Ablutions Rehearsals: Part One

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Before Christmas we jumped into a week’s worth of rehearsals for ‘Ablutions’ and have come out again, heads spinning (enthusiastically spinning).

At Bristol Ferment this July we created and performed half an hour’s worth of our adaptation of the novel ‘Ablutions’ by Patrick DeWitt to show as a work-in-progress. Afterwards, we sifted through a huge amount of audience feedback forms and tried to pin-point the style and direction the play needed to travel judged by our feelings and our audience’s consensus.

And then, in December, after a week’s further development, we yet again invited local artists and friends to give us feedback on an open rehearsal run. This time we were ambitious; exploring almost all the scenes in the book, attempting to show them in some kind of sequence, and hoping to find out from our onlookers where next we can edit and improve.

It is worth saying that adapting a novel that the entire team share a passion for makes it a mind-boggling task to decide what should be left in and what should be discarded. When you take so many aspects out to access the core material, are you providing enough for your audience to care or make sense out of it? And when you are tempted to leave those parts in which you are fond of, do you risk losing the drama? The world of a book is often created by the single voice of the character or author whose perspective you, as a reader, are viewing from. However, the world on stage allows the audience to be even more subjective; inviting them to view and judge all characters involved by the actions or words they play and how personally they perceive them to have been played. We are adopting the device within ‘Ablutions’ (the novel) of the second-person narrative to allow the audience to hear the mind and secrets of our protagonist, and in this, we are hoping to give him greater prominence for audience empathy. The device on-stage is utilised through speaking amplified in a microphone, offering us a constraint which has the potential to be wonderful, if we choose to use it wisely… The temptation is to use it to narrate as much of the story and action as possible… Do not give in to temptation.

We have so many possibilities of how to present the pages of this book on-stage, it feels good to have gone wild before moving on to our next stage: refinement.

It’s fundamental decision time regarding the style, containing and clarifying the episodic form, and, ultimately, making a quiet, sensitive yet apathetic central character appeal to an audience’s compassion.

Thank-you to all those who came and offered such insight – it really has given us a fever to continue.
Alas, we will be feverishly writing from now until our next stage of rehearsals in March 2013.

Happy New Year.

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