This week I spent four hours each weekday with some folk from the Salon Collective, exploring how to adapt a classic play, to set it in modern-day England.
I’ve hardly done any acting classes this year (never mind actual acting) so was a little apprehensive about whether this was still something I could do, or wanted to do. And I’ve barely done any of this sort of devising work since LISPA more than nine(!) years ago. I found so much of that kind of process difficult, in terms of dealing with people, that I’ve been wary of doing any more. But I thought it had been long enough that I should try again.
Thankfully it was a mostly fun and rewarding week. There were moments — like when I was slithering along the floor from one corner of the room to another — when the thought “What am I doing with my life?” flashed through my mind. To be fair, that happens enough on a normal day, sat alone at my computer, but the query felt more urgent during such moments.
And some of the devising process was as tedious, for me, as I recall it being at LISPA. It can be like sitting through long, rambling meetings with half the people throwing in every vague thought that crosses their minds while the rest (hello!) have little to say, and struggle to get a word in when they do. However, at least there was someone leading the process, unlike in our groups at LISPA, which kept it moving and helped the decision-making.
The rest of the time, the majority of it, was good. We slowly worked out who the characters might be if transplanted to today, what their relationships would be like, and where the whole thing could be set. We did a few lengthy improvisations as these modern-day characters, which were fun and always created or changed relationships and ideas. I don’t know if this will go any further as an adaptation, but it was interesting to explore. And spending a load of time with the same group of actors working on something was a lovely way to spend the bulk of the week. Having not done much of this for a while it was also nice to feel “I can do this”, and feel comfortable doing it, even while slithering across the floor. Which is different to feeling “I’m good at this” but still, it’s nice that it feels “right” somehow, sometimes.
We were doing all this at Theatre Deli near Liverpool Street station, which is quite new, and quite odd, in a good way. I think they take space in buildings that are soon to be demolished or refurbished, renting it out as rooms for rehearsals, classes, etc. For example, they had a branch in the old Guardian building on Farringdon Road, now flattened. There’s a nice cafe on the ground floor, rehearsal rooms upstairs, all of which were, I assume, previously meeting rooms for whatever business was there before. Carpet tiles, suspended ceilings, power sockets under floor hatches, identical bathrooms in the same location on every floor, minimally tasteful monochrome dÃ©cor, and the sounds of rehearsals all around — music, screaming, Shakespeare, unusually grammatically correct conversations. We were in a room that, in one direction, looked across the road at a standard City office full of smartly-dressed people staring at two screens each, and in the other faced the half of the building whose insides were being pulled apart by men dressed in hi-viz and hard hats. I imagined, after Brexit, after financial firms leave the UK, tower blocks full of nothing but young people dressed in athleisure gear and loose woollens, running and shouting round once open-plan offices and boardrooms, developing their theatrical indictments of post-capitalist inequality.
Anyway, have a good week, whether you’re doing any slithering along the floor or not.