Time appears to be speeding past us in the rehearsal room. Dolloping by in a haze of warm-ups, rehearsing, tea breaks, notes, stretching, music, conversation, reruns, exercises, food runs, tea breaks. It seems like no time at all since or company was first getting to grips with the text, and now we have completed full runs of each. And we start technical rehearsals for Frankenstein imminently.
Our plays are 'timeless'. Hedda Gabler and Dr Frankenstein are both adaptations of classic works. Each touches on timeless themes: what is the meaning of life? Family. Sacrifice. Fate. Free will. And each is set assuredly in its era. The classic themes allow space for contemporary elements without losing the period feel. The plays are set 'classically' whilst also being relevant in a modern way. In Hedda we are able to use this to our advantage by playing with the very fabric of the play's timeline.
The nineties sci-fi show staring Scott Bakula? A time traveler 'leaps' into the bodies of a new character each episode and has to try and 'fix' their lives. This week we have affectionately named a moment in Hedda 'The Quantum Leap moment'. Hedda's connection to her world decays until the disconnect becomes unbearable. And so she 'leaps'. The passage of time is a lens through which we gain deeper insights into Hedda's mind. In a previous blog, I discussed the spell of saying 'Hedda Gabbler'. In this version Hedda has her own charm. During her most important emotional beats, Hedda is able to stop time. It begins as something over which she has no control. As the play progresses these stoppages become something Hedda is controlling.
In Hedda rehearsals the actors threw a ball to one another to help unlock new understandings. They became more aware of the timing of their interactions. By passing the ball back and forth between minds it became easier to mark each beat. Sometimes an actor would hold onto the ball for longer or throw it before they finished speaking. Moments expanded or contracted with the passing of the ball. This exercise helped unlock the rhythm of the piece.
In Dr Frankenstein rehearsals we used another exercise to a similar effect. The cast walked through the act with speed. They marked their physical positions, actions, props and emotions. The characters smashed off one another as they touched the key points. The disconnect between Victoria and the rest of her family caused some of these impacts. Early in the play, sister Elizabeth insists that now is not the time for Victoria's lecture. The lecture should be after dinner. For Victoria, this insistence on the 'correct' time is a tie that binds. Pulling us away from our ability to achieve greatness. Indeed, the premise of the play is Victoria's belief that there is no real 'time to die'. Death is something to conquer.
Time has been a logistical issue when blocking two shows. Each director requires actors to work and there has to be a balance of need. Our assistant director has taken copious notes to overcome this. These note should speed up actor learning when they are able to work on each play. The whole company is working long hours to prepare each show for performance. It seems hardly any time since rehearsals began and now we are looking forward to tech week