they come
We spent yesterday morning storyboarding, figuring out often in some detail whether what we're trying to tell the audience makes sense. That also often bubbled over into generating actual material, plenty of which is for keeps. We only got about halfway through before Stronger Together, and the second half is where it might stop making sense. So this is where we're going to start when you join us this morning: talking through story elements and laying the framework of games to play with them. We'll certainly play some of those games.
Today we also have the wonderful Alex Kelly in the room with us. Alex is co-director of Third Angel, who've made some of my favourite ever shows, one of which in particular was a huge influence and inspiration to me when, as a student, I was just starting to think about maybe doing this professionally. Alex is mentoring me over the next few months as we put together this show and I put together The Price of Everything. He'll bring a whole other set of provocations and inspirations. He's also a lovely, lovely man. At the end of Stronger Together yesterday, Alex did a performance in which he named everyone with whom he's collaborated in twenty years of work. It was funny, and beautiful and everything you want and I'm so delighted to add our names to that long and august list.
You're joining us today partly because we've got a showing tomorrow afternoon (4.30). This week isn't about preparing material for a showing. It's about answering some specific questions about design, music and story. But inevitably – it is tomorrow - we'll talk about the showing a little. What I really want, though, is to carry on the process we've enjoyed so far this week, but with the full team. We may end up, tomorrow, with such a clear idea of everything that we decide to improvise the whole show at 4.30. We may end up giving a presentation and showing tiny bits of three or four scenes, some of which we've done before. Either of these and everything in between is fine, and we don't need to decide until the last possible minute.
Whatever we do, we're all so excited to have you back in the room with us today. Safe trip.
PS - you'll notice this was posted three days after you were in the room with us for two days. My website inexplicably locked me out. I've now broken back in.
Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will