Attempts on Her Life – Scenographic Ideas

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Attempts on Her Life – Rehearsals & Showing

Wednesday 24th May 2017

Movement Studio

Comments:

We began this rehearsal, as we began every rehearsal, by reading a quote together. I had chosen the quote from the book ‘You are More Creative Than You Think’ by Rod Judkins. These quotes were a way of relaxing but also inspiring the mind for the creative session ahead. We then played a quick game of ‘7 Up’ to help concentration levels and teamwork.

After this, the actors were given some time to recap the four movements they had created during the last rehearsal.

We then sat together and re-read scene 1. Each actor was asked to create a ‘creative response’ through drawing, text, performance, to express the mood of the scene.

After sharing these and drawing out interesting moments – i.e. one performance really captured a sense of voyeurism and space manipulation – we then looked at the text for clues which might tell of the relationship between Annie and the caller. Some seemed immediately obvious, i.e. ‘Hello. It’s mum…’ but after some interrogation it proved that there were numerous ways this could be interpreted. For example, was the caller another family member delivering news about the mother? Others were even more ambiguous but I placed scene 1 in conjunction with scene 11 and scene 17, to give us context. For example, the first caller was very likely to be this character of ‘Paul’ who we consequently meet in later scenes.

Following on, each actor chose a caller (and one of the discussed identities) and took a place in the room. They were to imagine they were in a cube, by themselves, and could not see or experience anyone or anything outside of the cube. I asked one of the actors to step out and be the ‘mobile’ actor. This mobile actor could walk about and ‘own’ the space. Slowly, the cubes were allowed to become more and more transparent, until each performer was aware of the space beyond their personal bubble and also aware of the travelling performer. I then asked them to react to this person as though they were Annie, bearing in mind the character identity (voicemail caller) they had chosen for themselves. This highlighted some nice relationships and spatial moments which we worked on for the remaining time. This was the first time we had the presence of ‘Annie’ in the space.

 

Thursday 25th May 2017

New Studio

Comments:

We began again with a quote and then a warm-up game called ‘Cat & Mouse’ to help with spatial awareness.

We recapped what had been worked on the day before and discussed design elements and the idea of Annie setting up her gallery space. We also discussed the idea of Annie being in an ‘in between’ state, where we don’t know whether she is dead, alive or busy creating her art.

The group also played with logistic things, such as spacing, props and audience seating. We played with the actors entering the space versus already being in the gallery space. We wanted ambiguity between whether or not the actors were also gallery spectators as well as their chosen identity (i.e. mum, lover, enemy, etc) so decided upon already having the actors in the space admiring the artwork. (This artwork came organically from the creative responses conducted the day before).

We then tried the performance again, but this time remembering the game we had played the previous day. (All actors except Annie had been in their own cube and unaware of her presence until it was too late). We played with this idea of Annie being so consumed by herself that she doesn’t notice the other bodies in the space; it is only when she walks past them that they are ‘activated’ and come to life by performing their movement.

I recorded everybody’s voice speaking their own section so that we could practice timing and clean up some of the moves. After rehearsal I used the editing suite to put the voices and the dial tones together. The actors were asked to bring in costume and specific art work for the gallery.

 

Friday 26th May 2017

New Studio

Comments:

In the morning’s rehearsal I set up the space, which included artworks generated from the creative responses.

We ran through the scene twice, which allowed the actors to familiarise themselves with the edited dialogue and the timing of when ‘Annie’ would walk past.

I was interested in a recurring theme throughout the play; namely the idea that we hear about Annie through everyone but Annie. I was interested in the idea of everybody being able to see Annie, but Annie either being oblivious or else very vacant.

We also worked with timing and influence and how gaze had a role to play in this. For example, one actor consistently stared at Annie as he performed his movement, which gave a sense of longing but also echoed back to our earlier discussions about the possible manipulative side to Annie.

We played with the ambiguity of the first scene, which we wanted to capitalise upon. Namely, who are these people? Who is Annie? What should our reaction be? This ambiguity was evidenced during the particularly harsh language used in one of the voicemails, in which the caller vividly and crudely describes the sexual acts he/she would like to perform to Annie. There were mixed reactions to this – was this a ‘violent’ call or intended to be an ‘arousing’ one?

I thought it would be interesting to have Caroline’s own voice as the speaker of these crude words, coupled with Caroline/’’Annie’ reacting to these words as though they were intended to be arousing. I hoped this would highlight Annie’s own self-destructive nature, as is commented on throughout the play. Ideally it would also capitalise upon the ambiguity of Annie’s character as a whole. Ultimately, this may not have come across in the final showing due to the lighting – I don’t think the lighting needed to be dimmed and if we were to run it again, I would have it on high, especially as we were recreating the idea of a gallery space.

I would also like to work more on the individuality of these characters/gallery audiences and work on clearer ways of communicating these relationships to the audience.

Attempts on Her Life – Rehearsal Notes

Rehearsal 20/5/17 Nicole Acquah

Warm-Up:

One-Seven: Everyone stands in a circle. A clap and a number is sent around the circle. When you reach the number seven, you place your hand on top of your head. The direction your hand points in dictates the direction the clap is moved (either reversed or continues going clockwise). After a few rounds of this, the number 3 must be sung, and the number 4 must be omitted, etc. This is a good game for energy levels, and also for attuning to the rhythm of the group, which I wanted to explore before starting.

Lemonface/Pumpkin face: Brief vocal warm-up which also energises facial muscles.

Emotions within the text: Each actor was assigned a chunk of the dialogue, and asked to think of the emotion behind the dialogue. i.e. why was the speaker sending this voice-mail? What were they trying to communicate and how? Were they distracted, worried, frustrated, etc?

Embodying emotions without text: They were then asked to find a space in the room and find a series of 4 movements which expressed this emotion. I then had the actors experiment with how much space they were occupying – whether they could make the movement bigger or smaller. This suggestion was offered three times, until some actors chose to make the movement minute and others chose to take up more space. I then had then come together and share these movements.

Refining: Each actor shared their chosen emotion, and was given some time to refine their physical movement.

Embodying emotions with text: Their movements were overlayed with text read by myself. Each actor performed these actions when their ‘chunk’ of dialogue was read out.

Observations: There was something not quite right about spacing configuration (actors ended up in a semi-circle); thought it might be nice if the actors were more spread out; from an audience point of view it was more interesting to have where to look chosen for us/to be drawn to the moment of action, rather than being able to see all performers at all times.

Embodying actions with text pt 2: Each actor now had two series of movements for two chunks of text. Additionally, the dialogue was not read live by myself but played through a phone located in the middle of the room.

Observations: The disembodied voice effect was nice. The spacing still not correct, although more visually interesting. The contrast between movements was really nice – comedic moments coming straight after serious ones.

Embodying actions with text pt 3: Final time, text was spoken aloud by the performers as they performed their movements. In the final scene, they all joined in with their individual movements.

Happy accidents – Roshi speaking of ‘larvae’ coincided perfectly with Caroline’s ‘scratching’ movements. Alex & Caroline’s movements built and climaxed at the same time and worked in conjuction with the text.

Relationships: Asked the actors to find ways to transition between their dialogue, or find moments in which relationships between the characters could be found.

Observations: Eye contact was effective and started to give some hints of narrative. I preferred the disembodied voice to the performers; would work best once the movements are fully memorised and text better known (as the live speaking of text did help birth the relationships). The final moment was nice as all the movement coexisted in the space.

Next Steps: I would like Annie’s presence to be felt more in this scene, even if she is not necessarily seen or heard. Would like to play with this element in next rehearsal and also push the idea of the 4 movements/counts.

Attempts on Her Life – 2nd Rehearsal

In this rehearsal, I was interested in exploring the idea that Annie is already in a hospital scenario and that these voicemails are going on around her. I lead series of improvisation-based tasks.

Improvisation 1 – In the first task, the actors entered the space one by one and interacted with each other. I gave them the task that in the duration of the exercise, they had to speak 3 lines from the play.

Discoveries: It was interesting to see how the actors used the space. For example, one actor spoke the lines ‘Annie? Are you there?’ whilst looking through a window, which immediately brought up connotations of Intensive Care Units.

Improvisation 2 – Using the same hospital scenario, but this time building upon the relationships discovered in the first improvisation. Actors were encouraged to find a movement to express the lines, rather than saying the line itself. They were also invited to use more of the space.

Discoveries – A lot of tension was brought up between the characters, which emotionally affected some of the actors. Therefore I changed the setting of the next improvisation to a party.

Improvisation 3 – A Christmas party. The actors had to bear in mind the relationships that already existed, but due to the social setting, express these more subtly, as opposed to a full blown argument that had occurred during the second improvisation.

Discoveries – Two actors spoke the last, very viscerally violent lines together, wildly drunk due to the party atmosphere. This offered a new meaning to that voicemail which I wouldn’t have considered otherwise.

Reflections: The improvisations have given me new ideas for exploring the text and I would like to explore representing different settings onstage, through sound and movement, rather than sticking to a static environment like party or hospital. We finished 8 minutes early and I let the actors leave because I knew one was quite emotionally affected by having to fight with another actor during the improvisation. Upon reflection, I should have held a debrief instead, as I know said actor still felt a little upset afterwards. Next time I will hold a debrief to release tension.

Attempts on Her Life – 1st Rehearsal

The first rehearsal for a showing of Attempts on Her Life by Martin Crimp, was inspired by the Actioning workshop undertaken the previous day. I was interested in exploring Actioning further.

 

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Actioning (undertaken together with the group, guided by myself)

The layout of the rehearsal was as follows:

  • Firstly I began with a quote from a book called ‘You are more creative than you think’ by Rod Judkins, as a means to inspire the performers and create a calming atmosphere. The quote spoke about finding new ways of creating art, rather than falling back into old habits, and although we did not revisit this quote, I asked the actors to bear it in mind, as a kind of motif for the day.
  • We played games – Ninja and a game I created in which a person must recount an event/something they had experienced that week, but only using nonsense words, and the others must guess the event. I used this games because I was interested in how the ‘forwards/backwards’ motions we explored in actioning, began to mean a lot more than the words themselves. I wanted to look at what happened when we ignored words, and used other means to convey information.
  • Read-through: We read through Scene 4 ‘The Occupier’ together and then discussed the types of characters whom the dialogue could be assigned to.
  • We spent some time discussing the power status at play and deriving all meaning from the text
  • We split the text up into Events, Thoughts, and then finally, Actions.
  • The actors were split into two groups and asked to explore these actions within the dialogue; I observed both groups and offered suggestions, i.e. asking them to play with the silences present in the text a little more.
  • Actors began to involve Forwards/Backwards actions by themselves.
  • Finally, the groups showed each other their work and it was illuminating to see how different people performed the same action, i.e. ‘I mock you.’

Directing Contemporary Text Unit – Pt 1

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The first step was to try and disseminate the text for my own personal understanding. The above picture shows the second  read-through, where I read the play and then separated the play into individual scenes to get a sense of the overall narrative. This was inspired by Joe Hill-Gibbins’ discussion of “getting to the artefact beneath the dirt” – in other words, getting an idea of the play as a whole and what has been given to us by Crimp.

From this I brainstormed who ‘Annie’ could be & all the info we are given

i.e.

  • tried to drown herself
  • owns a big, red bag
  • been around the word (hitchiking? adventurous?)
  • in hospital at some point (during the time of section 6)

 

I also wrote down key questions the play made me reflect upon, most notably:

  • What is time?
  • Who is Annie?
  • How can you find meaning in ANYTHING?!
  • It’s not about Annie, it’s about us
  • Annie as representation?