Covid. Plastic sheets. Sanitiser.
Our first day in a rehearsal space since February. A monumental day. But a day that I have personally been working towards for years and am very grateful that we have been able to proceed, despite the world collapsing around us.
Today we began the second Research and Development on PLATE, a play written by me, on a subject very close to my heart. Weight. Weight loss. Weight gain. Expectations. Honesty. Love. Is love conditional? Unconditional? What do we expect of others? Oh, I could go on, but I'll shut up now. There is too much to explore in this piece, which is why I need a room of people to help guide me. I would like to give a special shout-out here to the brilliant Darren Jeffries & Keeley Fitzgerald who were our original team in 2019 and helped this play beyond my wildest dreams.
I felt it would be nice to blog from inside the rehearsal room, to share a little bit of insight into our process. Especially with times being what they are. The fact we are in this room together at all feels like an absolute privilege. So - here goes! I hope you enjoy.
Freshly printed scripts (in sanitised plastic sheets) lay on the table, awaiting everyone's arrival. We have Sam Redway (our Dramaturg / Leader), Gemma North and Jason Lamar Ricketts (our actors) and two developing directors, who are shadowing the process.
Once teas & coffees were made, we sat down to a first read-through. I have been developing this play for years and years and hearing the most recent draft aloud, was a wonderful way to kick off. But of course, as a writer, all you can hear is what's wrong. You cringe, you wince, you die inside. Even if there are trickles of laughter, and even despite these brilliant actors making your words sound far better than you could have hoped, you still die inside.
There is a lot of work to do.
We paused for a little break after the read, with Sam and I scribbling notes, then the real work begins.
Excersise 1: Post Read-through discussion.
Sam kicked off by asking us all to write down what WE think is the Journey of the Play?
What has to change? What is the world that exists at the beginning and how do we end up at the end?
Myself and Faith (shadow director) focused on the play as a whole, while Gemma and Jason wrote from their character's perspective. Charlie, for example, who is she at the start of this piece. What is her world? Her world view? Her status quo? And then, what does that look like by the end of the play?
I shall mention here that PLATE takes place over a mere 24-hour period. It is a one-day affair, which opens up a host of difficulties regarding character development. How much can someone change in such a short amount of time? I have an idea in my head of what happens to these two people, but now the hard work is making sure what's in my head, can be received by an audience.
After 5-10 minutes of scribbling, we shared our ideas with each other, with me writing down a lot of helpful insights that everyone had picked up. We also noticed there were some recurring ideas & themes, which is also a very good sign.
Exercise 2: Questions for the Characters
Sam's second exercise was to give a sense of an overall objective and intention. What is your character trying to do throughout this play? As someone who is both an actor and a writer, it still baffles me that these relatively simple question can still seem so unreachable at times. You can spend years obsessing over every word of a play and then, something so fundamental keeps you scratching your head at the end. Ohh the beautify of dramaturgy!
As a sneak insight - here was one of my favourite lines of the day: 'Two people who could never be honest with themselves, find a way to be honest with each other.'
Exercise 3: The Unanswerable Question / Eternal Questions
Plate suffers a little bit from being timely and topical. Sam and I laugh, because every few months it feels like a giant chunk of the play is suddenly irrelevant or no longer correct. For example: there is a line about plus sized models, that is no longer true. And a line about children's novels, that is no longer true.
So, do i let my play sit in a time capsule? Representing a different time, right on the edge of when progression is taking place? Or, as Sam suggests in this exercise, focus in on the eternal questions. What are the eternal questions within this piece?
This is something I will continue mulling throughout the week... perhaps even for another few years!
After a meaty discussion around expectations and weight that lasted a good few hours, it was 5pm and time to head home.
A fruitful, provocative and meaningful first day. See you tomorrow!
HER Productions are seeking contributions for a new verbatim theatre show about living with a mental health condition, reaching ‘rock bottom’ and building a pathway to recovery.
If you identify as someone who has reached a severe mental state, and hit ‘rock bottom’ we would love to hear from you.
What is Verbatim Theatre?
Verbatim is a form of theatre, constructed from the precise words spoken by real people, interviewed about a particular event or topic.
What is ‘Rock Bottom’?
Rock Bottom is personal, and bespoke. For the purposes of this project, we are defining rock bottom as that moment you were at your lowest possible point and realised you needed to make a change.
We understand these are highly personal and individual experiences. Our small team believe in a safe space; with ample support and compassion. We have options of how we can gather your story in a way that makes you most comfortable and have support from a trained psychologist who can offer additional support (either pre or post meeting) if required.
We would love to meet with contributors in person or over Zoom, allowing the option to record sessions via audio or video for use in the rehearsal process.
If you’re interested in meeting up with a member of our small team to share your story, please email email@example.com telling us:
- a little bit about yourself
- if you're happy to be recorded on audio or video sharing your story with a member of our team
- your availability the week of 28th of September - 3rd of October.
All expenses for meetings will be covered by HER Productions.
We are also offering the option to fill out an anonymous Google Form if you would rather contribute via the written word. We have offered a few prompts, but there is no word count and you can offer as much or little as you feel comfortable with. Simply hit the button below to be taken to our survey and share that way.
Thank you warmly from the team behind ‘Rock Bottom’
ROCK BOTTOM is a new verbatim theatre show exploring real stories around mental health, reaching ‘rock bottom’ and paving a pathway to recovery.
We are interested in meeting MANCHESTER-BASED actors from a range of backgrounds, skills and perspectives, with existing verbatim theatre experience.
Any lived experience of the subject matter is welcomed but not essential. We are looking for an ensemble, who are comfortable with this subject matter and willing to play. Actors please note that we will operate a ‘safe space’, with support available to the ensemble from our community partner, Industry Minds.
We are particularly interested in hearing from actors of colour, actors 40+ or actors who identify as disabled to help us represent a diverse range of stories and experiences.
Actors please note, we may ask the ensemble to participate in story-gathering and finding first-hand accounts to explore as part of the R&D week.
To apply, please send your CV / Spotlight, headshot & information about why this appeals to you and what you can bring to the rehearsal room to firstname.lastname@example.org
Deadline for submissions: Friday 18th September
Casting Date: Friday 25th September
R&D Dates: October 5th – 9th
For any questions or to ask for more information - please email email@example.com