In the Rehearsal Room with The Bare Project (12 Feb 2018)

Natalie Ann Hillman

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had the pleasure of being in rehearsals with The Bare Project for their touring show On the Outskirts of a Large Event I worked with them a couple of times over my gap year and really enjoyed learning about their approach to theatre making and on this occasion particularly I felt I learnt a lot from observing Malaika direct. Personally, I find it so valuable to be in these kinds of situations, it’s great to be in rehearsals and see the work that goes into the production. These experiences continually motivate me to pursue creating my own work and expand my knowledge of creating theatre and this was certainly no exception. In this post I aim to give a little of my own insight, without giving much away, about the writing and style of the show and reflect a little on the rehearsal process and my experience alongside some shots I took of rehearsals.

The play itself…

Maybe I’m biased, but I think this play is really interesting on a number of levels.

Firstly, the themes it explores have depth, are thoughtful and in turn prompt you to question and wonder about new things. When I initially sat down, had a proper read through of the script and noted down some thoughts about it before rehearsals started I already felt like there were lots of intriguing concepts within this play to explore. Looking back over these now I can see how I’d written down notes about distorted sense of time, a misuse of power and desire for control, victim blaming along with questions sparked by the presentation of propaganda such as are the societies within the play innocent or ignorant, are they willing to hear the truth or accept false truth and do we often as humans fail to see the bigger picture and have enough distance to understand the consequences of our actions.

The play itself is described as ‘Exploring themes of memory loss, the environment and blame culture’ and during the rehearsal process the writer Joe also talked about these ideas and his inspiration which further sparked interesting discussions about the world of the play, the psychological experiences of those within it and what messages the play leaves. Ultimately, its a piece of writing that can leave you evaluating your own sense of self as well as the characters and can force you to examine your perceptions of both the fictional world and our world further and provides lots of exciting and fresh things to think about and discuss.

Furthermore, the play also is written in an exceptionally clever way and achieves a lot. Essentially, the play interweaves several elements and techniques together and creates a nice blend throughout of magic realism and moments of lightness and humour, of the present and glimpses/memories of the past and of dialogue and very narrative sections. Particularly in Act 2 where the storytelling comes into play more these narrative sections feel like they have a really nice rhythm and flow and integrates some brilliant visual imagery to help paint a picture whilst allowing the sense of past and present tenses to shift and the role of narrator to be explored and challenged.

All in all, this play even before it’s put on stage is excellent and will be something that when you watch it will leave you wanting to know more.

Reflections on rehearsals…

The rehearsal process also led to a lot of interesting discoveries both for the play and for me. Things like discussing the rules of the world brought up ideas about the presence of metaphors in the storytelling and how memories can detach and become physicalized and looking up the timeline of events helped to think about the sequence of events and what causes things to happen in the play and the way time is perceived throughout. For me, it was also good to observe and learn about useful exercises for discovering characters, ways of analysing the text and planning rehearsal time. For example, uniting the script made me think further about characters intentions and objectives and then physical exercises supported this and allowed considerations about the characters relationship with space and time. This felt useful and made me think further about movement qualities, how the intentions could be physically embodied and the internal and external monologues of the characters. When we got the text up on its feet in the space and looked at blocking and detail this also got me thinking further about the importance in finding moments to ensure the audience stay engaged with the narrative sections and utilising limited space through levels. I especially enjoyed where moments to add synchronised movement were found and where ways in the story to visualise the imagery of narrative and encompass the audience were discovered.

Conclusively, being involved in this rehearsal process was enjoyable and fruitful for me for several reasons, on the one hand it taught me more about ways of directing and running rehearsals and the details to think about in putting together a show and it was also simply nice working with Bare and seeing this piece come together and discussing the themes and exploring the script.

Photos taken in a Rehearsal Room at Theatre Deli Sheffield. Featured in the photos is Rose Gray and Nicola Blackwell