And we’re off…

Yesterday was a day of firsts…

1) First day of rehearsal
2) First time working with a new ‘Tom’/’Dave’ (and punter no: 3!)
3) First time using the rehearsal space we have hired for this period

And I’m pretty sure from how things went yesterday, that it was the first of many ‘day of firsts’ to come.

First days are always a little odd – and I can be a bit of a ‘piglet’ about change and new things. The task of making a show happen how you imagine it should can sometimes feel rather overwhelming, and whilst this has still pretty much been the case – I have for the first time felt that I could also be excited about making this show happen again (ooh… another first!). I’m not sure that’s something I’m allowed to admit to really, as surely the very least you can expect from a theatre-maker is for them to be excited by the prospect of putting their work on it’s feet – but in all honesty, as the time gets closer to a show, the piglet in me starts to think about all the things that could go wrong and to the varying degrees this could happen. This time though, things feel different. Something has opened me up to considering all the things that could go right – that things could maybe even be better than they have ever been with ‘Paper Tom’!

This new found optimism about the rehearsal process has already been rewarded. Yesterday we managed to cover one more scene than we thought we would get through and reworked the waltz scene, which has come on leaps and bounds (literally!). I’m not saying that it was without its challenges – working with a new person is brilliant for making you reconsider your work as they come to it with a fresh perspective. However, some of the points they raise can be hard to hear and even understand at times. All the previous ‘Toms’, and all of Handheld Arts have trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama – and I wonder how much of that shared experience of being a Central Alumni (‘Centralites’ I believe is a term that is used!) effects the way in which we operate in a rehearsal room together; if somehow there is a language or particular philosophy that becomes part of the psyche of someone trained at CSSD and provides some sort of ‘short cut’ or default way of doing things that we have come to expect/accept as how things happen.

The new ‘Tom’ is from Drama Centre – and he is great!… and he totally brings something to the process we’ve never had before and we like it! It’s what we wanted (we even said as much in our Arts Council Application!), an opportunity to exchange skills and gain new experience. Someone to come and shed a different light on how we do things and how we might do things – a cultural exchange if you will. It seems to me we’re all a bit like a group of very polite tourists at the moment, doing our best to show willing and speak the local language, experiencing the occasional awkward pause while we scrabble about in our phrase books to find the best way to communicate any confusions that are happening and to find a way of resolving them together.

The map of the show for our Pulse10 R&D performance (Leywick Street: May 2010)

The other new thing is our rehearsal space. This is the first time we have worked on something since Theatre Venture ceased after 30 years, leaving a huge hole in the artistic landscape of East London, and us without “The magic of Leywick Street”. Leywick Street was Theatre Venture’s rehearsal space, former office and storage space. It was three storeys of rough and ready rooms, complete with cobwebs, peeling paint and the most random collection of set, props, costumes and technical equipment that had all made themselves at home in this former cookery of a Victorian school in East London. It would probably not be many companies first choice of rehearsal space but I loved it. We loved it. I’m not adverse to beautiful empty spaces with white walls and sprung floors – but I do find them a little intimidating (piglet again!). I imagine that if they could speak they’d be saying “I’m watching you – This better be good!” and I end up adopting the same attitude I have when walking around the glass department of John Lewis, whereas Leywick street would have probably have said something along the lines of “you take your time – I’m just going for a little snooze , wake me up if you need me.” But wouldn’t you know it… my optimism was again rewarded again and our new space (the rehearsal room at The Brockley Jack Theatre) has a touch of the Leywicks about it – with remnants of previous shows, marks on the floor and someone else’s set getting ready to be moved out on the side of the room. It gives me confidence. It shows me that this space is tried and tested, a trophy cabinet of evidence that says “We all did it – and so will you!”. I like it!

More “Leywick Magic” for our second R&D phase, featuring ‘the Board of possibilities’ and our boxes looking very Neapolitan (Leywick Street: November 2010)

And now to the end of my first ever blog entry (yet another first!). I’m not a natural writer – possibly due to being dyslexic, possibly due to my fairly short attention span, where having to write down my thoughts is a bit like going over old ground – Once I’ve had my thought I’ve moved on and the thought that goes into writing stuff down takes up time that could be spent having new thoughts. I’m not sure if any of what I’ve written or will write will be of any interest to anyone – or if anyone outside of Handheld is even going to look at this. It’s hard to imagine what people would want to know about what we do and how we do it.

Today I’m off to get the costumes with our 2 actors. It’s Steve’s Birthday today and as the costume place is in Southend-on-Sea I said I’d buy him an Ice Cream if he was good. I wonder how the car journey will be – Line runs maybe? Odd not to have another member of Handheld out with me!

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