A moment with the design team - rehearsal blog day 4

Maison Foo Production Journal – Day 4 – by Christie Inman-Hall

The sun is shining today and there's a slight change of form for the gang; the rest of the cast haven't been called in yet and aren't due to arrive until later on in the morning, however, the core 'Foo's, Beth and Kate are plugging away at coming up with a concrete plan for the narrative. This is being done in order to bring clarity to the process. It's a strange hybrid of a scripted piece and a devised one but, it seems, it may well be a more efficient and logical way of working. It shall be intriguing to see how the rest of the cast responds to this development once they arrive and peruse the plans...

As I observe this method, I can't help but notice that, as Beth writes down notes and Kate physically tries scenarios and options, it's apparent that the two leading ladies of the company work very differently, but all the more effectively for it. The fact that there are two like-minded, yet equally opposite people working towards the same goal means that, for Maison Foo, there's never a dull moment and, in theory, together they'll explore every option for each moment of the show. The sheer resilience the company has in regards to exhausting each potential scenario in order to truly ascertain whether it's worth continuing with is impressive and, it must be said, tiring to watch, I can only imagine what it must be like to be up there.

Once more our Thespians arrive and stretch their way into preparedness. It's a pleasing sight to note that the group are bantering and joking around in a way only true chums can do. It stands to reason then, that today must shape up to be one of the most productive to date; only through trust and appreciation of ones fellow performers can one hope to perform one's best.

When the warm-ups, stretches, sing-songs and other morning undulations are completed it is, as usual, back to work. Following the additional writing done by Kate and Beth on the plot and structure of the piece, the process should, in theory, speed up and require, not less experimentation exactly, but a different type of it. A new approach will be required to keep things moving ahead at the rate that's required.

While the cast plays around with the show, I steal a moment with the design team. Tina and Kate have set up shop, at least for the moment, in the kitchen of the rehearsal space. Within the makeshift studio the dynamic duo of design have created some wonderful mechanisms and devices, built to entertain and thrill. The machine they're working on before me is a construct of the macabre; an old Super 8 editor has become, in the hands of the pair, a light-show, a shadowy representation of the story of Pendulum's which reads incredibly well, even now when only made from cut up playing cards and the light of an ancient OHP.

As Tina plays with the overall motion of the machine, Kate works rapidly to create more shadow puppets in order flesh out the display. Tina seems to have an almost childlike glee in seeing her creation come to life which is truly inspiring. She, with the occasional chorus from Kate, creates her own soundtrack of clicks and whirs, industrial noises for the industrial world of our story.

When I return to the cast, they've developed massively upon the character of the shoe-maker. Fantastically enough, he is now a fully three-dimensional character; going now by the name of Malcolm, the shoe-maker, in our modern age, is a down and out, a tramp with nothing but a box for a home and an accordion with which to earn a living, perhaps exchanging a song for a couple of coins. He is clearly not all there any more, in his old age and poor circumstances he seems to have gone mad with loneliness and regret.

In this new iteration the shoe-maker is, at times, both loathsome and hopeful, wistful and jovial, compassionate and jaded. In Matt's new interpretation of the character, there's something of Heath Ledger's 'The Joker' in his performance, he's somewhat dangerous yet fascinating nonetheless.

Along with this development, another topic that's broached is that of the music. 'Pendulum's' is a show which centres around an other worldly quality, the world of the dark and the sensual. When Beth offers 'Chicago' as a reference point, noting the “brash” tones of it as an element of absurd realism which would help to ground 'Pendulum's' in the world of the macabre vaudeville that the cast is striving so hard to create.

As I predicted, the show today has come on leaps and bounds.