Lilia Litviak workshops

There are a couple of reasons why I haven’t posted anything about the rehearsal process for Lilia Litvia: Fighter Ace. First, I often write notes after rehearsals and write more in my diary later, so I feel less need than usual to write a slightly sanitised version for public consumption. Second, I always feel a bit odd writing about events that involve non-blogging people — if you’re “one of us” it seems perfectly normal to read about something you’ve done on someone else’s site, but to normal people who don’t have websites, it must be a bit odd. I’m wary of normal people finding this, possibly unnecessarily.

But I should probably just get over the latter point, partly spurred on by Paul Miller’s excellent weblog on his directing work. And now the performances are approaching I’m starting to wish I’d kept a public record of what we’d been through to get to this point.

So, here we are. Or there we were. Lilia Litviak began as a radio play that Michael, the driving force behind this project, adapted from first-person accounts of female Soviet World War II fighter pilots (it was a radio play in that it was solely speech, not as in it was ever broadcast). I went to see a reading of the play last December and it was a good story, although a little confusing as it was hard to keep track of the many characters — I remember not being entirely sure which woman was playing the title role for most of the reading.

Michael wanted to develop a theatre play from this and in the first half of this year he held three or four day-long workshops to play around with some ideas. (I cringe when I use “workshop” in this context, thanks to Alexei Sayle’s quote, but it’s becoming worryingly normal to me.) We had a different broad theme each day and the aim was to come up with ways that effectively represented ideas, emotions, movements, etc.

For example, however it turned out, the play would obviously feature something about flying, but how could we represent flight, planes and dogfights with no budget? We found it was impossible to carry someone through the air unless we had so many people supporting them that any illusion of flight was lost. I now have a deep respect for dancers who single-handedly throw their partners around.

Another day we looked at ageing and loss. What’s a good way to represent the effect deaths would have on a close-knit group of people? How can we movingly represent people dying without it being mawkish? How do we show people getting older and looking back on their youth?

Those sessions (is that better than “workshops”?) were a lot of fun. I met a bunch of new people and played a lot of games — more adults should spend more time playing silly party-style games. There was little pressure — there was no guarantee an actual play would come of all this, and if there was, we might not be in it anyway.

A few months on, and the performance is just over three weeks away and it’s suddenly very, scarily, close indeed. (PS, buy tickets, and thanks to those who have.)