This week's blog features two of the People's Company bright stars, Rachele Fregonese and Erina Jamil Nordin. They talk about the upcoming play, The Melodramatic Elephant in the Haunted Castle, that will be staged at the Coronet on the 8 November 2017. Rachele is working as assistant director / stage manager and Erina as an actress.
So it begins!
We have been workshopping ideas and scenes from the Marie Henderson story. Finally rehearsals have begun. One thing is certain: there is no space for boredom.
After a brief catch up on what will happen next and how we will be moving forward, we started rehearsing two scenes from the newly-written play. At the same time. We’ve split the room in two and off we went. One group was shaping the WWII scene with John Whelan. Another group was with me, putting the “fire scene” up on its feet.
With my group I started with a reading of the scene, in order to bring everybody up to speed. After a read-through I started directing the actors and staging the scene, trying to break the fourth wall. My aim was to give the audience an immersive experience of what it must have felt like to be on the street while the Elephant and Castle theatre was burning.
The actors were following my instruction with no hesitation. They were trusting my instructions, and bringing the scene to life beautifully. Once the major blocking was done, I asked the actors to come back to the text. To read the scene again. And I asked them some questions that, hopefully, helped them connect with what is happening in the scene and the characters they are portraying. I asked them: why are you walking through the streets? Where do you come from? What happened before the scene starts? Where are you going? What is your relationship with the characters you are meeting, or with what you are seeing in front of your eyes? Playing a chorus-like character is a challenging task, that often leads to just reciting lines without adding life to it. That is what I wanted to avoid with my questions.
After this read through I suggested an improv exercise where I asked the actors to start the scene, and interact with each other. But no fire would happen this time. They would do what they were meant to do if the fire had not interrupted them. Immediately a community atmosphere was created, and they started discovering a little bit more about their characters. Next, I asked them to repeat the scene again. This time their activities were interrupted by a Fire alarm (my voice shouting: Fire!). Their reaction was truthful and everyone could tell that the event, the fire, was suddenly more personal and easier to imagine for everybody.
We then presented the scenes to the other group. It was a pleasure to see how quickly everyone had picked up on directions and suggestions, bringing both scenes to life. This is what makes this group so special, in my opinion: the ability to play with each other, to trust each other, to work as a team and to have fun. All qualities that are incredibly important on stage, and that will allow for a great show to take place.
And this is just the beginning of a Journey that will bring us, as a company, to tell the history of the Coronet to the Elephant and Castle community.
Erina Jamil Nordin:
Melodrama and Syphilis! Not two words that usually go together, but at People's Company anything is possible and we make it look good.
Reading through the first draft of 'Melodramatic Elephant in the Haunted Castle' was the aim of this session, and it truly was a testament of how melodramatic we could be. Which for the record is a lot!
There were syphilitic hallucinations, fire, intrigue and a bit of history thrown in for good measure.
There is much to be said for reading scripts out loud. As a company we read through the whole script which really gave a good sense of how the piece will look and feel to the audience. Also it's a great way to play around with how characters will sound.
In my opinion this is what People's Company is all about. Being able to try out new ideas on performance and character is central to what People's Company do, and it is done in an encouraging and safe space.
As always feed back and discussion is encouraged and it was brilliant for everyone to be able to input their suggestions and ideas. We are a collective and I feel this reflects in the work we do and the fun we have.
So as this piece evolves I'm really looking forward to what it will be. And if you'd like to see the finished product and see just how entertaining a melodramatic elephant and a haunted castle can be, then join us on the 8th of November.
Reflecting the views of artists, actors, residents
and participants in
The Melodramatic Elephant in the Haunted Castle.
An art project about the Coronet from 1872-2017.
Directing and acting
Jacko at the Coronet?
Ale and steak pies
This Is Where I Came In
Pollock's Toy Museum
Adventure with the Mayor
Reach for the stars
Ghost of Marie Henderson
Shop till the zombie drops
Faith, Hope and Charity
Singing and sketching
History and legacy
Dark Side of Metropolis
Walworth Street Festival
Interview with Sam Porter
Blood and Thunder
Culture and Capital