At CAPA College we are particularly good at getting things up on their feet, making material quickly and practice, practice, practice. BUT what happens when the world of theatre and the arts is forced to stop in its normal form? Adapt, change, and be creative towards your ordinary approach to work of course. Because that’s what people in the creative arts do. We adapt and make things happen when things don’t go to plan, like when you don’t receive funding or can’t access to the best of spaces to work. Why do we do it? For me, it’s often because I can’t not. In the best scenarios it’s because I am doing a piece that I think can’t not be made. So we find a way. The same applies for If Not Now, When? Excuse the pun but it was so essential that we found a way to keep up the momentum of the work we had begun to do despite of a global pandemic.
Not that we don’t miss the studio. Not that we don’t miss physically playing with ideas in the space. Not that we don’t crave that visceral feeling that so many of us seek out in our theatrical experiences. However, I have to admit that adapting the way to approach the start of our R&D has opened up an entirely new way of working for me that I will hold onto in the future.
Working remotely with the cast over the last two months has made me do one thing a lot more intensely…listen.
Listen to their ideas and discussions without that anxiety of “we need to get up and do something”. Because listening is an action we should all rehearse if our process is to be truly collaborative.
Give space for those discussions to evolve and for people to question more confidently because they’re sat in the comfort of their own home.
Connect the work to our everyday life as we sit and listen to the narrative in the context of our own personal space within the structure of our family…whatever form that takes.
Listen more consciously to the small details of a performer’s expression without the distraction of a gesture and find the root of the intention.
The story of each character is as important as the overall narrative.
The voice of the characters come to life.
As do our imaginations.
Our final workshop for this initial stage of the remote R&D culminated in a rehearsed reading of draft 5 of the play, which now has a greater balance between grief, humour and the ways in which these things are connected/played out by Liam and Chelsey. Liam’s journey isn’t dominating the narrative as it once was and Isabel has given more of a voice to Chelsey’s experience, developing her awareness of the choices that she makes.
The rehearsed reading was a great marker in the process and we had scheduled to do this with Theatre Deli Sheffield before the disruptions of Covid-19. It was something we knew we had the pressure to work up to initially so it was important that we replicated this by putting it online with an invited audience. I think we need those “jump off the edge of the cliff moments” in order to make definitive, clear choices in the leading weeks preparing for a performance, albeit in the remote form we are all getting to know (too well arguably). A bit of calculated risk can help to push beyond any early expectations of the work.
I have to admit, all involved have surpassed my expectations, especially the ensemble of young people who have brought so much maturity and creativity to the process so far. For 16/17-year olds to contribute so thoughtfully when they might not have been cast in a role demonstrates their understanding of the value of their voice but also shows a lack of ego that a lot of us professional artists could learn from. They turned up…in more ways than one.
So, what’s next?
We are now taking a break with the cast and going through the feedback and thoughts that came up from the rehearsed reading. We are however, beginning work with NT associate and Dramaturg Stuart Pringle to take the script to the next stage. As Isabel quite rightly reflects, “I am aware that it is essential my writing continues to develop and there will always be a variety of differing versions; a best copy doesn’t necessarily have to exist because every day new ideas arise. My first ever draft is as significant as the last”.
And here’s a little clip of the most recent, significant draft of the play from the rehearsed reading, performed by Dominic who is playing the role of Liam:
(Warning: contains language some people may find offensive.)