May 2nd 2018
Lucinda Meredith Associate Artist – Community
I am at a rehearsal for Sunnyview, a devised performance about the Care Home experience. The performance group is made up of Drop In members and volunteers from The Bury Befrienders Group who meet weekly at the Quaker Centre – St Johns Street, Bury St Edmunds. This theatre programme is part of Theatre Royal’s outreach work. The group have been meeting with Theatre Royal Associate Artist, Danusia Iwaszko, who is directing and devising this performance with the company – creating characters, original music and a new script for their performance on stage at Theatre Royal in June.
There are five weeks to go and I have been invited to watch rehearsal along with Theatre Royal Technician Nathanael Penhallow who wants to see what creative contribution he can make to the work through lighting and sound.
Once the tables from lunch are cleared and chairs put aside the performers arrive to the session with notebooks filled with new dialogue freshly written, which will feed into the creative process. Out come dogged song sheets, obviously well used in the week since the last rehearsal. The group, consisting of ten actors and two musicians, a director and an assistant director come together to start a warm up of theatre games – a fun and focused start, shouting names and throwing a pillow across the circle of company members.
“Beginners positions” yells the director across the excited chatter, “Opening scene … Sotto voce” . This opening scene is still being crafted, “Lights will come up,” shouts the Director, ‘”I’ll do my spiel about mobile phones, thankyou for coming…” and after a quick glance from Director Danusia, Pianist Darnell Sorrenti expertly begins his original composition for the opening song, ‘Everything is Beautiful’. “Louder”, shouts Danusia and the group respond increasing their volume, particularly on solos which seem to rise, beautifully arranged, above the guitar and piano.
At the end of this opening number the director continues to inform and instruct, “It’s performed in thrust – on three sides”, the performers take in this information and add it to their considerations and challenges with this beautifully crafted and passionately performed piece.
“Can we have the song lyrics learnt by next weeks? We can can’t we?” asks the Director, and some performers confidently nod. The manager of the Befrienders Hub records the song to make into a CD for the performers to take away and sing along with between now and the performance date. With the group working well to support each other through the process the goal of working without song sheets seems achievable.
We begin to meet the characters who are cleverly introduced to the audience through a mixture of improvisation and script. They represent the gamut of human stories from within the Care Home system, and following these introductions the story begins… At this point I leave the rehearsal to tend to matters around; tickets, audiences, lunch for performance days, dressing rooms and invitations… and leave this collaborating company to continue their creative journey. Nathanael stays behind, leaning in to speak with the director and then busily scribbles notes onto an already full page. The piece is coming together and it is clear to me that these final five weeks will be filled with the potent creative energy that drives all successful companies towards the performance date and their audience.
I look forward to catching up with the group in June at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds and can’t wait to see the full performance of Sunnyview.