For the past year I have had the privilege of working with Fourth Monkey Theatre Company, and in a few weeks time we will be performing our repertory season at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We are taking up three shows, with every actor in two shows and each show double cast. We are taking up a female-dominated version of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest along with two new pieces, one called The Peculiar Tale of Pablo Picasso and the Mona Lisa following Picasso’s early years in Paris and the other Sans Salome looking at Wilde’s incarceration in 1895, along with a woman trapped emotionally in 2013, both due to a “love that dare not speak its name”. I will be performing in the latter two and have been lucky enough to work with two directors who have completely contrasting styles of direction.
The Peculiar Tale of Pablo Picasso and the Mona Lisa looks at Picasso’s struggle to find his artistic voice. The surrealist nature of his style is illustrated by the absurd world around him that he grapples to transfer into his art. Our Director, Steve Green, also the founder of the company, takes a physical approach to the rehearsal process. Even the first read-through took place on its feet, and from there we developed our characters by finding their physicality and how they move.
Many of the characters we are playing are famous figures, not least Picasso himself, but from an early stage Steve made it clear that he didn’t want us to imitate these people; he wanted us to find their emotional journeys and then illustrate that as it makes sense to us. The piece on the whole is notably physical and stylised, meaning that we have spent large periods of rehearsal focusing on specific scenes and sequences, developing an intricate level of detail within them. There is a relentless drive to the production, so much so that we have been told we should feel exhausted by the end of each production.
In contrast, Sans Salome is a far more naturalistic piece that attempts to present the incredibly real strife that the different characters have to endure. Toby Clarke, our Director, begins everything from the text, breaking it apart to establish the arc of the scene, where the events occur and each character’s motivation. This gives the production a more measured feel to it: each character’s struggle should be felt poignantly by the audience, with the plot posing as many questions as it answers. However, the piece is still stylised to a certain degree, with the ensemble fundamental to the progression of the story and creating the environment.
Having this contrast of styles has enabled me to get through problems when they present themselves. When struggling with elements of the script in Picasso, I have used the techniques implemented by Toby to deconstruct it and find a solution. Equally, I have used physical techniques to develop my character in Sans Salome to give a distinct feel to the character. Hopefully our season in Edinburgh will offer a taste of repertory style of work and how beneficial the intensity of the rehearsal process is to young actors.
Photo by Flickr user Bert Kaufman under a Creative Commons Licence.