GUT: Isla Cowan’s Assistant Director Blog #2
09 April 2018 ← return to listing
Here's Assistant Director, Isla Cowan with all of the rehearsal
room goings on from week 2 of Gut
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
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
You can book tickets for Gut
here. Meet the cast and creative team
Assistant Director Placement in Association with
University of St Andrews.
Gut by Frances Poet
Fri 20 Apr - Sat 12 May
Photos: Mihaela Bodlovic