The Monstrous Heart: Jordan Blackwood’s Assistant Director Blog #2

News 20 Sep 2019

Now that the bear is out of the bag, in his second Assistant Director blog, Jordan Blackwood and special guest blogger, Elsie the Bear, share the goings-on from week two of rehearsals for The Monstrous Heart.

[3 minute read]

Rehearsals: From a bear’s eye

Hi, I’m Elsie.

I arrived a few days ago and took my place on a big wooden table. I dominate the room, if I do say so myself.

A bunch of humans who like talking and throwing thoughtful looks at white bundles of paper before talking again have been obsessing over me. They keep saying how big I am, how amazing I look, how they’re taking me on a trip to a seaside town. They gave me a pillow for my head, I think I like them.

The humans can be pretty serious, but they do like to laugh and talk about all sorts of things. This week I’ve learned that:

• Humans are the only animals to have chins.
• A bear can run twice as fast as the average human.
• If you ask a Canadian distillery if they’ll send you an empty bottle of whisky for a prop, they’ll send you a full one and pay for the shipping.
• The process of stuffing a bear is complex, starting with sealing its orifices…

I’m still trying to get over that last one, and think I’ll pass over to Jordan now!

Rehearsals: From a human’s eye

And so, the secret is out. We have a bear among us. Beautifully crafted and shipped up to join us in rehearsals, Elsie was made incredibly life-like by a process of 3D printing and furring up. Massive hats off to Andy Fordham at East Effects for his amazing work. You can see more of the process of making Elsie, here.

This week has been full of new discoveries. We’ve been digging deep to explore the backstory of the characters, creating a timeline of events and piece together what’s led them to the point when the play begins. Olly’s text gives lots of clues, and we’ve made initial decisions that fill in the gaps – allowing the actors to have a fuller sense of who they are playing and why they might act the way they do. From here, we’ve revisited the text and started to play with it on its feet – exploring physicality, instinctive movement around the space and how to be seen with a giant bear in the middle of the room!

We’re in the thick of discovering new thought, meaning and depth within the text – departing from and expanding upon previous notions. The rehearsal room atmosphere is great, full of ‘I wonder if…’ thoughts followed by ‘Let’s try it’ responses. I always love this type of approach – even if an idea doesn’t feel right in execution, the director or actor might find something to take from it. This element of play is key, keeps the room and everyone in it very active.

Some might think rehearsals are as clean-cut as reading the text, making a decision, staging it and sticking with it – especially when it’s a two-hander set in one location. In reality, it can be a very detailed, quite complex process. Currently, we’re in flux, not sure of the ultimate outcome but exploring the possibilities, and we’re heading towards the point where decisions are made and the physical shape of the play will emerge.

By the end of next week, we should have that shape and be one step closer to pulling the whole thing together. Stay tuned for more musings from Elsie.

Jordan Blackwood, Assistant Director

Supported by a Federation of Scottish Theatre Assistant Director Bursary with funding from Creative Scotland.

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