GUT: Isla Cowan’s Assistant Director Blog #2

09 April 2018 ← return to listing

GUT: Isla Cowan’s Assistant Director Blog #2

Here's Assistant Director, Isla Cowan with all of the rehearsal room goings on from week 2 of Gut rehearsals…

Up on our feet…

This week was all about getting up on our feet, exploring the space and exploring ideas. After a week around the table, we were raring to go!

So, we started at the very beginning and made our way gradually through the script. At this stage, it's not just about blocking but playing. It is a joy to work with Zinnie (the director) in this way - she facilitates and steers a fantastically creative and open rehearsal room. It's thrilling to find our way through each scene, to try out different things and discover new possibilities. Sometimes we go into a scene with ideas of where people will sit, when they'll move, what they'll pick up, and it just doesn't work. But that's okay. In fact, it's great. Because, then, you can rule that out and try something else. Working in this way frees us up to stumble across brilliant ideas and take opportunities as and when we see them. Often we can follow a crazy idea down a path for a while just to confirm that it's the exact opposite of what we want. And sometimes, we go back to the original idea and realise it was actually a perfect fit.

I think if we went into each scene with a set-out agenda and precise blocking mapped out, we could crush the life out of the play. The piece has to live and breathe, to really evolve throughout the rehearsal process and thrive in performance. Spontaneity and curiosity are key.


Playing and Problem-Solving

One of the play's early scenes is staged with three characters seated around a table - which sounds simple enough. But, we actually ran and re-ran this scene several times with different characters in different chairs - we even tried taking away a chair - and each time it seemed to change. Of course, the words were the same, but it wasn't the same story. I was amazed by how much the decision of 'where to sit' could change the shape and tone of the whole scene. It was all about finding the spacio-physical arrangement that best expressed the internal workings of the characters and the power shifts within the scene. The proximity and angles between characters are therefore extremely important: who should sit next to who? who is on the end? who is caught in the middle? which way are the chairs facing? is it two facing one? and if so, which one? or is it every person for themselves?…

It was the ultimate musical chairs!

In the end, most of our tricky problem-solving moments have come from having too many ideas rather than not enough. The hard part is choosing which one to explore and getting tangled up in all the possibilities. Sometimes we just have to stop, slow things down and as one of the actors, George Anton, says, 'try the first idea first'.


Into the mind…

While getting up and getting physical, this week has unlocked much psychological potential. By mapping out the emotional and intellectual journeys of the characters in physical language, we began to discover a real sense of momentum and direction in the play. This is particularly true for Maddy, played by Kirsty Stuart, who remains at the centre of the psychological drama throughout: discovering and tracking her thought process from scene to scene has been fascinating.

Exploring this psychological element has also led me to reflect on my own investment in the play and how its narrative and questions demand self-evaluation. Although Gut  is a play about parenting and I myself am not a parent - and therefore without an experience of parental worry - I am definitely an obsessive thinker and I find myself continually relating to the 'what-if' thinking of the characters - and that's one of the reasons why this is such a fantastic play. Of course, the piece is about parents and a particular fear regarding children, but it's also just about how plain fear can ferment in the mind, how an idea can plant itself in the brain and bring about drastic (and dangerous) change.


You can book tickets for Gut  here. Meet the cast and creative team  here
Assistant Director Placement in Association with University of St Andrews.

Gut  by Frances Poet
Fri 20 Apr - Sat 12 May

Photos: Mihaela Bodlovic


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