All 3 entries tagged Matt Stokoe

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May 22, 2008

Thomasin: Rehearsal to Performance

If I was going to be a clever-clogs, and quote the play, I could say that the move from rehearsal to performance was the move “from thinking to feeling.” It makes sense, you lay all your plans in the rehearsal, you build your parachute, over weeks and weeks, and then, when it comes to the performance, you just have to strap it to your back and jump out of the plane. It’s frightening, but it’s a hundred times more thrilling than it is scary, because the performance is just so much better than anything you have ever achieved in rehearsals. Rehearsals are safe, there is no one there to see you mess up, so it seems counterintuitive that during a performance, in front of an audience, you should push things harder, but somehow, the adrenaline makes you do it. It doesn’t make sense at all. To me, it seems comparable to someone who won’t take their clothes off in the privacy of their own bedroom, but will do so with gusto in front of a bunch of strangers. I apologise for bringing nudity into the equation, but that’s how I feel when I perform; like I am revealing a hidden or vulnerable part of my self, or my thoughts.

I am a very nervous person, and like many, before a performance, I am ridiculously, horrendously worried. Everyone’s nerves manifest themselves differently, one member of the cast, who shall remain nameless, can only regain his composure by massaging his own earlobes, and as for me, my thumbs hurt like they’ve been set on fire from the inside. Tonight, much to my shame, when Jon gave us the call to take our starting positions, I burst into tears! To calm me down, Matt Stokoe, who plays Septimus, said to me, “You’ve done this a hundred times before; you know you can do it. Imagine it’s just me and you, like we’ve practiced it,” and then stuck his tongue out and grinned!

It is true; I have done it a hundred times before. Why should the fact that there are more people watching make any difference? Initially, I do have to pretend its just the two of us, and we’re about to do a line run in Rootes, but really I am only pretending to pretend, suspending my disbelief, like the audience will have to, tricking my conscious self to split into three. One part imagining its just me and Matt; another part feeling like Thomasina, reacting to what Septimus is saying, what has happened before, what I hope will happen; and a third, prickling with fire and adrenaline, gauging the audience’s reactions, feeling when more or less is needed, knowing that this is a performance. Let’s not bring the holy trinity into it, but I need all three parts. The audience is what adds the electricity to the action; I’m not sure whether it’s the fuel or the ignition but it’s certainly essential. It goes to the heart of why I think theatre works. The tension and the interaction between the actors and the audience has a sort of magical taste to it that you can’t get in a cinema. Grotowski calls theatre a “communion” between actor and spectator. I think this use of a religious word is important; it suggests an interaction beyond the mundane, or even the tangible, and whatever words you choose to describe a good performance, there is always a certain essence which has “beggar’d all description,” like Cleopatra’s performance in her barge; not a thought, a feeling.

Thomasin Bailey plays Thomasina Coverly

May 13, 2008

Last night's rehearsal: layering time

It's getting very close to the crunch by now, and you can really feel the tension starting to build in rehearsals. Last night was our first opportunity to run a scene in the studio, and the thing that most impressed itself on us was the enormous amount of space we've got to fill. There's bloody tons of it. Our table is stranded in the middle of it all like a boat caught in a storm – especially so given the new angle it's been placed at to provide better sight lines. Most of the night was spent trying to tease out the blocking we had done in tighter spaces around the table to fill the full breadth of the studio space. It was nice to stretch Valentine's legs a bit, and Kate certainly had a good time making Lady Croom lead Noakes around upstage like a stray puppy.

We were tackling Scene 7, and it wasn't easy going. The nature of the scene's two overlapping time lines make our cues complete non-sequiturs and all the more difficult to learn. But learn we did, and aside from a few line fluffs that will without a doubt be cleared up by Thursday. Jon informs us the night's results were very strong. The trick was not to be afraid of repetition. The way to get a scene like this to work is run it through until it sticks: physical memory is a great help in this kind of situation. The interleaving of different characters' lines and movements in different time periods is starting to look sharp and stunning, particularly the final waltzing sequence between Fiona and Rob, and Matt and Thomasin. I'm quite jealous of their deft feet.

Sam Sedgman plays Valentine Coverly

May 11, 2008

Learning to waltz before we can run

Matt Stokoe and Thomasin Bailey learn to waltz
Matt Stokoe and Thomasin Bailey learn to waltz. Photography by Peter Marsh / ashmorevisuals.

For me, last Saturday was the first point that the play came together. Up until this point the cast had been separated into two sections; 1809 and 1993. Suffice to say, a notable level of friendly rivalry arose, as both groups were adamant that their section of the play was better, and more professional than the other. However, it was on this particular Saturday that the entire cast was granted the opportunity to watch and contribute to a run-through of the entire performance. The 1809 cast sat in awe of the 1993 cast’s incredibly complex and expertly textured dialogue, whilst the 1993 cast immersed themselves in the 1809 cast’s light-hearted portrayal of the original inhabitants of Sidley park, and the trials and tribulations they experience.

As well as this mammoth run-through, Thomasin, Fiona, Rob and I were all invited to an hour-long waltzing lesson with Russell Jones. We were quickly separated into pairs, and began to persevere through trodden toes and unintentional manhandling. This was not only the first time that I’d had to learn a dance for a production, but also the first time that I’d ever had to learn a dance that wasn’t “the robot”. Yet, my fellow cast members surprised me with their tenacity and eagerness to learn; all four of us agreeing that the waltz was something that we could take away from the play, and no doubt use in the future.

All in all, it was an incredibly productive day. The walk home from rehearsals had become a waltz home, and the stakes had been raised even higher between 1809 and 1993.

Matt Stokoe plays Septimus Hodge

Take a look at the photos from this rehearsal » 

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  • I can relate to how you feel but I would much rather go on stage in front of loads of people than ta… by Sue on this entry
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