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Trouble in Mind | Rehearsal Diary 3

An insight into the third and final week of rehearsal with Assistant Director Fay Lomas.

Our final week in the rehearsal room has been dedicated to finessing the work we have already done.

We’d had a fair bit of time since working Act 1, so we spent the earlier parts of the week getting ourselves reacquainted with the act. One thing we’ve been exploring is the bubbling energy of the first day of rehearsals. The strange thing about theatre is that it can feel like having that nervous feeling a child gets on the first day of a new school – but on several occasions every year. You’re constantly thrown into new environments, with a new thing to work on, and new people to work with. We’ve been taking our understanding of this strange, exciting day that is the first day of rehearsals and putting it into our playing of Act 1. Laurence has emphasised that Act 1 needs to feel like it slips by, floating on the energy of the first day of rehearsals.

We’ve also dedicated a significant amount of time to exploring the status of Manners (the director) in the rehearsal room. He is a director from Hollywood, who is gracing Broadway with his presence on this one show. People have seen his work, and they know he can make their careers if he chooses to take them back to LA to work on his next film (or perhaps break their careers if they fall out with him). We’ve been exploring ways of creating his status – through the manner in which characters address him, through the way in which they create space around him.

After this time delving back into Act 1, we returned to Act 2. One of the points of focus for our work on Act 2 this week has been continuing to explore the style of acting in the play-within-a-play. We’ve been doing historical research into the theatre company called the American Negro Theatre, which was highly active in the mid 1940s to mid 1950s. We’ve been looking at photos of their productions, as well as finding film footage of actors from that time (Sidney Poitier has been a particularly useful point of reference). We’re exploring the balance between a way of acting that feels quite stylised to us in the 21st Century, but that at the same time has a kernel of truth within it.

Towards the end of the week, we started to run each act in a variety of ways. Sometimes we’d run it sitting in a circle, so as to reconnect to the text, focussing on getting the accuracy of textual detail. Another way was to run each act again sitting in a circle, but with the actors standing up when their characters are involved in dialogue within the scene. This was a fascinating exercise as it enabled the actors to be continually playful, moving with their dialogue within (or sometimes around) the circle. It was also very useful to see the added energy it gave when actors stood up to speak – it launched them into the scene. We learnt lots from this exercise, which we then took into running each act in the space with the blocking we have decided upon. We also had one day when we were able to rehearse onstage, with the actual set, which was very helpful.

At the end of the week, we ran the whole play. We’re now into tech week, adding in costumes, sound and lighting, ahead of our first preview on Thursday.

Trouble in Mind | 14 Sep – 14 Oct | Book Now

September 12, 2017

Trouble in Mind | Rehearsal Diary 2

Assistant Director Fay Lomas takes us inside the second week of rehearsals for Alice Childress’ Trouble in Mind.

It’s been another action-packed week of rehearsals up in Notting Hill. We’ve been working through Act 2 and also spending some time going back over sections of Act 1.  

As last week, upon approaching each scene, we spent a significant amount of time digging into the text, followed then by getting the scene up on its feet. We’ve been focussing on making sure we keep on adding in the detail. Everything has to be specific, nothing general. At times, this has meant asking ourselves – what’s the backstory to a line or a relationship? On other occasions, we did an exercise which involved the actors, on their line, pointing to the character(s) to whom the line is addressed. Linked to this, we’ve been asking which lines are private discussions between two characters, and which lines are intended for everyone to hear. With the private lines, we’ve asked ourselves, how do the characters achieve privacy within this rehearsal room? Where can they go to have a subtle chat? When lines are public we’ve also had to ask ourselves, how are the characters affected by what they hear? So, for instance, how do the other characters react to the director singling out one of the actors for public praise? The play is also full of interrupted conversations – Laurence has encouraged the actors to consider what a conversation would go on to say if it didn’t get stopped.

As last week, we’ve had to ensure that we don’t pre-empt rows. We’ve discovered that often characters are entering a discussion hoping it will go well, that they will be listened to, and then suddenly things spiral out of control. Connected to this has been the question, is there enough pressure on the characters to make them act the way they do? We’ve done a lot of work exploring how tension builds and what it is that makes an argument suddenly explode.

Besides detailed text work, there’s also been props galore. The smallest details in the script translate into things that take a lot of work in the rehearsal room. For instance, the play is set in the late autumn – this means that all the characters have coats, hats, scarves and gloves and the actors have to work out the precise choreography for taking them off when their characters enter the rehearsal room and for putting them back on when they leave. It sounds simple, but it’s amazing how complicated every day items can become when you’re onstage and trying to fit the action around what else is going on in the scene. And of course, the play within a play means that there are props and costume pieces associated with that too. Andrew Alexander, playing the stage manager character in Trouble in Mind, is kept very busy indeed moving ironing board here, bucket there, and scripts here there and everywhere!

This week, both in text work and in staging the scenes, we’ve rehearsed through dividing each scene in short sections, which we then rework many times, in lots of detail. Laurence encourages the actors to keep on asking themselves what worked last time and what didn’t and then to make new or different choices as they see fit. It’s amazing to watch how much detail and how many new discoveries emerge from this approach.

We’ve also been doing lots of work on the play within a play – which is a prominent part of Act Two. A challenge at the heart of Trouble in Mind is that the play is critical of the content of Chaos in Belleville (the play within a play) and yet quite a lot of stage time is dedicated to the actors rehearsing it – so it’s important that, on some level, the audience is invested in the story of Chaos in Belleville and the characters and relationships within it.

This week also saw lots of costume fittings, and the get in: so our set is now basically up in the theatre.

We’re heading excitedly into our final week of rehearsals in the rehearsal room now, before going into tech the following week.

Trouble in Mind | 14 Sep – 14 Oct | Book Now

September 5, 2017

Trouble in Mind | Rehearsal Diary 1

Assistant Director Fay Lomas takes us into the rehearsal room for the first Trouble in Mind rehearsal diary.

We’ve had a busy first week of rehearsals for Trouble in Mind. With its deeply significant political backdrop, its play within a play, its beautifully drawn characters, and its fast paced dialogue, sometimes with several conversations going on at once – the brilliant Trouble in Mind has kept us on our toes. We’ve spent our first week of rehearsals laying the groundwork by exploring characters, relationships, and the politics behind the play, as well as staging Act 1.

On our first day of rehearsals, after we’d got to know each other (and learnt a lot of names!), we did a series of introductory exercises to the play. The story of Trouble in Mind starts on day one of rehearsals for a play called Chaos in Belleville, and one exercise involved the actors improvising that first day of rehearsals in character. This improvisation allowed the actors to explore their instincts about the relationships and power dynamics as the characters first enter the rehearsal room. On one level, the scenario in Act 1 is one that we all recognised (and indeed, were experiencing that very day): the first day of rehearsals, the nerves and excitement, some people you do know, lots you don’t, the anticipation of the weeks ahead etc. But underneath all of this in Trouble in Mind is the political landscape of the play, set in America in 1957, at the time of the Civil Rights Movement. Race affects everything in Trouble in Mind – what’s going on in the play the actors are rehearsing (Chaos in Belleville); what’s going on in their rehearsal room; and what is going on outside the room. The same year that Alice Childress wrote the first version of Trouble in Mind, Emmett Till, a 14 year old boy, was lynched by a gang of white men for supposedly whistling at a white woman; when Alice wrote her second draft, in 1957, black school children had to be protected by the army from white supremacists as they made their way to a newly integrated school.

Following this improvisation of the first day of rehearsals, we had a series of discussions about status. Trying to assign a status to the characters from 1 (lowest status) to 10 (highest), we discovered just how complex status is in the play:  what the difference is between the status the characters are, what they think they are, and what they want to be; how the various characters have very different views from each other on the status of other characters; and how status changes over the course of the play.

The rest of the first day was spent reading through the play, and showing the actors the model box for the set, designed by Polly Sullivan. We also had a session with our voice coach, Elspeth Morrison. Most of the actors have to master two different accents: both those of their characters, and those of the characters their characters are playing in Chaos in Belleville. Elspeth talked to the actors not only about different accents, but also about the different tones, intonations, or qualities of voice they might adopt to distinguish between their two roles.

After the first day of rehearsals, the rest of the week has been spent working through Act 1 in detail. For each scene, we did some ‘table work’ first (detailed text work on a scene), and then staged it. What was particularly interesting about our text work for this play was that we did the table work on the set. Laurence Boswell, our director, told us on day two of rehearsals that we would work our rehearsals in the positions that the characters within the play work their rehearsals. Other echoes from their rehearsal process have found their way into ours. We even found ourselves tea-breaking at the same time as the actors in the play! And I have somehow managed to develop the pen-dropping tick of the assistant director character in the play….

Alice Childress’s writing style is incredibly detailed – indeed, Laurence has emphasised this week how the play needs ‘novelistic detail’. Tanya Moodie, playing Wiletta, described the play as like jazz, in terms of the subtlety of the interplay of the characters’ voices. This is both one of the joys and one of the challenges: for the majority of the play, most of the characters are onstage at the same time. Something that has been very important has been to find the specificity of the lines, working out which lines are private (and to whom they are addressed) and which lines are destined for the group. Another challenge how quickly the tone shifts, from humour to high tension, in the space of a breath. There’s a rage bubbling underneath the play – one of the questions we’ve been investigating this week is when do the characters contain it, and when do they let go.

Another aspect of our work has been developing the improvisations: the script often indicates moments where everyone onstage talks at once (for instance, in greeting the director on the first day of rehearsals), and we’ve been improvising our way into these sections. We want to ensure that we make these improvisations specific, and also accurate to the period (we’ve been looking up when certain exclamations came into American English, for example, to make sure we’re not being anachronistic). A final major element of our rehearsals this week has been working on the different styles of acting in Chaos in Belleville – and making sure that we make it clear for the audience when we’re in the play within the play, and when we’re not.

The first week has been highly rewarding, and we’re now setting our sights on Week 2 of rehearsals, and Act 2 of Trouble in Mind.

Trouble in Mind | 14 Sep – 14 Oct | Book Now

August 30, 2017

Trouble in Mind | Tanya Moodie

Tanya Moodie to Reprise her role as Wiletta Mayer in Trouble in Mind

Following her widely acclaimed appearance at Theatre Royal Bath last year, Olivier Award nominated Tanya Moodie will return to Laurence Boswell’s production of Trouble in Mind when it premieres in London this September. Tanya will make her Print Room at the Coronet debut in the role of Wiletta in Alice Childress’ groundbreaking play, with previews from 14th September. Further casting will be announced in due course.

Trouble in Mind opened at Theatre Royal Bath’s Ustinov Studio in November 2016 to huge critical and public acclaim. Written by trailblazing 1950’s American playwright, the production tells the story of a group of African-American actors rehearsing for a Broadway production, in a theatre dominated by white men. By turns comic and dramatic, Childress’s Trouble in Mind, which has not been presented in London for over 20 years, was the first play by a black woman to be professionally produced in New York. 

Tanya Moodie said, “After the success of Trouble in Mind at the Ustinov, I am delighted to be sharing the story in London at the Print Room. I wanted to find a character’s voice on stage that articulates the challenges of transcending our limitations and realising one’s fullest creative potential. Finding Trouble in Mind, bringing it to Laurence, gathering a superb creative team and sharing Alice Childress’ play has been the most uplifting professional experience of my career. Thank you for supporting our work.”

Wiletta Mayer is a talented African-American actress who has spent a lifetime building a career in the theatre. Now she is on Broadway, rehearsing Chaos in Belleville, an anti-lynching play with a white director. As rehearsals progress, Wiletta finds it increasingly difficult to relate to the part she is playing. Will she be able to overcome her misgivings and let the show go on?

Tanya Moodie is a multi-award nominated actress recently recognized for her role in Fences alongside Lenny Henry; Constance in King John (The Globe) and Hamlet with the Royal Shakespeare Company.  Further theatre credits include The House that will not Stand (Tricycle Theatre); Intimate Apparel (Ustinov Studio); The Under RoomChairA Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky (Lyric Hammersmith); CatchACDCFewer EmergenciesIncomplete & Random Acts of Kindness (Royal Court); The OverwhelmingThe Darker Face of EarthThe Oedipus Plays (National Theatre). On screen she is known for her roles in LegacyRabbit FeverCommon, SkinsSherlockLewis, The StreetThe Clinic (Series 6 and 7); CasualtySea Of Souls and Silent Witness.

Trouble in Mind | 14 Sep – 14 Oct | http://bit.ly/2uSHSvS 

July 10, 2017

Remnants | Director’s Note: Patrick Eakin Young

Dimitri Djuric

Remnants | Director’s Note: Patrick Eakin Young

I started creating REMNANTS almost two years ago with a workshop at the Print Room investigating ghosts. I wanted to make a piece about memory and history, about the ways in which the past forces itself into the present, and the effect this haunting has on our lives.

I was born stepping out of the 20th and into the 21st Century and I have lived as much of my life on this side of the millennium as the other. Though I am at home in this new century, I feel deeply burdened by the one I have left behind. Growing up in Canada in the 1990s, I was privileged to be so far removed from the violence and traumas of the 20th Century, and yet I felt their deep vibrations beneath the surface of society. Though I had not experienced them, I felt that they had affected me nonetheless.

When I found Courtney’s memoir, The Stone Fields, it immediately resonated with me. Through the lens of one family’s story, in one corner of Europe, I felt I could see the messy cycle of history, and how we come to inherit the trauma of the past. But the true appeal of the text was Courtney herself. As a North American, I understood her. Her idiom, her accent, and a part of her experience, were my own. What’s more, I sensed in her story a similar searching, a desire to uncover the source of these uninvited ghosts.

Telling stories was fundamental to Courtney’s family, and it became fundamental to this piece. Through hours of interviews, I entered into Courtney’s world, and encountered the characters from her history that she had inherited in a similar way from her father. Listening to the recordings I made with her, I felt drawn to the ellipses, the pauses and revisions in the text, the subtle ways in which things were unsaid. That is the space of music and dance; the place where memory, trauma, love and longing reside.

Patrick Eakin Young

June 15, 2017

Babette’s Feast | Adapting Babette’s Feast: Glyn Maxwell

Babette’s Feast | Adapting Babette’s Feast: Glyn Maxwell

We are told that after his professional triumphs in Stockholm, the great opera singer Achille Papin ‘laid his way back to France round the Norwegian coast.’ This is not an implausible journey if he were visiting that country’s south-eastern shores, say Oslo or Kristiansand, but he finds himself – and the heavenly singing voice of Philippa – in the very far north, at Berlevåg, one of the last human dwellings before the Arctic, a literal end of the world. Achille Papin is indeed lost in his soul, but that’s a northward diversion of about fifteen hundred sea miles.

The traveller Karen Blixen must know, so she must not mind. Which reminds us again of the fairytale force of her storytelling: its light and confident once-upon-a-time-ness. The sisters have Three Visits – Lorens, Achille and Babette – and the last is the revelation that makes sense of the others. They live in a yellow house; their father walked upon the water; the General is haunted by the huldre; suddenly years pass. But this quality in Blixen is mixed with profound human insight, as if a tale spun by Hans Christian Andersen or the Brothers Grimm had slowed down and made luminous the actual passing moments.

I have tried in the retelling to do justice to both qualities, spinning the big and little wheels of time, while letting her people sound their hearts. Babette’s Feast is the kind of crystalline story through which all readers can trace their own different paths of light. What I saw was Babette Hersant, her husband and son both slain in the carnage of 1871. To the Communards she’s a hero, to her government a terrorist, and as Paris descends into chaos the prospect of Berlevåg, a safe and peaceful haven, a welcoming fireside, must seem to Babette more fairytale than likelihood, more blind faith than sure belief. Yet she flees her home to save her life, baffles and is misunderstood by those who greet her in the far North – and yet they shelter her, welcome her, save her, and are at last rewarded beyond all expectation, on a night they could only have imagined taking place in their Heaven. It seems we dwell now in a country where open arms for the wretched can only be imagined. We had better take our Heavens where we find them.

Glyn Maxwell

 

May 15, 2017

Out of Blixen | Karen Blixen / Isak Dinesen: Paul Tickell

Out of Blixen | Karen Blixen / Isak Dinesen: Paul Tickell

All of Blixen’s stories grip you – what is going to happen next? All of them evoke an intriguing atmosphere and sense of place. Whether it’s a rough bar in a seaport, the opulent boudoir in a country mansion, or the cloistered solitude of an abbey, Blixen takes you there on her magic carpet. Many of her stories are set in the 18th and 19th century but they feel like they belong as much to dreamtime as to any historical period.

In spite of this sense of enchantment and of a parallel universe, Blixen’s gaze is detached, unflinchingly trained on the violence, eroticism and disturbed mental states which lie below the surface. Everything is presented with great, even classical control lending her prose a rationalist, 18c feel. But this very control, together with her search for the right word and her measured powers of description, allows her the license to delve all the deeper into the darkness of the human psyche.

It’s a perverse, even cruel place laid bare but echoing with laughter. Displaying irony and a wit, Blixen is like a dandy dancing over the abyss – a pierrot or clown entering the lion’s den.

It’s this sense of risk and playfulness which gives her work a very modernist sensibility. This is further reflected in the innovative form and structure of the stories. Many of them are stories-within-stories, a Chinese-box effect which plays with the reader’s sense of the real – especially when tales are told not just by one but several narrators.

The shifting tone is further enhanced by the seamless way in which Blixen weaves together mythology, folklore and the ancient story-telling traditions of the the bible and the Arabian Nights. Then there is the range of her political philosophical reference, drawing in particular on the feminism which began to emerge out of the 18th century Enlightenment.

But she also embraced what has been called the Dark Enlightenment, the revival of interest in magic, hermeticism and the occult. Her work teems with characters who are magicians and witches.

She once described herself as a witch. But she was also very aware of the tawdry, fake side of magic – reflected in all those mountebanks, charlatans and tricksters who also populate her work. There is a thin line between the artist and the con artist, between Jesus the miracle worker and Simon Magus the magician for hire. Along this thin line Blixen drives a coach and horses, all the while its occupants conveying stories to each other.

Blixen knew that as a writer she could never return to the oral tradition of story-telling. But she does evoke it, particularly the female tradition of the pre-literate storyteller in The Blank Page. Women, like their male counterparts – sailors, ploughmen and masons – would tell stories while they worked, weaving cloth and spinning yarns. Textiles and the text: they share the same etymological root, the story and the cloth, the narrator and the weaver. Blixen’s typewriter is her loom.

Paul Tickell

April 10, 2017

Babette’s Feast | Cast Announcement

Image: Hugo Glendinning

Babette’s Feast | Cast Announcement

We are delighted to announce the full casting for Glyn Maxwell’s commissioned adaptation of the much loved short story Babette’s Feast by the revered Danish storyteller Karen Blixen. Bringing their innovative style to Print Room at the Coronet, Bill Buckhurst reunites with designer Simon Kenny, following their hugely successful collaboration on “Sweeney Todd” at Harrington’s Pie and Mash Shop. The 2015 production transferred to the West End and is now playing off-Broadway at New York’s Barrow Street Theatre. With new music composed by Olly Fox, this world premiere, telling the story of one community’s willingness to accept a stranger in need, begins previews on 9th May.

Karen Blixen is widely recognised for the portrayal of her by Meryl Streep in the Academy Award Winning film, Out of Africa, as well Gabriel Axel’s acclaimed screen adaptation of Babette’s Feast, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Blixen wrote some of Denmark’s most-loved fiction from the 1900’s to her death in 1962, often under pseudonyms, most prolifically as Isak Dinesen who is credited as the author of Babette’s Feast. Glyn Maxwell’s new adaptation will tell the story of Martine and Philippa, two sisters living in a remote coastal village with their father, The Dean. They live pious, simple lives until Babette arrives at their door, a refugee fleeing from the French Civil War seeking sanctuary. The sisters welcome her into their home and she works as their cook, feeding the locals for many years. In a selfless act of thanksgiving, Babette creates a lavish feast for the people of the town.

Joseph Marcell, best known for his role as Geoffrey in Fresh Prince of Bel Air, makes his Print Room at the Coronet debut in the roles of The Dean and Lorens Lowenheilm. Joining Marcell on the Coronet stage, Sheila Atim, recently seen on stage in the National Theatre’s Les Blancs, will be playing the titular role of Babette. Brideshead Revisted star Diana Quick will take on the part of Martine, with her on-stage sister Philippa being played by Majorie Yates, recognised for her role in Channel 4’s Shameless. Norma Attalah, Amanda Boxer, Richard Clews, Ladi Emeruwa, Henry Everett, Whoopie Van Raam and Rachel Winters complete the cast.

Babette’s Feast | 9 May – 3 June | http://bit.ly/2glCJZH

April 7, 2017

maliphantworks | In Focus: Russell Maliphant

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maliphantworks | In Focus: Russell Maliphant

maliphantworks sees acclaimed choreographer/dancer Russell Maliphant return to the London stage having last performed at the Coliseum in July 2014 with Sylvie Guillem.

Born in Ottowa, Canada in 1961, Russell Maliphant was raised in Cheltenham and trained at the Royal Ballet School. He graduated to Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet (which later became Birmingham Royal Ballet) for seven years, after which he joined Dance Advance, and left ballet altogether in 1988, pursuing a career in independent dance.

He appeared in Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men by physical theatre company DV8, and worked with companies such as Michael Clark & Company, Laurie Booth and Rosemary Butcher. While working with Booth, Maliphant met lighting designer Michael Hulls, with whom he has collaborated closely for 20 years.

Unspoken

Russell Maliphant and James de Maria in Unspoken

Maliphant created his first solo work in 1992, and founded Russell Maliphant Company in 1996. It was during the 90s that he produced works such as Shift (1996), Unspoken (also 1996) with James de Maria, and Two (1998).

In 2001, William Trevitt and Michael Nunn (The Ballet Boyz) performed the duet Critical Mass, choreographed by Maliphant in 1991, and then commissioned Torsion in 2002. This led to Broken Fall, which premiered at the Royal Opera House in December 2003 and was awarded an Olivier Award in 2003. Broken Fall marked the beginning of a collaborative relationship with Sylvie Guillem, which led to the award winning works Push and Solo.

Russell Maliphant continues to work with his own company, which acts as a creative lab for the development and presentation of new work. 2007 saw Russell Maliphant Company featured in Cast No Shadow, a new work exploring the ideas of identity and migration created in collaboration with the visual artists Isaac Julien which was presented at Sadler’s Wells and BAM in New York. In 2009, as part of the Spirit of Diaghilev programme at Sadler’s Wells, Maliphant choreographed Afterlight (Part One) for Daniel Proietto, for which he was Olivier Award-nominated in 2010. Maliphant created The Rodin Project with Sadler’s Wells in 2012 which included The Wall, a duet for Tommy Franzen and Dickson Mbi.

Russell Maliphant became an Associate Artist at Sadler’s Wells in 2005 and in 2011, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts by Plymouth University.

 

maliphantworks | 28 Feb – 11 Mar | More Info

February 9, 2017

maliphantworks | Cast and Creatives Announcement

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maliphantworks | Cast and Creatives Announcement

We are delighted to announce the programme for maliphantworks, featuring world-renowned collaborators and works spanning internationally acclaimed choreographer Russell Maliphant‘s hugely celebrated 25 year career. Maliphant will make his Print Room at the Coronet debut with a site-responsive return to some of his early work, inspired by our intimate Victorian theatre.

maliphantworks will include the modern dance classic Two; Afterlight (Part One); The Wall from The Rodin Project, with stage design by Es Devlin and Unspoken. Maliphant performs in Unspoken, a duet with James de Maria, 21 years after the pair first danced the piece and marking de Maria’s return to the stage after 16 years. Daniel Proietto once again dances Afterlight (Part One), for which he received an Olivier Award nomination in 2010 and received a Critics Circle National Dance Award. The international award-winning Dana Fouras dances the electrifying Two, which Maliphant choreographed for her in 1997; Olivier Award nominee Tommy Franzen brings his eclectic dance style to The Wall duet for which he was nominated for a Critics’ Circle National Dance Award in 2013 alongside Dickson Mbi renowned for his strength and incredible popping style. With Lighting by Olivier Award winner and double Knight of Illumination Award winner Michael Hulls, projection and animation by Jan Urbanowski, costumes by Stevie Stewart and music by Andy Cowton, Alexander Zekke and Erik Satie.  

maliphantworks | 28 Feb – 11 March | http://bit.ly/2fsQNfg 

February 1, 2017